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The degree of women's underrepresentation varies by STEM fields. Women are now overrepresented in social sciences, yet only constitute a fraction of the engineering workforce. In the current study, we investigated the gender differences in interests as an explanation for the differential distribution of women across sub-disciplines of STEM as well as the overall underrepresentation of women in STEM fields.


Here we present the first empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that a gender-heterogeneous problem-solving team generally produced journal articles perceived to be higher quality by peers than a team comprised of highly-performing individuals of the same gender. Although women were historically underrepresented as principal investigators of working groups, their frequency as PIs at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis is now comparable to the national frequencies in biology and they are now equally qualified, in terms of their impact on the accumulation of ecological knowledge as measured by the h-index.

This suggests that peers citing these publications perceive publications that also happen to have gender-heterogeneous authorship teams as higher quality than publications with gender uniform authorship teams. Promoting diversity not only promotes representation and fairness but may lead to higher quality science. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attributionwhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

The funders had no role in study de, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Equal-opportunity hiring practices have been implemented repeatedly to promote fairness and represent human diversity; but could they also lead to the production of higher quality work?

Original research article

This argument has been suggested repeatedly by policy makers and advocacy groups, but lacks empirical support [1] — [4]. While gender diversity is known to improve internal group processes, there is ambiguous evidence at best for the effect of gender diversity on group performance. Gender diverse groups tend to collaborate more effectively and exhibit higher collective intelligence [5] ; and this effect is primarily explained by benefits to group processes, like better morale [6]different interpersonal styles promoting greater social sensitivity, conversational turn-taking, etc.

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The effect of gender diversity on team performance appears more complex and context-dependent [2] — [4][10] — [16]. Specifically, studies have often revealed no effect or a negative effect of gender diversity on team performance [2] — [4].

All stem fields are not created equal: people and things interests explain gender disparities across stem fields

Otherwise, the effect of gender diversity depends upon team demography, task difficulty, etc. Finally, in groups in which women have more perceived expertise than other group members, the productivity of the team might be negatively affected [17]. Recently, however, theoretical work by Hong and [18][19] revealed the potential truth behind the workplace folklore that gender diversity can lead to improved productivity. Specifically, groups of problem-solvers randomly selected from a large group of intelligent operators outperformed similar groups composed of the smartest individuals selected from the same group.

Therefore, one might surmise that groups containing women might not perform as well as groups without women. However, simulations that grouped individuals with diverse problem-solving skills led to the generation of more diverse solutions, from which the best solutions were more likely to be identified than from the pool of solutions created by smarter, but more uniform groups of problem-solvers [18][19].

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Therefore, these models predict the opposite outcome predicted by many opponents of equal opportunity hiring practices [20] — [22]assuming gender diversity can approximate diversity in the model. Based on the provided by the studies mentioned above [2] — [16]problem-solving diversity appears to be related to within-group gender-diversity, and therefore we would expect gender- or race-diverse groups to outperform homogeneous groups in their attempts to solve problems of import e.

Ecology and environmental sciences increasingly involve collaborative research efforts [26][27]. Collaboration can benefit academics by increasing early career prospects [28] and the citation rate of papers [29][30]. However, a more recent study of geography journal articles found that single, male authored publications tend to be cited more frequently than papers produced by collaborative male groups, gender diverse collaborative groups, or all female single- or multi-authored author groups [26].

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And finally, some studies suggest that women are less frequently cited than their male colleagues [35]. Here, we evaluated the quantity of gender diversity at the level of leadership PIs and working group WG participants within one of the most influential ecological institutions worldwide, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis NCEAS. Because women are relatively common but not ubiquitous in Ecological Science [36]it is a particularly suitable scientific sub-discipline in which to explore the consequences of gender diversity for research productivity.

Therefore, we also explored the relationship between gender diversity in these working groups and the perceived quality of science as measured by citations these groups produce. SinceNCEAS has served as one of the most influential ecological institutions worldwide by promoting discussions among ecologists of diverse interests as well as the synthesis of ecological data and theory [37][38]. By collaborating, WG participants also often act as authors of WG publications.

ByWGs not including sabbatical or post-doctoral scholar visits had completed their tenure at NCEAS, generating almost publications. By analyzing the dynamics of these formally-constructed working groups, we hope to gain an improved understanding of scientific collaborations that occur daily within universities and government laboratories, and to explore how women participate in the practice of collaborative science.

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Because this research involved humans, we received permission to proceed with Research on Human subjects from the Rice University Institutional Review Board IRB for the Protection of Human Subjects, who also waived the need for written informed consent from participants. For all foreign names, we searched for photographs of individuals because we assumed we did not understand whether names were gender neutral or not.

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To compare the frequency of women acting as PIs or WG participants relative to their availability within the general population of US academics, we used data collected by NSF on the frequency of male and female doctorate holders employed by universities and four-year colleges in and [39][40]. Next, we assessed past academic contributions of PIs, using h-indexes for the preceding decade. We distinguished journals that published ecological versus non-ecological studies based on the statement of purpose published by each journal.

This may overestimate the contribution of the few ecologists who share initials and last names with other ecologists; however, we were unfortunately unable to consistently differentiate among these individuals. The h-index then was recalculated on the basis of the citation counts of these individual articles. For each peer-reviewed publication, we recorded the gender of authors as above and the of citations using Google Scholar scholar.

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Gender-heterogeneous groups were categorized as groups with at least one male and one female working group participant. We Single woman want sex Champaign if, over time, the increased frequency of women acting as working group participants and principal investigators, PIs coincided with their past academic contributions pre-project h-index and the of citations received by published articles arising from the working groups.

To compare the frequency of female PIs to female academics at US universities across a decade, we used chi-square analysis to compare NSF frequency data from and To compare the frequency of female WG participants to female academics at US universities across a decade, we again performed chi-square analysis with data similar to that mentioned above. Unfortunately, we were unable to perform additional statistical analyses on female only authorship groups, because, over the — time period, we were able to identify only two papers published by female-only authorship groups.

To compare the relative rank of female authors for WGs early on in NCEAS history versus later, we ran a two-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test with the grouping variable being the temporal group years — and — and the response variables being average relative rank of female authors, frequency of female first-authors per paper, and frequency of female last-authors per paper. We used nonparametric analysis because the data were not normally distributed, and transformations did not improve the normality. All statistical analyses were run using SPSS v. Further, the h-indexes of these early female PIs were approximately half that of their male counterparts Figure 1B.

In contrast, the h-index of female PIs increased to equal that of their male counterparts, coincident with their increased prevalence as PIs. Therefore, as gender parity was reached in leadership roles, we observed an increase in the participation rate of highly and equally qualified women.

Second, we evaluated changes in the proportion of women WG participants through time and the of citations received by publications relative to the proportion of authors who were female, with or without women in authorship positions of status i. This particular result may reinforce the concept that the presence of diversity, rather than the presence of one gender or the other has a ificant effect on group function and effectiveness.

Therefore, though women in non-leadership positions continue to be under-represented as participants, the perspectives provided by both genders within a working group appear to play a fundamental role as authors in increasing the quality of publications produced. Finally we explored the proportion and visibility of women as authors relative to their male colleagues. Over our observation period, the proportion of publications with at least one female author increased ificantly over time from Furthermore, the proportion of female authors has increased ificantly from Even though the proportion of female authors increased coincidently with the increase in female PIs, the proportion of women occupying more prestigious authorship roles did not change.

Our study also revealed that as the proportion of women in leadership positions increased, the quality of women as experienced scientists filling those positions also increased to equal Single woman want sex Champaign of their male counterparts, resulting in an overall increase in average leadership quality measured by a change in h-index. This result is consistent with a recent congressional report measuring the productivity of women at US universities [42].

As leadership gender-diversity increases, as it did in our study, we expect that this may create a more welcoming social environment that, in turn, might have strong influences on the retention of women in science [43][44]. Despite this hopeful trend, women continue to be minorities in faculty positions and leadership roles in academic science [45].

Perhaps more puzzling is the continued low proportion of who women participate in working groups, given that participants often include graduate student and post-doctoral populations - both of which include high proportions of women although there may be other reasons for this pattern [46] — [49]. Differences in the increased proportion of women PIs versus WG participants through time may be partially a consequence of differences in their relative experience in scientific collaboration and knowledge of their ecological field.

However, it is also possible that institutional efforts to increase gender diversity are more focused on highly-visible leadership positions, such as PIs, than working group participant populations, and that bias against including women as WG participants still exists [44][50].

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Promoting women, not only as PIs, but also as participants and coauthors in prestigious collaborative groups like those hosted by NCEAS, is likely to substantially alter the trajectory of their careers [44][51]. Our study is not without limitations. This may be insufficient to fully explore the nature of publication productivity in the ecological sciences, but it does provide a benchmark for consequent studies. Second, we determined gender by name or picture recognition; some people, including academics, project gender ambiguity making our method susceptible to mistakes.

Further our dataset included at least one male-to-female transgendered scientist whose publication rate was higher than the average publication rates of the other female scientists in our dataset but was not an outlier to the dataset. This may point to interesting research questions into the effect of early-gendered socialization on academic success in the scientific community. In addition, we compared the frequency of female PIs and working group members to the proportion of female academics who identify themselves as working in the Biological Sciences across all departments at U.

Given that there may be differences in the proportion of women in ecology versus cellular biology, female ecology academics may be under- or over-represented in the NCEAS working groups.

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Finally, we used two indices to measure scientific output. Few female authors participate in prestigious authorship roles, even though their frequency as authors has increased over time. This dataset is the first to document the positive consequences of gender diversity on the quality of science produced by collaborative working groups.

Gender-diverse groups specifically authorship groups with at least one woman tend to receive more citations from their peers, suggesting that peers perceive the publications produced by gender-diverse groups to be higher quality. Bringing together the collective abilities of diverse thinkers need not be thought of as an exercise in tokenism but rather as the best opportunity to address the biggest scientific puzzles of the day.

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We appreciate the helpful comments and suggestions of J. Strassman, T. Waite, J. Herbers, K. White, three anonymous reviewers and the Campbell lab on earlier versions of the manuscript. We thank S. Millsap for her help collecting data. Browse Subject Areas? Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field. Abstract Here we present the first empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that a gender-heterogeneous problem-solving team generally produced journal articles perceived to be higher quality by peers than a team comprised of highly-performing individuals of the same gender.

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Introduction Equal-opportunity hiring practices have been implemented repeatedly to promote fairness and represent human diversity; but could they also lead to the production of higher quality work? Methods National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis SinceNCEAS has served as one of the most influential ecological institutions worldwide by promoting discussions among ecologists of diverse interests as well as the synthesis of ecological data and theory [37][38].

Download: PPT. Figure 1. Temporal changes in A the frequency of male and female principal investigators at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis men: white background, black dots; women: black background, white dots and at US universities men: white unpatterned; women:black unpatterned, data from NSFand B their average SE h-index men: grey circle; women: black square.

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The Program for the Study of Women and Gender examines gender, race, class and sexuality as important and simultaneous aspects of social worlds and human lives.


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