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For IWD WTW recognized female innovators making an impact

For IWD WTW recognized female innovators making an impact

 March 11, 2022

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WTW celebrated International Women’s Day by honoring trailblazers of the past and their own colleagues who are bringing new ideas to the forefront.

Women making an impact in their industry

WTW women

WTW's Head of Innovation, Karen O'Leonard highlights the achievements of women innovators recognized some amazing women whose ingenuity and perseverance have changed lives.

Women’s achievements in innovation often go unnoticed. People are likely to have heard of Marie Curie, whose discoveries changed our use of radiation in medicine and won her a Nobel Prize. But how many know about Hedi Lamarr, who was a gifted inventor? Lamarr gained international fame as a Hollywood glamour girl in the 1940s and 50s. But she is less well known for co-developing a “frequency hopping” system during World War II to guide Allied torpedoes to their targets, avoiding the threat of jamming by the enemy. Although the U.S. Navy originally declined to use this technology, Lamarr continued innovating and her work supported later developments in Bluetooth, GPS and other wireless technologies. While Hollywood recognized Lamarr’s film accomplishments by honoring her with a star on the Walk of Fame in 1960, it wasn’t until decades later that she received awards for her inventions. And finally, in 2014 she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Karen says that she was personally unaware of Lamarr’s off-screen achievements until her friend and fellow innovator, Josh Cohen at GIANT Innovation, told her about Lamarr's scientific work. There are many other women who similarly have flown largely under the radar, including many Nobel prize winners, female entrepreneurs and other female innovators. This is why Karen wants to take a moment to recognize some of her female colleagues who are pushing the envelope at WTW. These ladies may not (yet) have achieved international fame, but they are undoubtedly making an impact in their industry.

Enabling women to be heard

She starts with Helene Galy and Claire Wilkinson – the dynamic duo behind one of WTW's most exciting new innovation projects, which, when launched, will support small businesses. This project originated through their global innovation challenge called Horizons, which gives every WTW colleague a chance to propose ideas and, if selected, take up to four months out of their jobs to be intrapreneurs, leading projects through a rapid prototyping and concept testing cycle. One of the great things about the Horizons challenge is that it enables WTW's leaders to hear from colleagues in every business and in every corner of the globe – colleagues whose ideas may not otherwise get elevated to executives’ attention.

In 2021, all three winning ideas from Horizons were led by women. Besides Galy and Wilkinson’s project, Tasha Pettet was one of the other winners. Pettet’s project promises to be a truly revolutionary disruptor to the insurance value chain. Karen fully expects to see Pettet and her team take home some insurance industry awards when this innovation hits the market. 

Finally, Karen wants to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of the women on the iLab (WTW’s Innovation Lab) team. They include: Katie Plemmons, who Karen believes is the best innovation coach in North America if not the world; Paige Seaborn, who has done a fabulous job scaling WTW's Innovation Masters program to build colleagues’ innovation skills throughout the company; Claudia Guembe, who joined the team just a short while ago and already has had an impact in driving colleague engagement in innovation; Constanza Lobo-Guerrero Rodriguez, who is leading WTW's innovation culture strategy; and their newest hire, Meghan Haley, who joined them following a stint at her own startup and who is now running innovation sprints. Karen can’t imagine a more high-powered group of women innovators and consider myself lucky to work with such a talented team.

Karen explains they didn’t always have such high female participation in their innovation efforts in WTW. In fact, they’ve worked hard to include more women in innovation over the last several years, which you can read more about here. So as they celebrate International Women’s Day, Karen wants to recognize and thank her colleagues and all the women innovators out there, encouraging them to keep on creating!

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