International Women's Day: A Panel on innovation and entrepreneurship - Lorraine Marchand

Talking Trends
3 min readMar 5, 2024

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Image by Freepik

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it becomes increasingly clear that the world of innovation is incomplete without the mention of the many women whose ingenuity and determination have left an indelible mark on our lives. In celebration of IWD, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion (see video below) with Columbia Business School alumnae, Renu Vitale and Gretchen Meyer, where we delved into the vast contributions made by women to innovation.

These women exemplify the power of creativity, resilience, and determination in driving progress. Among these pioneers is Josephine Cochrane who, in the early 1900s, designed the first practical dishwasher, changing the landscape of domestic work forever. Cochrane’s invention not only offered convenience but also heralded a shift in household dynamics, empowering individuals to engage more deeply in work outside the home.

Similarly transformative was the invention of liquid paper by Betty Nesmith Graham in the mid-20th century. A single mother working as a secretary, Graham’s innovation stemmed from a simple need to correct typing errors. Today, the product she envisioned continues to occupy a place on shelves around the world, a testament to her foresight and resourcefulness.

Next, we have Hedy Lamarr. Known to many for her glamorous Hollywood persona, Lamarr was a self-taught inventor whose work with composer George Antheil led to the development of a frequency-hopping signal that would become the precursor to modern GPS and Wi-Fi technologies. Her work demonstrated a remarkable blend of artistic and scientific acumen, serving the dual purpose of contributing to the war effort and laying the groundwork for a technologically interconnected future.

Adding to these stories of innovation is Mary Anderson, who, while riding a streetcar on a snowy day, envisioned the first windshield wiper. This seemingly simple device arose from an everyday inconvenience and has since evolved into a standard safety feature in all vehicles, highlighting the profound impact of addressing common challenges.

Lastly, Barbara McClintock, whose Nobel Prize-winning research on the genetic structure of maize has provided invaluable insights into the understanding of cancer and other genetic mutations. McClintock’s work defied gender biases and set a precedent for women in scientific research, proving that the seeds of change are often sown in the fertile ground of curiosity and rigorous inquiry.

Each of these women navigated the complexities of patenting and commercializing their ideas, a journey replete with challenges yet driven by an unstoppable will to bring their visions to fruition. Their stories are not just footnotes in the annals of history; they are powerful reminders that innovation is not the sole domain of any one gender or group.

As we reflect on the contributions of these remarkable women, we are reminded of the barriers they overcame and the pathways they forged for future generations. Their legacies underscore the importance of fostering an environment that nurtures the potential within all individuals, regardless of gender.

Women's History Month and International Women’s Day offer a moment to celebrate these achievements and renew our commitment to recognizing and supporting women in innovation. By honoring the past and investing in the future, we create a narrative of innovation that is richer, more diverse, and truly reflective of the world in which we all contribute and thrive.

Connect with Lorraine on LinkedIn.

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