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Increased Gender Diversity Means Better Research, According to Science

Topics: Data & Research
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Hiring diverse teams isn’t just about doing the right thing, it’s about doing what’s best for companies and for everyone who works for them.

Diverse teams bring unique advantages. Their differences allow them to come at problems in unique ways. In fact, according to a recent Perspective in Nature Human Behaviour, gender-diverse teams produce stronger research.

At Nature, Virginia Gewin explained:

For example, as more women entered medical research in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, researchers paid greater attention to women’s health issues such as heart disease, breast cancer and autoimmune diseases (L. Nonnemaker N. Engl. J. Med. 342, 399–405 (2000) and S. V. Rosser Hist. Technol. 18, 355–369 (2002)). Rethinking sex and gender also reshaped osteoporosis research — conventionally considered a disease of postmenopausal women — to include men in screening, diagnosis and treatment. One-third of osteoporosis-related hip fractures occur in men older than 75 (R. A. Adler Bone Res. 2, 14001; 2014).

Diversity fuels Innovation

Teams that include workers of diverse genders are more innovative because they cover a wider array of perspectives than homogeneous teams. If everyone approaches a problem from the same angle, they’re less likely to find a solution. Innovation stagnates without new ideas and fresh perspectives. Diversity brings a richness that fuels progress.

Friction can sometimes arise as a result of different ideas and approaches within a team. This is true in many industries; it doesn’t just apply to scientific researchers. However, this tension can help to spark innovation and new ideas. If team members understand the value of their diversity, it may be easier for them to shoulder these kinds of challenges.

“The question is no longer what the benefits of diversity are, but how we can best support the potential benefits of diversity,” co-author Mathias Wullum Nielsen told Nature.

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The authors assert that real diversity must extend beyond simply assembling diverse research teams. How scientists analyze how sex and gender shape the questions they ask, and the methods they use, is also critical.

Per Nielsen: “We encourage individual scientists, particularly early-career researchers, to evaluate how gender and sex may be important to the research priorities, questions and design from the start of their projects.”

Beyond scientific research teams

Diversity can benefit lots of organizations and teams. These ideas aren’t strictly limited to scientific researchers. Still, research has found that men tend to underestimate gender inequality issues. For example, nearly 50 percent of men feel that women are well-represented in leadership roles in organizations where, in reality, women only account for one in 10 members of senior leadership.

Understanding the benefits of diversity is a crucial step. But, it’s also important to increase awareness about the current reality of diversity issues. In order for change to really take root, a greater number of workers and decision-makers need to prioritize the issue.

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