UN Women Gender Innovation Principles


Adopting the Gender Innovation Principles


Ensuring that women and girls benefit from innovation will require public, private and civil society partners to come together. The Gender Innovation Principles are incorporating various international standards providing tools and guidance for companies and organizations on how to integrate innovation and technology in development work and how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

They refer to the Principles for Innovation and Technology in Development endorsed by UN Innovation Network Member and to the principles on Gender Equality and Innovation developed by the International Development Innovation Alliance (IDIA). They also refer to the Women's Empowerment Principles developed by UN Women and UN Global Compact that include corporate policies and processes that aim to better include women within the organization.

Traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion typically adopt a gender sensitive approach. This means they identify gender issues at work and adopt the “do not do harm” principle to overcome historical gender biases. The aim of the gender innovation principles to build on these approaches by adopting a gender responsive approach and provide organizations with the benchmark for how to include women and women’s needs throughout the innovation life cycle. With this approach, women and men’s concerns and experiences equally become fundamental elements in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of the innovation process.

These principles can be applied in all sectors, may be directed at developing goods and services for an external market or may be as simply as improving the way work gets done in an organization. Innovation is a necessary requirement for organizations and institutions to prosper and grow. Applying a gender lens to the innovation cycle and more actively involving women has the potential to serve as a powerful tool to break trends and increase access and availability of opportunities. Innovation can provide unprecedented solutions to address the fundamental needs of women and lead to enhaced outcomes for organizations and society as a whole.

In signing the Principles, participating organizations agree to adopt and implement them in support of UN Women’s and the Global Innovation Coalition for Change’s commitment to make innovation and technology work for women and girls. UN Women will capture and share experiences and knowledge across the network of signatory institutions to continuously improve collective action and will also evaluate and improve the principles over time.


The principles

UN Women Gender Innovation Principles


1. Make a High-level Corporate Commitment to Adopt a Gender Responsive Approach to Innovation

  • Review existing gender equality practices as it relates to innovation and consider how women can be better integrated in the innovation process

  • Embed this thinking into the purpose of the organization

  • Make a commitment to include women as innovators, stakeholders and end users throughout each of the five key innovation phases

  • Identify current innovation initiatives within the organization that currently need more women participants and take steps to fill these gaps

  • Communicate to the organization around the commitment and create a call to action for women to register to be involved


Goal: help identify gender bias and provide scientists and engineers with practical methods for sex and gender analysis that can be integrated into basic and applied research.



2. Design Innovations that Include Women as End Users

  • Include women in the idea generation process and make sure women are well represented on any mission control governance panels

  • Dependent on size of organisation try and utilise a curated innovation platform to engage as many women as possible within the organization

  • Consider both women and men as end users of the innovation.

  • Include women users in the process such as research, development, implementation and review

  • Ensure the specific needs of women have been identified at the ideation stage

  • Engage women in the design phase to test whether the innovation meets this needs assessment

  • Ensure the needs assessment considers the diverse intersectional needs of women by accounting for the overlapping nature of gender race, class, ethnicity religion and sexual orientation.


Goal: help develop proof of concepts of investing in innovations developed by women for women and girls, particularly
for marginalized groups



3. Adopt an adaptive approach to implementation to ensure innovations are gender responsive and meet the needs of women

  • Enrol women as end users of the innovation to ensure innovations are adapted as needed and meet the needs of women

  • Obtain feedback from women, as end users, the on the innovation throughout its development

  • As required adopt an adaptive approach to innovations, implementing the feedback of women as end users to ensure the innovations are fit for purpose

  • Ensure innovations developed are adapted to local contexts, accounting for the diverse needs of women

  • As part of the innovation stakeholder engagement strategy include women throughout the innovation implementation phase of the innovation cycle.

Goal: collect user feedback to find out what was working and what could be improved on the platform.



4. Evaluate the gender responsive impact using a data driven approach

  • Develop a measure that considers the impact on women and focus on outcomes rather than outputs

  • Cultivate innovations that can be measured at milestones

  • Understand the data gaps and use other real-time information to inform decisions

  • Evaluate solutions and use this to inform an assessment of impact on women and girls both in and outside of the organization

  • Review the innovation process for improvements and consider the key lessons learnt from a gender perspective. Take learnings from previous innovation projects the organization has conducted previously if applicable

  • Report on key lessons learnt and recommendations for future innovations.

Goal: help complement traditional data collection tools by using big data tools which provides more granular, near real-
time information.



5. Scale innovations that provide sustainable solutions to meet the needs of women and girls

  • Assess innovation from the design phase for scalability.

  • Assess innovations for application in different countries and contexts being cognizant of local cultures

  • Assess possible partnerships from the beginning that include organizations that champion gender equality

  • Empower women to pursue ideas that are for the collective good not just profit

  • Engage women in the sustainability development planning process.

  • Assess how the innovation can include women in the scaling and long-term development process.  

  • Engage women in the testing and beta phases of innovation projects

  • Include women as developers and/or partners of the innovation

Goal: Develop a platform that can be adaptable to various supply chains and local market configurations.