Gender, Innovation in Sustainable Development Explored

Experts on gender aspects of innovation are exploring the relevance of these for the Global South at the GenderInSITE-Elsevier Foundation Thematic Workshop on Gender and Innovation: Implications for Sustainable Development being held from 4 – 6 September 2017.

The workshop is by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the regional focal point for Southern Africa of the Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering (GenderInSITE) initiative. 

GenderInSITE and the Elsevier Foundation are convening the workshop with the goal of translating the pioneering work done in the North on ‘gendered innovations’ into effective strategies for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   

While the past few decades have seen progress in the understanding of the gender dimensions of science and technology, there is consensus that an understanding of women´s role in science and innovation for development is lacking. Since its 1994 report on Gender, Science, Technology and Development, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) highlighted the differential impact that new technologies often have on the lives of women and men and the importance of ‘Science for Women’. It is vital to encourage greater interaction between the producers and users of knowledge and to ensure that both women and men benefit when new technologies are introduced in development projects. The approval in 2015 of the SDGs by the UN has brought the issue to the centre of the contemporary discussion in the scientific world.  

In important sectors of development such as energy, water and sanitation, and agriculture, women worldwide have different needs and different roles. Development policies and practices often fail to take their interests into equal consideration, thereby contributing to persisting gender inequalities and limiting the effectiveness of the development strategies.   

Women’s needs are also frequently overlooked in scientific research and in technological innovation processes; this is particularly notable in medical research, which historically has used male subjects as the default despite the widely differing physiologies and responses to treatments of men and women.  

As development solutions are increasingly grounded in science, technology and innovation, ensuring that a gender lens is applied to the innovation pipeline from beginning to end is more important than ever. The experts at the workshop will identify recommendations and suggestions to policy and decision-makers to mainstream gender into this process. 

The workshop is bringing together some 25 international experts in gender and innovation.  

The keynote address is delivered by Londa Schiebinger, the John L Hinds Professor of History of Science and Director of the Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment project at Stanford University. Discussions will focus on three aspects of science and innovation in which gender should be considered:


  • Gendered innovations – where innovations are designed to meet the separate needs of both women and men.

  • Gender and scientific research, and the outcomes of the scientific knowledge production. By applying the gender lens and carrying out gender assessments it is anticipated that the differential impacts on the lives of men and women will be identified and action taken to redress negative impacts.

  • An analysis of how the first two aspects can contribute to greater gender equity in attaining the SDGs.



    The workshop is open only to invited experts, but a livestream of the discussions will be made available; please follow the GenderInSITE twitter account for updates.