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Gender diversity is linked to research diversity, Stanford historian says

Maria Filsinger Interrante, Christian Choe, and Zach Rosenthal, aka Team Lyseia, strategize about upcoming experiments to test their new antibiotics.

(Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Women and girls are increasingly encouraged to pursue STEM careers, potentially leading to greater gender diversity within research organizations. While Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger sees that as a positive step, she wants those organizations to go further by also supporting the changes to research itself brought on by the greater diversity.

“Everybody supports diversity these days,” Schiebinger said. But for the most part that diversity refers to the people on the team, not the outcomes. “Our hypothesis is that if you bring diversity to the team, you get diversity in the kinds of questions people ask,” she said.

And those new research directions could have their consequences. “If people are asking new questions we might also get new participants,” she said.

Schiebinger and a team of researchers recently published a paper in Nature Human Behaviourproposing ways organizations can continue to encourage gender diversity while also supporting diversity in new research directions that may result. Their paper lays out how research organizations – from research teams to universities to the broader disciplines in which they are embedded – can create the conditions for diversity to flourish.