Innovation

Yesterday was World IP Day. This annual event is organised by the World IP Organisation (WIPO) to celebrate the role that intellectual property plays in encouraging innovation and creativity.

This year, World IP Day celebrated the ‘brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who drive change in our world and shape our common future’. In recognition of this day, and the unique role women play in innovation across the globe, we celebrated the innovation of 24 extraordinary women to highlight the role their work has played in shaping society. You can follow our campaign online, on Twitter, on Instagram and via LinkedIn.

Our list of 24 women innovators is incredibly rich and extends across nearly two centuries. From Ada Lovelace and the first computer program in 1842, through to 2016 with the braille tablet for visually impaired people from CEO & Co-Founder of BLITAB, Kristina Tsvetanova. My personal favourite was Dr Shirley Jackson, a pioneer of the technology that created the fax machine.

There are many things that impress me about these 24 women innovators, but two in particular stand out. The first is how determined these women were. For instance, because she was a woman, Marie Curie could not be educated in Poland. She had to move to a different country to complete her education. Grace Hopper was determined to join the Navy during the Second World War but, when she was told she was too old, joined the Navy Reserve instead. The tenacity to find a way, even through adversity, is a common trait across inventors.

The second thing many of the women have in common is a tragically short life. Rosalind Franklin was instrumental in discovering the DNA Double Helix. Two of her colleagues used her findings as the basis of the model for DNA we use today. They received the Nobel Prize in 1962. But five years earlier, aged only 37, Rosalind had died of ovarian cancer. Ada Lovelace was one year younger when she died in 1852. Marie Curie died in 1934 aged 66. She had contracted aplastic anaemia, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. Her pioneering work contributed to her death.

Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie could have achieved so much more if they had lived longer. However, their contribution to society has been immense, as have the innovations of all the women we are celebrating tomorrow. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I hope that you will find their stories inspiring, and encourage you to share them (#womeninnovators) to highlight the role of women in shaping society as we know it.

See our list of Inspirational Women Innovators