Perspective | Published:

Making gender diversity work for scientific discovery and innovation

Nature Human Behaviourvolume 2pages726734 (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Gender diversity has the potential to drive scientific discovery and innovation. Here, we distinguish three approaches to gender diversity: diversity in research teams, diversity in research methods and diversity in research questions. While gender diversity is commonly understood to refer only to the gender composition of research teams, fully realizing the potential of diversity for science and innovation also requires attention to the methods employed and questions raised in scientific knowledge-making. We provide a framework for understanding the best ways to support the three approaches to gender diversity across four interdependent domains — from research teams to the broader disciplines in which they are embedded to research organizations and ultimately to the different societies that shape them through specific gender norms and policies. Our analysis demonstrates that realizing the benefits of diversity for science requires careful management of these four interdependent domains.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth (European Commission, 2012).

  2. 2.

    Statement of Principles and Actions Promoting the Equality and Status of Women in Research (Global Research Council, 2016); https://www.globalresearchcouncil.org/fileadmin//documents/GRC_Publications/Statement_of_Principles_and_Actions_Promoting_the_Equality_and_Status_of_Women_in_Research.pdf

  3. 3.

    Huyer, S. in UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030 (ed. Schneegans, S.) 84–103 (UNESCO Publishing, Paris, 2015); http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002354/235406e.pdf

  4. 4.

    Maes, K., Gvozdanovic, J., Buitendijk, S., Hallberg, I. R. & Mantilleri, B. Women, Research and Universities: Excellence Without Gender Bias (League of European Research Universities, Leuven, 2012).

  5. 5.

    Diversity in science. The Royal Society https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/diversity-in-science/topic/ (2017).

  6. 6.

    Valantine, H. A. & Collins, F. S. National Institutes of Health addresses the science of diversity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 12240–12242 (2015).

  7. 7.

    Hong, L. & Page, S. E. Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 16385–16389 (2004).

  8. 8.

    Page, S. E. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 2008).

  9. 9.

    Phillips, K. W. How diversity works. Sci. Am. 311, 42–47 (2014).

  10. 10.

    Nishii, L. H. The benefits of climate for inclusion for gender-diverse groups. Acad. Manage. J. 56, 1754–1774 (2013).

  11. 11.

    Bear, J. B. & Woolley, A. W. The role of gender in team collaboration and performance. Interdiscip. Sci. Rev. 36, 146–153 (2011).

  12. 12.

    Joshi, A., Liao, H. & Roh, H. Bridging domains in workplace demography research: a review and reconceptualization. J. Manage. 37, 521–552 (2011).

  13. 13.

    Van Dijk, H., van Engen, M. L. & van Knippenberg, D. Defying conventional wisdom: a meta-analytical examination of the differences between demographic and job related diversity relationships with performance. Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process 119, 38–53 (2012).

  14. 14.

    Díaz-García, C., González-Moreno, A. & Jose Sáez-Martínez, F. Gender diversity within R&D teams: its impact on radicalness of innovation. Innovation 15, 149–160 (2013).

  15. 15.

    Faems, D. & Subramanian, A. M. R&D manpower and technological performance: the impact of demographic and task-related diversity. Res. Policy 42, 1624–1633 (2013).

  16. 16.

    Fernández, J. The impact of gender diversity in foreign subsidiaries’ innovation outputs. Int. J. Gend Entrep. 7, 148–167 (2015).

  17. 17.

    Østergaard, C. R., Timmermans, B. & Kristinsson, K. Does a different view create something new? The effect of employee diversity on innovation. Res. Policy 40, 500–509 (2011).

  18. 18.

    Sastre, J. F. The impact of R&D teams’ gender diversity on innovation outputs. Int. J. Entrep. Small Bus. 24, 142–162 (2015).

  19. 19.

    Turner, L. Gender diversity and innovative performance. Int. J. Innov. Sustain. Dev. 4, 123–134 (2009).

  20. 20.

    Campbell, L. G., Mehtani, S., Dozier, M. E. & Rinehart, J. Gender-heterogeneous working groups produce higher quality science. PLoS ONE 8, e79147 (2013).

  21. 21.

    Joshi, A. By whom and when is women’s expertise recognized? The interactive effects of gender and education in science and engineering teams. Adm. Sci. Q. 25, 202–239 (2014).

  22. 22.

    Lungeanu, A. & Contractor, N. S. The effects of diversity and network ties on innovations: the emergence of a new scientific field. Am. Behav. Sci. 59, 548–564 (2015).

  23. 23.

    Saá-Pérez, D., Díaz-Díaz, N. L., Aguiar-Díaz, I. & Ballesteros-Rodríguez, J. L. How diversity contributes to academic research teams performance. R&D Manage. 47, 165–179 (2015).

  24. 24.

    Stvilia, B. et al. Composition of scientific teams and publication productivity at a national science lab. J. Assoc. Inf. Sci. Technol. 62, 270–283 (2011).

  25. 25.

    For a Better Integration of the Gender Dimension in Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2016–2017 (European Commission, 2015); http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupDetailDoc&id=18892&no=1

  26. 26.

    Buitendijk, S. & Maes, K. Gendered Research and Innovation: Integrating Sex and Gender Analysis into the Research Process (League of European Research Universities, Leuven, 2015).

  27. 27.

    Schiebinger, L. & Klinge, I. Gendered Innovations: How Gender Analysis Contributes to Research (Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2013).

  28. 28.

    Sánchez de Madariaga, I., de Gregorio Hurtado, S. (eds). Advancing Gender in Research, Innovation and Sustainable Development (Fundación General de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Madrid, 2016).

  29. 29.

    Bührer, S. & Schraudner, M. Gender-Aspekte in der Forschung: Wie können Gender-Aspekte in Forschungsvorhaben erkannt und bewertet werden? (Frauenhofer IRB Verlag, Stuttgart, 2006).

  30. 30.

    Adler, R. A. Osteoporosis in men: a review. Bone Res. 2, 14001 (2014).

  31. 31.

    Schiebinger, L. et al. Sex and gender analysis policies of major granting agencies. Gendered Innovations http://genderedinnovations.stanford.edu/sex-and-gender-analysis-policies-major-granting-agencies.html (2018).

  32. 32.

    Johnson, J., Sharman, Z., Vissandjee, B. & Stewart, D. E. Does a change in health research funding policy related to the integration of sex and gender have an impact? PLoS ONE 9, e99900 (2014).

  33. 33.

    De Cheveigné, S. & Knoll, B. Interim Evaluation: Gender Equality as a Crosscutting Issue in Horizon 2020 (Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2017).

  34. 34.

    European Commission She Figures 2015 (Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2016).

  35. 35.

    US General Accounting Office. Drug Safety: Most Drugs Withdrawn in Recent Years had Greater Health Risks for Women (Government Publishing Office, Washington DC, 2001).

  36. 36.

    Roth, J. et al. Economic return from the women’s health initiative estrogen plus progestin clinical trial: a modeling study. Ann. Intern. Med. 160, 594–602 (2014).

  37. 37.

    Ovseiko, P. V. et al. A global call for action to include gender in research impact assessment. Health Res. Policy Syst. 14, 50 (2016).

  38. 38.

    Nielsen, M. W. et al. Opinion: gender diversity leads to better science. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 1740–1742 (2017).

  39. 39.

    Dolado, J. J., Felgueroso, F. & Almunia, M. Are men and women-economists evenly distributed across research fields? Some new empirical evidence. SERIEs 3, 367–393 (2012).

  40. 40.

    Light, R. in Networks, Work, and Inequality (ed. Mcdonald, S.) 239–268 (Research in the Sociology of Work Vol. 24, Emerald Group Publishing, Bingley, 2013).

  41. 41.

    Mapping Gender in the German Research Area (Elsevier, 2015); https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/126715/ELS_Germany_Gender_Research-SinglePages.pdf

  42. 42.

    Maliniak, D., Powers, R. & Walter, B. F. The gender citation gap in international relations. Int. Organ. 67, 889–922 (2013).

  43. 43.

    West, J. D., Jacquet, J., King, M. M., Correll, S. J. & Bergstrom, C. T. The role of gender in scholarly authorship. PLoS ONE 8, e66212 (2013).

  44. 44.

    Nonnemaker, L. Women physicians in academic medicine — new insights from cohort studies. N. Engl. J. Med. 342, 399–405 (2000).

  45. 45.

    Rosser, S. V. An overview of women’s health in the US since the mid-1960s. Hist. Technol. 18, 355–369 (2002).

  46. 46.

    Schiebinger, L. Has Feminism Changed Science? (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1999).

  47. 47.

    Fedigan, L. M. Primate Paradigms: Sex Roles and Social Bonds (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1992).

  48. 48.

    Schiebinger, L. (ed.) Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering (Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, 2008).

  49. 49.

    Nielsen, M. W., Andersen, J. P., Schiebinger, L. & Schneider, J. W. One and a half million medical papers reveal a link between author gender and attention to gender and sex analysis. Nat. Hum. Behav. 1, 791–796 (2017).

  50. 50.

    Herring, C. Does diversity pay? Race, gender, and the business case for diversity. Am. Sociol. Rev. 74, 208–224 (2009).

  51. 51.

    Mannix, E. & Neale, M. A. What differences make a difference? The promise and reality of diverse teams in organizations. Psychol. Sci. Public Interest 6, 31–55 (2005).

  52. 52.

    Shore, L. M. et al. Diversity in organizations: Where are we now and where are we going? Hum. Resour. Manage. Rev. 19, 117–133 (2009).

  53. 53.

    Williams, K. Y. & O’Reilly, C. A. in Research in Organizational Behavior (eds Staw, B. M. & Cummings, L. L.) 77–140 (JAI Press, Greenwich, 1998).

  54. 54.

    Homan, A. C., Van Knippenberg, D., Van Kleef, G. A. & De Dreu, C. K. Bridging faultlines by valuing diversity: diversity beliefs, information elaboration, and performance in diverse work groups. J. Appl. Psychol. 92, 1189–1199 (2007).

  55. 55.

    Lauring, J. & Villesèche, F. The performance of gender diverse teams: What is the relation between diversity attitudes and degree of diversity? Eur. Manage. Rev. https://doi.org/10.1111/emre.12164 (2017).

  56. 56.

    Van Knippenberg, D., Haslam, S. A. & Platow, M. J. Unity through diversity: value-in-diversity beliefs, work group diversity, and group identification. Group Dyn. 11, 207–222 (2007).

  57. 57.

    Hobman, E. V., Bordia, P. & Gallois, C. Perceived dissimilarity and work group involvement: the moderating effects of group openness to diversity. Group Organ. Manage. 29, 560–587 (2004).

  58. 58.

    Joshi, A. & Knight, A. P. Who defers to whom and why? Dual pathways linking demographic differences and dyadic deference to team effectiveness. Acad. Manag. J. 58, 59–84 (2015).

  59. 59.

    Hobman, E. V. & Bordia, P. The role of team identification in the dissimilarity-conflict relationship. Group Process. Intergroup Relat. 9, 483–507 (2006).

  60. 60.

    Mohammed, S. & Angell, L. C. Surface- and deep-level diversity in workgroups: examining the moderating effects of team orientation and team process on relationship conflict. J. Organ. Behav. 25, 1015–1039 (2004).

  61. 61.

    Homan, A. C. et al. Facing differences with an open mind: openness to experience, salience of intragroup differences, and performance of diverse work groups. Acad. Manage. J. 51, 1204–1222 (2008).

  62. 62.

    Roos, P. A. & Reskin, B. F. Occupational desegregation in the 1970s: Integration and economic equity? Sociol. Perspect. 35, 69–91 (1992).

  63. 63.

    Lautenberger, D. M., Dandar, V. M. & Raezer, C. L. The State of Women in Academic Medicine: The Pipeline and Pathways to Leadership 2013–2014 (Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington DC, 2014).

  64. 64.

    Becher, T. The significance of disciplinary differences. Stud. Higher Educ. 19, 151–161 (1994).

  65. 65.

    Zou, J. & Schiebinger, L. AI can be sexist and racist — it’s time to make it fair. Nature 559, 324–326 (2018).

  66. 66.

    Felt, U. & Stöckelová, T. in Knowing and Living in Academic Research (ed. Felt, U.) 41–124 (Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, 2009).

  67. 67.

    Lamont, M. How Professors Think (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2009).

  68. 68.

    Whitley, R. The Intellectual and Social Organization of the Sciences (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2000).

  69. 69.

    Stewart, A. J., Malley, J. E. & LaVaque-Manty, D. Transforming Science and Engineering: Advancing Academic Women (Univ. Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2007).

  70. 70.

    Courses. Course 1: the science of sex and gender in human health. National Institutes of Health https://sexandgendercourse.od.nih.gov/content/courses (2018).

  71. 71.

    Sex and Gender in Biomedical Research (Canadian Institutes of Health, 2018); http://www.cihr-irsc-igh-isfh.ca/

  72. 72.

    Schiebinger, L. et al. Sex and gender analysis policies of peer-reviewed journals. Gendered Innovations https://genderedinnovations.stanford.edu/sex-and-gender-analysis-policies-peer-reviewed-journals.html (2018).

  73. 73.

    Author instructions: manuscript preparation Circulation Research https://www.ahajournals.org/res/manuscript-preparation (2018).

  74. 74.

    Miller, V. M. In pursuit of scientific excellence: sex matters. Am. J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 302, C1269–C1270 (2012).

  75. 75.

    Schiebinger, L., Leopold, S. S. & Miller, V. M. Editorial policies for sex and gender analysis. Lancet 388, 2841–2842 (2016).

  76. 76.

    Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, 2017); http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/archives/

  77. 77.

    Ludwig, S. et al. A successful strategy to integrate sex and gender medicine into a newly developed medical curriculum. J. Womens Health 24, 996–1005 (2015).

  78. 78.

    Brooks, C., Fenton, E. M. & Walker, T. J. Gender and the evaluation of research. Res. Policy 43, 990–1001 (2014).

  79. 79.

    Hunter, L. A. & Leahey, E. Parenting and research productivity: new evidence and methods. Soc. Stud. Sci. 40, 433–451 (2010).

  80. 80.

    Nielsen, M. W. Gender consequences of a national performance-based funding model: new pieces in an old puzzle. Stud. Higher Educ. 42, 1033–1055 (2017).

  81. 81.

    Schneid, M., Isidor, R., Li, C. & Kabst, R. The influence of cultural context on the relationship between gender diversity and team performance: a meta-analysis. Int. J. Hum. Resour. Manage. 26, 733–756 (2015).

  82. 82.

    European Commission Seventh FP7 Monitoring Report 2013 (Publications Office of the European Union, 2015).

  83. 83.

    Commission Staff Working Document: Horizon 2020 Annual Monitoring Report 2015 (European Commission, 2016).

  84. 84.

    Fact Sheet: Gender Equality in Horizon 2020 (European Commission, 2013); https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/sites/horizon2020/files/FactSheet_Gender_2.pdf

  85. 85.

    Topics with a gender dimension. European Commission http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/ftags/gender.html#c,topics=flags/s/Gender/1/1&+callDeadline/desc (2015).

  86. 86.

    Clayton, J. & Collins, F. NIH to balance sex in cell and animal studies. Nature 509, 282–283 (2014).

  87. 87.

    Aksnes, D. et al. Centres of Excellence in the Nordic Countries (NIFU, Oslo, 2012).

  88. 88.

    Sandström, U., Wold, A., Jordansson, B., Ohlsson, B. & Smedberg, Å. Hans Excellens: om miljardsatsningarna på starka forskningsmiljöer (Delegationen för Jämställdhet i Högskolan, Stockholm, 2010).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank E. Steiner, Co-Director, Spatial History Project, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, Stanford University, for executing our graphics.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

    • Mathias Wullum Nielsen
    •  & Carter Walter Bloch
  2. History of Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Londa Schiebinger

Authors

  1. Search for Mathias Wullum Nielsen in:

  2. Search for Carter Walter Bloch in:

  3. Search for Londa Schiebinger in:

Contributions

M.W.N., L.S. and C.W.B. conceptualized and wrote the paper. M.W.N. and L.S. carried out literature searches, and M.W.N. and C.W.B. prepared tables. L.S. and M.W.N. conceptualized Figs. 1 and 2.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mathias Wullum Nielsen.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    : Supplementary Methods; Supplementary Table 1 -4

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0433-1