Gender influence on access to innovation resources in Nigeria
Previous studies have indicated that men are more innovative than women in every aspect of business, with reasons put forward ranging from innovation being relatively incompatible with female gender roles, to societal attitudes leading to segregation in innovative sectors, and to issues of relative lack of self-confidence and empowerment. However, few studies have actually asked women themselves about their access to innovation resources, and how this may play into women having less opportunity to be innovative. In an attempt to unravel the reasons behind this phenomena, this study empirically investigated gendered differences in access to innovation resources between women- and men-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Lagos State, Nigeria.
Five innovation resources were examined for their gendered nature, including: education, finance, skilled workforce, extension and support services, and partnerships. The authors present a literature review that conceptualises innovation, its importance to business, and how innovation relates to each of the innovation resources examined. The study also collected data via questionnaires, which were analysed with Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and regression analysis to ascertain whether men entrepreneurs are actually more innovative than women, whether disparities exist in access to innovation resources, and which of the two are primarily responsible for any differences found.
The results indicated that women are discriminated against in access to finance and skilled workforce, but are not discriminated against in terms of access to education, extension and support services, and partnerships. It was also found that access to four of the innovation resources identified in the study have significant impact on innovation performance, with only access to extension and support services showing no significant impact. Women were found to be hindered in their access to qualified and experienced workers compared to men, leading them to rely on family members. Meanwhile, the authors found that it was the quality of, rather than access to, education that represents a significant barrier to women’s innovativeness. The major barrier found however is that of finance, with banks and financial institutions holding negative attitudes towards women based on the assumption that they are, or should be, supported by their husbands. With regard to partnerships, there is also scope for improvement in promoting women’s networks and and linkages, especially in the area of cooperation between universities and industry.
The authors conclude that women are less innovative than men not because of gender alone, but because they are disadvantaged in terms of exercising their potential to contribute to the innovation process due to lack of access to critical innovation resources. In light of these findings, the authors therefore recommended that policies and schemes targeting SMEs, especially with respect to providing finance, should be more gender-sensitive so as to invigorate the otherwise dormant potential in women to innovate. The scope is there for the Nigerian government to reap the benefits of the untapped innovation potential amongst women-owned SMEs, and so efforts to engender innovation and harness existing opportunities for building innovation capacities of women should be intensified.