How Good Ideas Get Ignored In An Economy Built For Men

Jun 23, 2021

Today was the day.

My book Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored In An Economy Built For Men is now out in the UK. Hurray!

And if you want to find out why it took 5000 years for us to put wheels on suitcases (HINT: it has to do with gender) you can read my piece in The Guardian.

But in this space I want to talk to you about why I wrote Mother of Invention.

I did the largest chunk of actual writing during the first phase of the pandemic. My agent sold the rights with financial markets still in free fall and at the stage of the crisis where it looked like, even if the world got attacked by aliens, our first response would be to lower interest rates…

But then things kind of changed.

Here in the UK people started to go out every Thursday and clap for healthcare workers. Suddenly we had a whole new discussion about Shecessions and unpaid carework and how preschool teachers ought to be paid ONE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR because that’s how hard most of us found homeschooling…

(And I’m saying that as someone who did ZERO homeschooling, my husband did all of it, the result being that my book now actually well, exists…).

I guess I knew that these (feminist) perspectives on the crisis would go away. That a year later, if someone wanted to bring women into the discussion about the economic recovery, a lot of people would say what they always say:

- Not now ladies!

Which is why I wanted to have a book out saying:

- Yes, NOOOOW!

In Mother of Invention I argue that sexism has created an economy that makes it very hard to address the real problems that we now face. Our limiting ideas about men and women are holding us back. For example, they have delayed innovations we now take for granted, and sometimes for HUNDREDS of years.

  • Why was the electric car considered “female” after it first appeared 120 years ago?

  • Why didn’t we start putting wheels on suitcases until 1970?

  • Why did we create AI that could beat Gary Kasparov at chess but not lift a cup of tea?

The answer to all of these questions is gender .

We have failed to find, failed to fund and failed to grow game-changing ideas because we have been blinded by gender.

The problem is that we have been trying to innovate from a very limited idea about what it means to be human. The form this took in the last decade was that it gave us a lot of innovations along the lines of “Uber for dog walkers”, “Netflix for history documentaries” and “Tinder for farmers”. It made a handful of men richer than anyone has ever been. But it has not helped with the big common challenges that the world is facing. Climate change is probably the most obvious and starkest of these.

We have a financial system that has poured resources into businesses promising to “disrupt”, “crush” and ”dominate”. Then we have been surprised when they have done just that. Often to valuable institutions like journalism, healthcare and democracy itself.

Where were the innovations promising to “repair”, “tend” and “co-operate”? Well, they couldn’t get funding. Partly because they are often started by women (and only 1 PERCENT of venture capital goes to women), and partly because these values have been branded as “female”. Therefore they are seen as something that should be subordinated to the “masculine” values of “disrupting”, “crushing”, “killing it” and “owning it”.

We need a new business paradigm.

I wrote Mother of Invention to be a (hopefully) funny and entertaining book. You’ll learn:

  • How NASA worked with a bra-making company to create the suit Neil Armstrong wore on the moon.

  • The real meaning of Kylie Jenner’s wealth.

  • What Serena William’s serve can teach us about the limits of AI.

And MUCH more.

-Okay, but what is the MESSAGE of the book?

Well, I guess it’s something like this:

Throughout history we have taken certain values, branded them as “female” and excluded them from the economy. Everything we perceive as female is considered less important than what we perceive as male. BUT now our very survival on this planet depends on bringing these aspects of our humanity back and putting them front and centre in a new economic paradigm.

The Times today said that “Marçal wants nothing less than a revolution in the way we think about ourselves.”

Well, Marçal will think about it.

Right now she needs to go to bed.

Happy Thursday!


PS. And if there’s someone you know who you think needs/wants this book please forward this newsletter to them. Because if this letter doesn’t scare them away then I’m pretty sure they will like the book!

To not miss an issue of this newsletter  please subscribe!


Pre-order Mother of Invention

"Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored In An Economy Built For Men" is published in the UK in June 2021. 

Pre-order (and support your local bookshop)