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Promoting gender diversity in research

A new paper outlines strategies to promote gender diversity in research teams, which can also generate new questions, techniques and results.

Traditionally, medical studies were based on data from men only. And the research was conducted by men only.

We'd like to tell ourselves that was in the past — a era long, long ago. But, many research teams remain mostly male and many institutions, it seems, need some guidance about how to support gender diversity, as well as other forms of diversity.

As a recent Stanford news article explains, historian Londa Schiebinger, PhD, in concert with colleagues, has released a paper in Nature Human Behaviour that hopes to help. "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," the article reports.

Research teams that include women may also use different research methods and may ask different questions than teams that are made up of men only, Schiebinger points out. The resulting research may also be most reflective of real-world challenges.

“You can think of gender as a variable and if you leave it out, you potentially miss something important in scientific research with human outcomes,” Schiebinger says in the article. “While our study focused on gender diversity, we hope it contributes to a better understanding of the possible benefits associated with other types of diversity as well.”

Although women are most likely to include gender in the design of their research, anyone can learn to incorporate sex and gender analysis, she explains.

"If research is funded by taxpayer monies, you need to integrate sex and gender into your work so that everyone in society benefits," she says.

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