the History & Future of Women Changing the World

Click on the mural to enlarge, click on the names and topics for more details. 

The Women Inventors and Innovators mural is a 175-year history and future timeline, linking to a database detailing the accomplishments of women in the context of their times. We believe that very soon women will be fully represented in  all places of global innovation and leadership on our planet. We need women fully involved in decisions so we can revolutionize global health, economic strength, peace, and environmental well-being. The question is how to catalyze this shift. We need new insights and, to find them, we are digging deep into the stories of women in history and today.

How can a mural help close the gender gap?  History murals help us see the big picture, trends, and hidden patterns so we can surface transformational insights. We catalyze creative thought, but we do this with solid facts and data. The backend of the mural is highly flexible rich data set that enables us to see information in new ways.

The mural you see above links to a database called DebateGraph that organizes the information in different combinations. For example, you can scroll around the mural and click on the name of any woman you want to learn more about. That will take you to the database. Or you can click on the different topic areas, to get a glimpse of a future where our impact on the world is considered more important than recognition within a specific discipline. Or you can click on each era and explore a particular time period in history.  We continually building out the mural.

Ultimately we will have detailed, meta-level knowledge about how women have thrived and handled obstacles in their eras. This is knowledge we can transfer to today's challenges. For example, we have already learned about the historical importance of cultural structures and new conversations. We know that cultural change must happen in community, so we are working with other organizations to discover and replicate successful practices. Of course, individual change also is necessary, so we also are looking in detail at the nuanced behaviors of the great women in history. For example, we learned from computer pioneer Ada Lovelace the power of embracing one's creative vision--even if others scoff "she's so full of herself." From pioneer investigative journalist Ida Tarbell, we discovered the power of speaking out publicly on unpopular topics (she managed to alienate her supporters as well as her critics, but she called-it-like-she-saw-it). 

By recognizing big patterns in history, we can forecast and even help shape the future. We welcome everyone who wants to help us build out the database. Let us know if you want to contribute!  Any and all ideas are welcome. Please email eileen@visualinsight.net.

We understand many are too busy to dig deep into the inner workings of our project. So we are pulling out insights as we go along and sharing them in the form of conceptual graphics capturing our findings, data charts, and real world stories from today and yesterday.  Through our study of women inventors and innovators, we intend to discover the hidden drivers of success as well as the cultural shifts necessary to close the gender gap by the year 2012.

This project will be continually evolving through multiple points of research

  1. identifying themes and patterns that emerge from a cross-section of women’s stories
  2. interviewing today’s innovators and inventors to gather their wisdom,
  3. aggregating data and statistics about the gender gap, in search of new perspectives,
  4. mapping the many converging organizations, research projects, and educational programs that are supporting women’s empowerment.

Our mural will help aggregate and focus the massive efforts under way to close the gender gap.

Besides the artistic orientation, there are other subtle features of the mural that we hope will shift perspective. First, the “key” at the left shows our categories. You’ll see we have combined cultural innovations with technological and scientific innovations. Breakthroughs that help society – promoting peace, human rights, or safety – are just as important as technological discoveries and deserve equal play. 

We are also changing the conversation by combining fields and disciplines into categories that focus on outcome. Customarily, we would divide inventions into categories including science, technology, engineering, and math, expanding to include sociology, business, psychology, etc. However, we’ve been looking at research that indicates women are often more motivated by making a contribution through teamwork than they are by invention or making a name for themselves.

Please take a moment to listen to this overview of the project and add your ideas to the survey.