Women in STEM: The link between gender and research diversity

Women in STEM: The link between gender and research diversity
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A new paper which discusses the relationship between gender and research diversity has added to the dialogue about women in STEM.

The paper is called “Making gender diversity work for scientific discovery and innovation” and has recently been published in the journal Nature. It is authored by Mathias Wullum Nielsen, Carter Walter Block and Londa Schiebinger.

The important of gender and research diversity

The number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a significant point of debate within the field. The current statistics from STEM Learning support that there is a lot of room for improvement in gender and research diversity.

The statistics show the following facts:

  • The UK has the lowest propertion of women in engineering in Europe;
  • Women account for just 10% of engineering roles; and
  • Women hold only 14% of engineering university places.

How does the paper add to the definition of gender diversity?

The paper adds: ‘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.’

From the authors’ perspective, gender diversity is not just about the diversity of people in research teams, but also about the diversity of research methods, and the scientific questions that are being posed.

Achieving gender and research diversity

The paper states that gender and research diversity are interlinked and argues that: ‘Gender diversity has the potential to drive scientific discovery and innovation.’ The authors outline the ways to achieve effective gender and research diversity. They argue that the most valuable approach in realising the full potential of gender and research diversity is to manage four interdependent domains.

The four interdependent domains are:

  • The research teams;
  • The research organisations in which the teams are embedded;
  • The broader scientific discipline; and
  • Societies as a whole, which shape policies and opinions on gender and research.

This holistic approach to gender diversity updates the discussion on gender and research diversity and the value of women in STEM.

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