I have been thinking lately about how the seeds of innovation get planted — in an individual. In a family. In a state. Women are key to growing successful companies.
My great-great grandmother on my father’s side was an innovator. Her name was Moning Rix Tarpley Gannaway. Our family and the neighbors called her “Annie.”
Back in 1862, as a woman living in a decidedly man’s world, Annie patented a new and innovative boot-blacking stand. The demands of the Civil War were turning the shoe industry inside out, and in her own way, in the specific market segment of bootblacks on the corner and in the barber shop, my great-great grandmother was part of the change.
A Family Example
Annie moved to Oklahoma before statehood, and my family has been here ever since. She was the first of many strong and independent women in our family — my great-grandmother, grandmother, and ultimately my mother — who had and continue to have such an impact on me.
When, in 2003, I left our family bank in Elk City to go to work for the state, it was no accident that I left a woman (Sandy Werner) in charge, or that I chose a woman, Claudia San Pedro (now president of Sonic Corporation) as Deputy Director at the Office of State Finance, or that she replaced me, as the first woman and first Hispanic in that position ever, when I left to become state treasurer in 2006. As state treasurer, I named Susan Nicewander as Deputy Treasurer, the first woman in that position in Oklahoma history.
From the time I was small, the women in my family showed me first-hand that women know how to get things done. I went to college, law school and then into business and state government with a belief system that was based on my life experience.
However, not everyone has a great-great grandmother who set the course of the family’s mindset on diversity with a patent in 1862.
Fortunately, over most of the last decade, McKinsey & Company has produced multiple reports investigating the business case for diversity and inclusion. Their latest data set encompasses 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies.
Here is McKinsey’s bottom line — the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. And most telling, McKinsey reports there is “ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to make better, bolder decisions.”
Women are key to growing successful companies.
That presents Oklahoma with an opportunity to tackle the main challenge in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. We need more entrepreneurs creating more business plans to produce more products that many, many people in large international markets will buy. Our state’s pipeline of innovation that is being commercialized is simply not robust enough.
Tulsa-based Ten Nine Technologies is a great example of an Oklahoma company founded by a woman that is advancing ground-breaking technology.
McKinsey reports that companies with more than 30 percent women on their executive teams are significantly more likely to outperform those with less — especially when the company has less than 10 percent to zero female executives.
What are we waiting for?
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.