Women's Innovative Potential

The consumption of power has corrupted us. Men, from the time of King Gilgamesh, have taken control over the decisions of an immense amount of the world’s cultures.

And it’s greatly decreasing the speed at which our innovation should be moving.

Think for a moment. Besides the smartphone, wifi, social media, space exploration technology and the almighty procrastination medium YouTube, can you think of any impactful invention that didn't already exist in an older form?

I believe that to keep up with our growing technological needs, we need to stop holding back half the planet’s population.

Sociobiology, the study of social life through the lens of biology, tells us something that we all likely already know. In the past and, to a lesser extent, now, intensity of labor, subordination of women, creation of female and male-centric roles, and use of symbols drove the structure of patriarchal societies.

But that’s clearly illogical. Think about it: what does the intensity of labor have to do with the capacity of any gender to envision the problems of this world and create solutions? A woman founded the world’s oldest university, 500 years before the age of universities in the Medieval Era. The introduction of smallpox inoculation, or a protection against infection, in Western Medicine was brought by a woman. Conservation of energy began from commentary on Isaac Newton’s most famous work by a woman. The first treatment for leprosy, or Hansen’s disease? The link between cholesterol and clogged arteries? The first to bring awareness of the effects of financial status, and gender and racial discrimination on health.

I can keep going…Really, I can. The point is: these advancements have been made in the midst of incredible adversity. Imagine what would have happened had we not stratified culture according to who can work in the quarries and who can manage the home? Imagine if the men went to work the fields and then returned home with their wife, who had just returned from a campus discussion on the efficacy of the current mores? Or if the women had the option to work with the scientists from the beginning?

There are, of course, cultures that are matriarchal. The Mosuo, for example, are a matriarchal and matrilineal society living in southwest China. Their particular style of living does not allow exclusive marriages yet encourages motherhood – something very strange to a Western audience. What this allows, however, is a culture that lacks many of the issues that plague relationships among participants of Western cultures.

With Unity Comes Progress

Many say that the problems of the largest units – countries – begin with the problems of the smallest – families and communities. Well what happens when a community is in complete agreement?

Question: Did you see Black Panther? A society where the women are just as valuable and respected as the men. The presence of vibranium did not automatically lead to new technology being created. It was the people within the country of Wakanda that helped develop that utopia.

And, of course, I would like to call attention to Shuri.

To have a girl like her as a leader in this movie was, undoubtedly, purposeful. Let’s take notes.

She is:

  • a teenage genius with as much or greater potential than Peter Parker and Tony Stark (Spider-Man and Iron Man).

  • primarily responsible for the development of most of the key technology that was relevant in the movie.

  • responsible for the line that represents something that all people in science try to communicate – “Not magic. Science.”

  • smart enough to recognize the immense power that her technology gives them and still uses it or delegates who uses it responsibly.

  • representative for the potential of black girls and women in STEM.

If there was ever a reason for a character like this on screen, it’s what we just discussed. There is a distinct need for more. And speed of innovation comes from people with different experiences and ways of thinking. This is very simple, but I will add an analogy in the form of a question to clarify: How do you surmount a roadblock if everybody thinks the same way or has experienced the same thing?

That said, despite the logic of this argument in favor of tapping into everyone’s potential, we’re still at a point where women only hold 24% of STEM jobs and 30% of total STEM degrees. This problem is one that requires an overhaul of an ancient ideology to solve (like most problems surrounding tradition).

As always, the key is education. When more people are aware of an issue, it becomes more important to the group to solve it. When you need knowledge, find it. When you need perspective, ask for it. Our path to growth as a culture can only be through the input of all.