Mehtani, Siya
Campbell, Lesley G.
Dozier, Mary E.
Rinehart, Janice


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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. Given that women can and have made an enormous impact on the study of ecology as a minority population, it is important to understand the conditions that promote their equitable participation. However, it is rare to find replicated conditions under which we can compare the opportunities women receive for leadership, participation in academic discussions, and authorship, and the consequent benefits received due to their participation. Here, we quantified patterns of participation and productivity by women in working groups (WGs) at the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS) by measuring the relative participation of women as PIs, womens’ inclusion in WGs, and as authors. Using data provided by the NCEAS website, we collected information on 157 WGs that started by 1996 and were finished by December 2008. WGs include 10 to 15 researchers who visit NCEAS for 1 to 2 weeks to focus on the analysis and synthesis of existing ecological data. For each WG, we tabulated data on the number and gender of PIs, participants and authors in WGs, and gathered information on PIs’ publication history, quantifying their impact on ecological literature using h-factor, total number of citations, and average number of citations per paper. Using statistical analyses, we assessed consistent differences in participation among male and female participants, PIs and authors. Although women were historically underrepresented as PIs of WGs, their frequency as PIs at NCEAS Is now comparable to the national frequencies in biology, and they are now equally qualified, in terms of impact on the ecological literature (h-index). While women continue to be underrepresented as WG participants, peer-reviewed publications with gender-heterogeneous authorship teams received 34% more citations than publications produced by gender-uniform authorship teams. Promoting diversity not only promotes representation and fairness but may lead to higher quality science. It is important to understand the conditions that promote women’s impact and equitable participation. By actively funding proposals with female PIs, NCEAS and other institutions can predictably change the participation and productivity of female participants.