Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Why we need to increase diversity in the immunology research community

The immunology research community lacks diversity, particularly at the top. Here I discuss diversity, inclusion and equity and their benefit to science. I suggest steps we can take to achieve a more diverse and inclusive community.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Percentage of men and women in the US resident population versus those employed full time in faculty positions in degree-granting post-secondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and sex.
Fig. 2: Percentage of women in career stages and typical timing of first F32 and R01.


  1. National Center for Education Statistics. 2017. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2014, Spring 2016, and Spring 2017 Human Resources component. US Department of Education. Accessed June 2019.

  2. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, NSF 17-310 (National Science Foundation, 2017).

  3. Valantine, H. A. & Collins, F. S. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 12240–12242 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. European Commission. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (2012).

  5. Nielsen, M. W. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 1740–1742 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Freeman, R. B. & Huang, W. J. Labor Econ. 33, S289–S318 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hewlett, S.A., Marshall, M. & Sherbin, L. How Diversity Can Drive Innovation. Harvard Business Review (December 2013).

  8. Phillips, K. W. Sci. Am. 311, 42–47 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Mervis, J. Science (2018).

  10. Chang, E. H. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 7778–7783 (2019).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Iwasaki, A. Nat. Immunol. 16, 787–790 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. National Research Council. Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty (National Academies Press, 2010).

  13. Lerchenmueller, M. J. & Sorenson, O. Res. Policy 47, 1007–1017 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Schultheiss, K. Ghost Advising. The Chronicle of Higher Education (4 March 2018).

  15. Bennett, J. What Makes a Leader? The New York Times (17 June 2019).

  16. Google. Guide: Understand team effectiveness. re:Work.

  17. Ginther, D. K. et al. Science 333, 1015–1019 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. DiPrete, T. A. & Eirich, G. M. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 32, 271–297 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


I thank the members of my laboratory, past and present, for teaching me the value of diversity in science. Many of the insights I shared in this commentary came from posts by my fellow scientists on Twitter. I thank the funding agencies, including the HHMI, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, NSF, and NIH for their commitment and effort in promoting diversity in science.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Akiko Iwasaki.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Source data

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Iwasaki, A. Why we need to increase diversity in the immunology research community. Nat Immunol 20, 1085–1088 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing