Will the profile of innovators change?

Who are the innovatorsA recent study by the ITIF (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation) gave us some inside information about who the innovators are in the United States.

“Immigrants, we get the job done.” This is the cry of Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton in recent blockbuster musical Hamilton, and the ITIF study shows us it is no joke. More than one third of U.S. innovators were born out of the United States, including over 17 percent of whom are not U.S. citizens making enormous contributions to U.S. innovations. Immigrant innovators also tend to be better educated on average than native-born innovators.

Innovators are also not as young as we might think. It can often feel like innovation is a “young man’s game,” but this study shows that the median age for innovators in Silicon Valley is 47. This shows us that it’s important to stay engaged with innovators across generations and age groups – you never know where the next great idea is going to come from!

Perhaps most surprising is that, despite the higher percentage of women in STEM fields and with degrees in STEM areas, they represent only 12 percent of U.S. innovators. Outside the U.S., that number increases slightly, at 17 percent.

So, will the profile of innovators change? Well, most likely not on its own. Change will require introducing some different methods of providing opportunities for those who are currently less represented in the community. As the study showed, the percentage of women innovators “constitutes a smaller percentage than the female share of undergraduate degree recipients in STEM fields, STEM Ph.D. students, and working scientists and engineers.” The potential is there, it just has to be cultivated. So hopefully, the percentage of female innovators will increase in coming years, and hopefully we can continue to appreciate and encourage immigrants with strength in STEM fields to become part of the innovation community in the United States. Both of these focuses will have an impact on whether the profile of innovators will continue to change.

Click here to download an infographic about the recent ITIF study of innovation demographics.

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