From Forbes to Scientific American, it is well known that being around people who are different from us makes us more creative and increases our personal investments. It should therefore come as no surprise that an opinion piece published in the current issue of PNAS draws the same conclusion: Gender diversity leads to better science.
Encouraging greater diversity is not only the right thing to do: it allows scientific organizations to derive an “innovation dividend” that leads to smarter, more creative teams, hence opening the door to new discoveries.
This opinion piece covers many ways that gender diversity paves the road to excellence and speaks to the importance of supportive institutional contexts. As universities strive to increase their diversity numbers, this article also recognizes the crucial aspects of inclusion in the scientific community. Make no mistake: numbers are still important. Achieving a critical mass of women (between 15% and 30%) will be required for women to flourish. Only then will they experience “less stereotyping, more involvement in decision making and teamwork and higher levels of support”.
Inclusion is a second key ingredient. No matter what the diversity numbers, an open and accepting work culture can accelerate this needed transformation. Putting aside the social justice motivations, the scientific enterprises of universities, medical schools and research institutes all seek the same things: a greater understanding of the world’s natural laws as well as novel cures for diseases.
Surely we can achieve this?
After all, the university setting strives to be the epicenter of open inquiry, the hotbed of newfangled ideas, and the center of excellence. If institutions invest in this stock, the gender-diversity dividend is guaranteed to pay well.
That’s a better promise than the stock market….