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While many resources on racial and ethnic diversity exist, here we concentrate on gender diversity. Many of these resources come from the business world, but the concepts should apply to scientific organizations, too. The first section concentrates on the results of research showing why diversity is good for orgaizations, the second on how to increase diversity, and the third on workplace climate, which is important for not only diversity but also organizational productivity. The webmaster would welcome suggestions of additional resources.

Here, each link is accompanied by a short quotation or a short summary.

On this page:
  1. Benefits of diversity for organizations
  2. How to increase diversity in an organization
  3. Workplace climate
These initial listings address all three topics:

"Diversity: Promoting New Perspectives," by Chris Tachibana, from Science Careers, July 20, 2012 July 20, 2012

'Business school studies show that a work culture that embraces diversity with a goal of learning and integration is more effective at reaping the benefits of multiculturalism than one that tries to be "colorblind." Valuing diversity is the philosophy at Life Technologies, says Diversity and Inclusion Leader Ronita Griffin. The company doesn't stop at recruiting a varied workforce, but engages employees as diversity champions who act as mentors internally and as company ambassadors externally, at community diversity events. Life Technologies also trains its workforce in inclusion, which Griffin describes as "activating, respecting, leveraging, and enabling differences—learning how to recognize and take advantage of the rich diversity in our workforce." Although workplace diversity training can be met with resistance, it can be engaging if it is practical, and answers questions that people feel uncomfortable asking. LGBT diversity training sessions can be intriguing, says Snowdon. "People welcome the opportunity to get their questions answered about populations they don't know much about, like transgender people. Even employees who dread mandatory training often tell me they'll go home and talk about LGBT issues—it's 'news they can use'."'

Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings, a brochure produced by the WISELI program (College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison) (PDF)

'This booklet summarizes research on the benefits and challenges of diversity and provides suggestions for realizing the benefits. Its goal is to help create a climate in which all individuals feel "personally safe, listened to, valued, and treated fairly and with respect." '

A separate reference list gives sources from the primary and secondary research literature.

(1) Diversity as a Means to Organizational Excellence

Article, "Creativity from Constraint? How Political Correctness Influences Creativity in Mixed-Sex Work Groups," by Jack Goncalo, Jennifer A. Chatman, Michelle M. Duguid, and Jessica A. Kennedy

'... A term that has been used to undermine expectations to censor offensive language as a threat to free speech actually provides a normative foundation upon which demographically heterogeneous work groups can freely exchange creative ideas.'

"Unlocking the full potential of women in the US economy," by Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee, McKinsey & Co., April 2011

Research-based discussion on women in management, including the following.

'How women contribute at the corporate level: The business case for diversity

... In a limited application of The McKinsey Organizational Health Index (OHI) we found that companies with three or more women in top positions (executive committee and higher) scored higher than their peers. OHI measures nine factors, ranging from external orientation to coordination and control, that are linked to well-functioning organizations. Companies that score highly on all nine metrics of organizational health have also shown superior financial performance.' And much more!

"Diversity as a Strategic Advantage: It's about more than filling quotas, as such companies as Turner Broadcasting, IBM, and Pfizer have discovered," by Alaina Love, from Bloomberg Businessweek, May 14, 2010

" ... With the realization that diversity can bring about competitive advantage, partnering occurs among diverse groups across all functional areas and is anchored by common goals. This reduces silo mentality and allows for increased creativity and innovation. Beyond being a moral imperative, diversity in top companies is a key plank in the platform for business success."

"Does Diversity Pay?: Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity," by Cedric Herring (University of Illinois at Chicago), American Sociological Review, page 208, April 2009

'Using data from the 1996 to 1997 National Organizations Survey, a national sample of for-profit business organizations, this article tests eight hypotheses derived from the value-in-diversity thesis. The results support seven of these hypotheses: racial diversity is associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, greater market share, and greater relative profits. Gender diversity is associated with increased sales revenue, more customers, and greater relative profits. I discuss the implications of these findings relative to alternative views of diversity in the workplace.'

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, by Scott Page

A link to amazon.com's on-line preview of this well-reviewed book is provided here for information purposes only.

"On Racial Diversity and Group Decision Making: Identifying Multiple Effects of Racial Composition on Jury Deliberations," by Samuel R. Sommers, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol, 90, p. 597 (2006)

From the conclusions of this widely cited paper: ' ... This research suggests particular circumstances under which racial diversity is likely to lead to improved group performance, findings that carry implications for a variety of domains beyond the legal context. Perhaps most important, the present study demonstrates that the influence of racial diversity can be seen in the performance of White as well as Black group members. That the observable benefits of diversity are in no way limited to minority individuals or to processes of information exchange are provocative conclusions deserving of continued conceptual consideration and empirical investigation.'

"Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups," by Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone

Abstract: 'Psychologists have repeatedly shown that a single statistical factor — often called "general intelligence" — emerges from the correlations among people's performance on a wide variety of cognitive tasks. But no one has systematically examined whether a similar kind of "collective intelligence" exists for groups of people. In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This "c factor" is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.'

From a paragraph near the end of the paper: 'Finally, c was positively and significantly correlated with the proportion of females in the group (r = 0.23, P = 0.007). However, this result appears to be largely mediated by social sensitivity ..., because ... women in our sample scored better on the social sensitivity measure than men ... . In a regression analysis with the groups for which all three variables (social sensitivity, speaking turn variance, and percent female) were available, all had similar predictive power for c, although only social sensitivity reached statistical significance ... .'

"On Women In Tech," by Matthew Prince, from TechCrunch

'Not diversity to fill some quota, but diversity because having different people with different experiences and different outlooks helps you build a better product. If your goal is to build a successful startup you don’t want it to be populated exclusively by a bunch of men, nor do you want it populated exclusively by a bunch of women. Neither is healthy ... '

'What I believe is important for the long-term is that when he or she starts they’d find a culture that is adult, respectful of people regardless of their gender or background, and has had, from Day One, a woman serving in its most senior ranks. That, to me, is a critical part of the recipe for encouraging more women in tech.'

Science, too!

Women Executives Make Venture-Backed Companies More Successful: Study in Venture Capital Dispatch, from The Wall Street Journal Blogs, by Deborah Gage, posted October 4, 2012

'Venture-backed companies that include females as senior executives are more likely to succeed than companies where only males are in charge, according to new research from Dow Jones. [Link at end of article]

'The report, “Women at the Wheel,” does not speculate on why female executives improve a company’s chance of success, nor did it study companies where only females are involved.

'But it finds that companies have a greater chance of either going public, operating profitably or being sold for more money than they’ve raised when they have females acting as founders, board members, C-level officers, vice presidents and/or directors. At successful companies, the median proportion of female executives was 7.1%; at unsuccessful companies, 3.1%.'

"Does the Gender of Directors Matter?" by Miriam Schwartz-Ziv (Harvard University and Northeastern University), December 4, 2012

Based on the author's Hebrew University doctoral dissertation, presented at the conference of the American Economic Association, January 4, 2013, under the title, "When All Are Aboard: Does the Gender of Directors Matter?" as part of a session entitled, "Gender in Corporate Leadership."

' ... I examine boards that have been required for two decades to be relatively gender-balanced: boards of business companies in which the Israeli government holds a substantial equity interest. I construct a novel database based on the detailed minutes of 402 board- and board-committee meetings of eleven such companies. I find that boards that had critical masses of at least three directors of each gender in attendance, and particularly of three women, were approximately twice as likely both to request further information and to take an initiative, compared to boards that did not have such critical masses. A 2SLS model confirms these results. Consistent with these findings, the ROE and net profit margin of these type of companies is significantly larger in companies that have at least three women directors. In addition, boards that included a critical mass of women directors were more likely to experience CEO turnover when firm performance was weak. At the level of the individual directors, both men and women directors were more active when at least three women directors were in attendance.'

"When Women Lean In, Men Grow Up," by Janel Curry, Inside Higher Ed, December 2, 2013

With women now leading more at higher levels of academic institutions, both the workplace and personal lives can shift, allowing us to form real partnerships in the process of negotiating our ever-changing realities. Rather than creating unhealthy dependencies or enabling behavior that responds only to rigid cultural expectations — like the "guys' clubs" can do — both discover a new freedom to grow as human beings. As one author put it, "The difference between the equal sharers (co-parenting and dual career) and other couples was not that mothers cared less, but that fathers cared more."'

Read more: Inside Higher Ed

(2) How To Increase Diversity

Article, "Making gender diversity work for scientific discovery and innovation," by Mathias Wullum Nielsen, Carter Walter Bloch, and Londa Schiebinger, Nature Human Behaviour 2, 726-734, 2018

'Gender diversity has the potential to drive scientific discovery and innovation. Here, we distinguish three approaches to gender diversity: diversity in research teams, diversity in research methods and diversity in research questions. 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. We provide a framework for understanding the best ways to support the three approaches to gender diversity across four interdependent domains — from research teams to the broader disciplines in which they are embedded to research organizations and ultimately to the different societies that shape them through specific gender norms and policies. Our analysis demonstrates that realizing the benefits of diversity for science requires careful management of these four interdependent domains.'

Article, "Steps to improve gender diversity in coastal geoscience and engineering," by Ana Vila-Concejo, Shari L. Gallop, Sarah M. Hamylton, et al., Nature, Palgrave Communications volume 4, Article number 103, 2018

'The article presents novel results of gender inequality and experiences of gender bias in CGE, and proposes practical steps to address it. It analyses the gender representation in 9 societies, 25 journals, and 10 conferences in CGE and establishes that women represent 30% of the international CGE community, yet there is under-representation in prestige roles such as journal editorial board members (15% women) and conference organisers (18% women). The data show that female underrepresentation is less prominent when the path to prestige roles is clearly outlined and candidates can self-nominate or volunteer instead of the traditional invitation-only pathway. ...

'(1) Advocate for more women in prestige roles; (2) Promote high-achieving females; (3) Create awareness of gender bias; (4) Speak up; (5) Get better support for return to work; (6) Redefine success; and, (7) Encourage more women to enter the discipline at a young age.'

Special session, "Increasing Diversity in Your Department"

On January 9, 2012, a special session with this title was held at the Austin, TX AAS meeting. Cosponsors were the AAS's Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy and Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE).

"Solutions to Recruit Technical Women," a report (PDF) from the Anita Borg Institute

This report is aimed at technology companies, but maybe there are lessons here for universities, too. Steps, recommended on the basis of research, include: write broad, gender-free job descriptions; use a broad, diverse recruitment pool; consider removing gender information from resumes for the initial screening; and upgrade the organization's dual-career and family-friendly policies.

Plenary lecture at the 217th AAS meeting, Seattle, WA, January, 2011, by Abigail Stewart (U. Mich.), "Addressing Unconscious Bias: Steps toward an Inclusive Scientific Culture" (PowerPoint, 680 KB)

The second half of the lecture offered advice for improving hiring practices.

Committee on Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE)

'The STRIDE Committee provides information and advice about practices that will maximize the likelihood that diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions will be identified, and, if selected for offers, recruited, retained, and promoted ...'

This page offers tools for improving recruitment and hiring procedures.

"6 steps towards gender balance in 2012," blog post January 2, 2012 by Curt Rice

(Curt Rice is Vice President for Research & Development at the University of Tromsø, Norway.)

'It's easy to become a more diverse organization. And it's smart, too.

I've seen one example of dramatic change right here at the University of Tromsø: In 2007, only 18% of our full professors were women. Four years later, as a result of deliberate and explicit programs, we've increased that number by 50%! We now find over 27% of our professorial positions filled by women, well ahead of the 18% percent in Europe but lagging slightly behind the 30% documented in the United States.

Maybe the next example of dramatic change will be in your organization. Could 2012 be the year in which you and your colleagues take a big step forward in diversifying your workforce? Is this the year you will see more women at the top?

If you're ready to act, the following six steps will move you in the right direction.'

"One Small Step," an anonymous guest post by a mid-career scientist at a large public university, from Women in Astronomy

'As a mid-career scientist at a large public university, I find myself increasingly frustrated with policies and procedures with which I disagree but feel powerless to do anything about. However, recently, I found myself in a position to strike a (teeny, tiny) blow for change -- and I took it.'

Read on for a description of how a simple suggestion of a better procedure for a hiring committee can be adopted and perhaps even lead to progress.

"Do women avoid salary negotiations? 2 new ways to reduce the gender pay gap," by Curt Rice, December 12, 2012

This blog post reports on a study in which men and women's levels of interest in negotiating salary were compared in two job application settings. Contrary to conventional wisdom, women were not always less ready to negotiate than men. Conclusions drawn from the study:

'This research can start to lay the foundation for tools to be more fair, to act more gender-blind when we need to, and to rectify the well-documented wage gap between men and women. Group differences are enhanced when a wage is presented in a job advertisement as fixed and non-negotiable, and they are enhanced when negotiations happen face-to-face.

'If we want to undermine group differences — as we must — we get good ideas from this article. First, negotiation should be mentioned as an option in the job announcement, unless it genuinely is impossible — but then it really must be genuinely impossible. Secondly, if evidence mounts that group differences are reduced by avoiding face-to-face negotiations, then employers can contribute to gender equality by using impersonal means of interaction such as email.'

"Achieving a gender balance in contributors is not so hard: tips for editors and journalists," by Amy Mollett, Managing Editor of LSE Review of Books

' ... Recognising that a wide gender gap still pervades in some academic disciplines, and so into academic material published in journals, books, and online, we attempted to address this disparity by aiming for a near 50-50 gender ratio of reviewers and expert voices. Through 2012, 54% of our reviewers were male, and 46% were female.'

The page provides some tricks and tips for achieving gender balance among expert contributors, even in fields dominated by one gender.

"Quotas are questionable," by Isabelle Vernos, in Nature, 7 March 2013

' ... statistics collected by the European Research Council (ERC) suggest that quotas are no magic wand to bring about gender equality in research and academia (despite tentative successes elsewhere, such as for company boards in Norway). Quotas might even make matters worse by overworking already-stretched female scientists. Instead, a range of bottom-up and top-down measures are needed to effect lasting change in the structures and culture of science.'

' ... at the ERC. We have found no correlation between the success rates of female applicants and the gender balance of evaluation panels (see 'Grant gap'). Nor have we found that female applicants are more successful when the panels are chaired by women. Other studies have found that women fare worse than men in evaluations4, even when applicant gender is undisclosed to evaluators2. These findings suggest that a quota system for staffing evaluation panels will not lead to more grants for women.' [For footnotes, see article.]

Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces, a report from The National Center for Women & Information Technology

This report is based on detailed interviews with 47 men with extensive experience in the computing/technology industry. Among the topics covered are: mens' motivations to become diversity advocates; men's concerns about work-life issues; and what men can do to advocate gender diversity. Each section includes tips on how to use the information presented.

"You Don’t Know It, But Women See Gender Bias in Your Job Postings," by Stephen Shearman, Opinion column in ERE.net, Mar 1, 2013

'Are a few gender-themed words in your job descriptions signaling women, unconsciously, to not apply?

'A scientific study of 4,000 job descriptions revealed that a lack of gender-inclusive wording caused significant implications for recruiting professionals tasked to recruit women to hard-to-fill positions underrepresented by women.'

The comments on this post make many interesting points, including links to sources of gender-free language for job descriptions.

"Why I'm happy and why it matters" - guest post by Renée Hlozek, from Women in Astronomy blog, posted November 11, 2013

'... The Princeton Astrophysics department is filled with leaders in the field and I don't mind admitting that I was pretty nervous the first time I visited, let alone before I started here. I've been to other departments where as a visitor I felt isolated, and where I've felt the department wasn't as open or friendly, so I thought I'd take note of a few reasons why it is a pleasure to work here. Is it always relaxed and easy? No. Do I sometimes get frustrated at ego-driven debate? Yes. But I feel respected in the department and that people are open to listening to my ideas, rather than just dismissing them. It is a reality of our field that this is really not always the case at other places.'

The blog continues with a list of five departmental policies and practices that contribute to a climate that supports diversity. Check it out!

"Don’t be that dude: Handy tips for the male academic," on Tenure, She Wrote, September 26, 2013

' ... These initiatives are important, but here's the thing: gender equality has to be a collaborative venture. If men make up the majority of many departments, editorial boards, search committees, labs and conferences, then men have to be allies in the broader cause of equality, simply because they have more boots on the ground. And, as much as I wish it weren't so, guys often tend to listen more readily to their fellow guys when it comes to issues like sexism. I've also found that there are a lot of guys out there that are supportive, but don't realize their everyday actions (big and small) that perpetuate inequality. So, guys, this post is for you.*'

In 2009, NASA developed a document, Title IX & STEM: Promising Practices for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics that provides guidance on promising practices for improving conformance with Title IX. It covers a broad range of things organizations should be doing to promote diversity.

Ending Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace: Legal Interventions That Push the Envelope, by Ariane Hegewisch, Cynthia Deitch, Evelyn Murphy (March 2011)

Study of injunctive relief awarded in 502 sex and/or race discrimination settlements that became effective between 2000 and 2008. Highlights measures that have been shown to be effective in reducing workplace discrimination.

Paulette McRae, Ernest Boamah, Patricia Jumbo Lucioni, Jared Leisner, Julien Senac, and Sarah Szarowicz (National Postdoctoral Association), "Recommended Strategies to Increase the Participation of Underrepresented Groups in STEM"

This document (available as both a web page and a PDF download) delineates strategies for increasing diversity among undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs in three stages: (1) recruitment, (2) retention, and (3) preparation for the next phase.

(3) Workplace Climate

A good workplace climate is not only essential in fostering diversity, but also highly beneficial to the welfare of all involved and to the productivity of the organization. Here are some general resources on climate in university settings. We thank Bruce Balick for directing us to some of these resources.

Effective practices from the AAS Climate Site Visit Oversight committee

This guide to improving a department's climate was approved by the AAS Board of Trustees on June 2, 2018. In the future, it will be available for public comment on the AAS website as a "living document."

Enhancing Department Climate: A Guide for Department Chairs, brochure from WISELI at the University of Wisconsin

'There is no simple definition of departmental climate, yet research shows that "climate" plays an important role in people's satisfaction, effectiveness, productivity, engagement, and decisions to remain in or leave a department or area of study. A recent survey of 4,500 tenure-track faculty at 51 colleges and universities found that faculty place great value on departmental climate, culture, and collegiality and that these qualities are critical to faculty retention.'

"Characteristics of the Ideal Department"

How does your department measure up? Perhaps these criteria from the ADVANCE program at the University of Washington will motivate you and your colleagues toward constructive change.

COACHE Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey

Here is a shorter list of bullet points related to quality of life in a university deparmtent.

COACHE is the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education | Harvard Graduate School of Education | www.coache.org | coache@gse.harvard.edu

Advancing a Respectful and Caring Community, by Edmund Bertschinger, Report of the Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO), February 2015

After reporting the results of a year-long study of the community and culture of MIT, the report makes a set of detailed recommendations for improvement. The methodology and conclusions of this report should be widely applicable.

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This page last updated: December 5, 2018