Advancing Women Entrepreneurs with Design Thinking

 

Design Thinking puts an emphatic lens on any industry’s policies, processes and products. Design Thinking teaches us to understand our end-users, whether they be employees or clients.

For example, multinational consumer goods corporation Procter and Gamble (P&G), uses Design Thinking throughout their product design and marketing process, resulting in offerings that directly meet the needs of their end-clients – who in P&G’s case are predominantly women. According to their 2017 annual report, more than a quarter of P&G’s net sales came from the Baby, Feminine and Family care segment. By empathizing with the needs of their female clients they’re able to sell more than $18 billion dollars in product to women per year.

This approach can be seen throughout their corporate-wide commitment to gender-diversity and advancing women. In addition to a gender-equality campaign launched in 2017, P&G has also partnered with numerous organizations who share their commitment to addressing gender bias, such as the Association of National Advertisers, CARE, Global Citizen, Save the Children, Sesame Workshop, UN Women, Women in the World and World Vision.

Not only does P&G apply a female-forward approach to sales and marketing, they use the same approach towards employees – working toward a 2023 goal of women directing at least half of its product commercials. P&G also aims to advance female employees through programs and support within their organization – such as their “Blueprint for Healthy Living program that offers 24/7 access to a nurse who advises and advocates for employees – as well as programs that offer aid for adoption and job-guaranteed time off, flexible work options, health insurance coverage for employees with 20 hours of work a week, as well as three child-care centres.

So how can P&G’s Design Thinking approach to advancing women apply to other organizations and industries? We asked Victoria Lennox, CEO and Co-Founder of Startup Canada how Design Thinking can advance women entrepreneurs and Canada’s startup ecosystem as a whole.

Victoria Lennox – CEO and Co-Founder, Startup Canada

How can Design Thinking be used to help advance the startup ecosystem for women entrepreneurs?
“Design thinking can help policy and program developers to position the end-user in the driver’s seat, to develop personas, to empathize, and take a gendered lens to optimally design programs, policies and entire organizations to drive better results and to advance equality.”

How can entrepreneurs use Design Thinking to better understand and serve their specific end-clients?
“Design thinking can be used to better serve clients and customers by helping to develop a nuanced Persona and recognizing the complexity of the identities of end-users. With a greater understanding of who we are selling to or supporting and their unique problems, challenges, concerns, expectations, etc., we can build the optimal solution to serve their needs and to ultimately drive the success of our products, services, and our business.”

How can Design Thinking improve the “work-life” balance for women entrepreneurs?
“Design thinking can help to improve work-life balance for women by assisting employers to design better work environments for their employees in such a way as to enable women to have thriving personal and family lives and thriving profession lives, thus driving productivity and overall growth of an organization.”

How can Design Thinking improve leadership skills in women entrepreneurs?
“Design thinking can improve the leadership skills of women through the use of a collaborative and user-centric approach which lends itself well to the cooperative and communicative approach and tendencies of women leaders. Design thinking creates a safe and empowering atmosphere and communication-style that enables leaders to engage their teams in the way where the sum of the parts creates exponential value for the organization.”

How have you implemented Design Thinking in your work?
“Startup Canada has sent two of its management team to participate in the Spring 2 Innovation design thinking program to learn how to leverage design thinking to design programs for entrepreneurs in Canada optimally.”

What advice would you give other women seeking Design Thinking training?
“I encourage women leaders to consider leveraging design thinking and their approach to building their businesses, to support and nurturing their employees, and to better serve their customers through developing products and services that are centred on end-users. Ultimately design thinking can help women leaders design better environments for themselves, their employees, and drive business.”

For more from Victoria follow her on Twitter, and check out Startup Canada for more great resources, including opportunities and programming specifically for women entrepreneurs!

If you’re looking to get Design Thinking training for yourself or your employees, Spring2 Innovation offers a number of training options – find them here.