WOMEN AND INNOVATION A FEMALE TRANSDISCIPLINARY ECO-SYSTEM FOR EUROPE

Brussels Creative is a platform for the Brussels based Creative and Cultural ecosystem gathering citizens, political leaders, researchers and business people helping our Region towards more cross-over innovation and new socio-economical initiatives having an impact on our daily lives.

 

In monthly meetings it is actively promoting diversity and organizing serendipity. Both ingredients are crucial to foster cross-over innovation in Brussels Region but those meetings are also important to build bridges, friendship and trust amongst change agents.

 

“Disruptive and innovative ideas thrive within a strong supportive framework and team. The biggest challenge in a multi-cultural and multi-professional society is to find a song, to which we can all sing along.

It is categorization, competition and judgement which can keep big visions of necessary eco-systems forever in a theoretical realm.

Our way out there as women in innovation is to activate the built in curiosity and solidarity in our genes and move away from individual competitiveness and towards empathic collaboration with diversity and inclusion as generators for a greater and powerful future.

Transdisciplinarity celebrates the individual skillset of each team member with different professional expertise and background as much as it does achieve an impressive common strength, which increases and accelerates innovative energy.

My goal is to fertilize a ground for our future global society where it is no longer my skin colour, my height, my body weight, my haircut, my gender, my nationality or my status which makes a difference, but my urge to create and actively participate in innovation together with a support system of likeminded beings. This plants the seed for personal evolution and constructive societal participation.

Brussels as capital of the European Union should take a leading role in creating a smart and diversity supporting city and eco-systems with sustainable approaches.“

 

Martine-Nicole Rojina at Brussels Creative Meeting for Woman and Innovation at BOZAR LAB in September 2017

In September Women and Innovation were at the centre of attention inviting a large community to gather, inspire, reflect, talk and exchange along with a visit and presentation of the freshly opened BOZAR LAB and a tour through the exhibition TENDENCIES, which aims to place emphasis on works which question scientific and technological innovations as much as they incorporate them. It wants to open up the field of reflection relating to these links and highlight structural analogies between the creators of distinct and complementary fields. For this second edition, it unveils and promotes the work of six emerging or established female artists who probe innovative protocols and paradigms in the domains of artistic, scientific and technological creation.

 

Through a program of lectures, debates and workshops the BOZAR LAB would like to stimulate more interactions between artists, policy makers, researchers and citizens. This must lead to new visions & ideas for the future and critical approaches on contemporary scientific, societal and cultural developments. This program — in close collaboration with BOZAR AGORA — will involve many universities and research departments in Belgium and abroad.

 

The European Union has recognized the urgency of finding hybrid solutions with the launch of the STARTS Program focusing on transdisciplinarity and innovation at the nexus of Science, Technology, and the ARTS. STARTS unites renowned art & research institutions and innovative industries to jointly work on innovative projects where artists, scientists and engineers work together on radically different solutions.

 

The following interview with Eva A. Kaili, Member of the European Parliament, highlights the aspect of women and innovation in European politics.

She is Head of the Hellenic Delegation for the Progressive Alliance of S&D, Chair Scientific Foresight Unit #STOA, Chair EU-NATO Delegation.

 

Who are you and what are your core values on which your personality is built?

The core values, which are guiding my choices as a person and as a politician, have been truth & speaking out, creativity (even a bit out of the box) and empathy (caring). Curiosity about what truth is, being creative in what I am doing and feeling empathetic towards people, have been my driving forces to enter politics since I was a teenager. Heraclitus concluded that: “Your values become your destiny” and
I tend to agree with that quote. It has been my character that led me in politics and not politics changed me.

 

What advice would you give to your younger self
at the beginning of your career?

As the first child and the oldest sister, I feel that I have been very conscious, with a sense of accountability and respecting the balances of my surroundings. I guess that reflected also on my career decisions. I rarely regret,
I could only remind to my younger self and any young person to enjoy more the benefits of that certain age, when the mistakes are more easily pardoned and the consequences are more easily corrected. (And as much as you try to have free time, tomorrow will not be less busy …
so I would advice me to make more time to spend with family and friends). Still, I believe that as soon as we shape a vision about how we would like our future to be and work hard for this, life will allow us to have options and the power of decision.

 

Do you recognize a strength or unique “function” in the European Parliament, which stands out because of being a female leader?

The European Parliament stands out as one of the most “gender equal” parliaments in the world. More than one third of its 751 Members are women and there are countries like Sweden, Finland and Croatia, which have more female MEPs than men in their delegations. Many of the Committees of the European Parliament are chaired by women and I have also been elected to chair the Parliament’s delegation for the relations with NATO parliamentary assembly but also the first woman chair of Science and Technology Committee. From my experience in politics, women in leadership positions are keen to be inclusive and more compassionate when dealing with political issues of utmost importance.

 

Furthermore, I would say that in general women are more empathetic towards minority issues and are more determined to stand up against discrimination.

 

How do you think innovation is and will be positively influenced by a higher contribution
of women?

A study on entrepreneurship has found that start-ups led by women tend to perform better (First round capital report, 2015). High technology firms that have at least one woman as co-founder have more chances to survive and be highly profitable. All these data are more and more accurate and proven in real life. I read recently in an article that the main reason behind all this is that women are found to be more resilient to setbacks and persevere in the face of adverse outcomes and this is something I can confirm from my personal experience.

 

What categories/labels/prejudices in society would you like to overcome considering innovation?

Prejudices are pre-existing categories of ideas usually regarding situations and experiences we haven’t experienced personally. In that sense innovation cannot thrive in a mind-set full of prejudices. It can however, help in the transformation.

 

I would like to see more trust in the younger generations and women. I feel blessed and grateful for the trust of
the voters, since my first attempt in politics, however
I see that this is an exception, at least in most countries or corporations. Innovation provides concepts and means where inspiration is fundamental and the powerful elements, not the gender, the age or the nationality. For example, the pilot project of EIT that was implemented in Greece, during summer, the “Coding Girls”, it has been an amazing experience with a very strong content: to give to girls the tools of creating code and this in the future could be their path to professional independence, working from anywhere, for anyone they choose. This is innovation.

 

It would be irresponsible not to mention also the power of innovation in providing means to integrating vulnerable groups and refugees. Innovation is the most democratic field of action nowadays, where strong minds compete, not strong prejudices. Rilke phrased it nicely …
”That is the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter”. And may I dare to add … “and if not us, then someone else may do it for us, despite our resistance …”, referring to the innovators and to those politicians who are ready to push the boundaries and take the blame! Honestly, by the work being done in the European Parliament, I stay optimistic and I realize it may take time, but we win small battles against intellectual blindness and intolerance. I feel we are doing better,
every day.

 

Why do you consider a female eco- and support-system worth implementing?

In the heart of the society stands the woman, a truth that is scientifically proven. Women create “systems” of relationships and dynamics around them that have impact to every small element and detail of society’s progress. The confidence and well being of women, create a chain-reaction that affects everybody. This is a wisdom that ancient matriarchic societies had discovered, but for complex reasons, this wisdom was abolished.

 

The example of the Scandinavian countries is a modern model of provenance and supporting systems for females. Many people, even women themselves were against support schemes and measures, such as quotas in electoral lists or governing organizations and companies, but the experience shows that they are necessary, at least until they become a norm in the societies. Nowadays we see that in those countries, female support systems have produced great results. In Icelandic parliament for example almost 50% of the MPs are female. Attitudes change to the better.

 

Recently, science observed that a female brain is way more active than a male brain … what do you think is processed differently and creates that extra activity?

Well, it is maybe the circular pace of female body structure that creates these dynamics of excessive brightness and efficiency! It is in the genetic code of a female to survive and protect, to invent and move on, progress. Empathy is a more familiar to women characteristic and this is a natural enhancement of intelligence. But seriously, these scientific results have to be communicated to the public with facts and figures!

 

Looking at a future full of challenges on an environmental, political and societal level, how do you think women and innovation can change it to the better?

Innovation and prosperity cannot be achieved by leaving women — half of the world population — behind. More women are needed in academia and scientific research as well as in politics, but let’s just not neglect that cooperation with men and acceptance as equally competent are of utmost importance. We shouldn’t focus in improving the participation of women only in percentages, but also in qualitative facts. Women, with the unique vision, personality attributes and most importantly, by working and cooperating with men, we can find solutions to all those challenges. We need respect and equality in order to thrive.

 

How can you personally contribute to make
it better?

In my capacity as an elected representative of men and women of my country, I am putting all my efforts to represent the best way I can the interests of society, guided by my core values mentioned before.

Working collectively with citizens and my colleagues in the European Parliament, and with an open mind, is the best way I can contribute to tackle the future challenges.

 

I am amazed by the extent and the depth recent developments on innovation have reached. I try through my work and during my personal time to communicate and raise awareness on the impact that current developments of innovation will have in our lives, our personal choices our children’s future. I try to support initiatives that share this direction and I try to get involved and speak publicly about them.

 

Interview and contribution by Martine-Nicole Rojina
for MPATHY STUDIO