Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Gender-diverse teams produce more novel and higher-impact scientific ideas

Yang, Y., Tian, T. Y., et al. (2022, August 29). 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(36).


Science’s changing demographics raise new questions about research team diversity and research outcomes. We study mixed-gender research teams, examining 6.6 million papers published across the medical sciences since 2000 and establishing several core findings. First, the fraction of publications by mixed-gender teams has grown rapidly, yet mixed-gender teams continue to be underrepresented compared to the expectations of a null model. Second, despite their underrepresentation, the publications of mixed-gender teams are substantially more novel and impactful than the publications of same-gender teams of equivalent size. Third, the greater the gender balance on a team, the better the team scores on these performance measures. Fourth, these patterns generalize across medical subfields. Finally, the novelty and impact advantages seen with mixed-gender teams persist when considering numerous controls and potential related features, including fixed effects for the individual researchers, team structures, and network positioning, suggesting that a team’s gender balance is an underrecognized yet powerful correlate of novel and impactful scientific discoveries.


Science teams made up of men and women produce papers that are more novel and highly cited than those of all-men or all-women teams. These performance advantages increase the greater the team’s gender balance and appear nearly universal. On average, they hold for small and large teams, the 45 subfields of medicine, and women- or men-led teams and generalize to published papers in all science fields over the last 20 y. Notwithstanding these benefits, gender-diverse teams remain underrepresented in science when compared to what is expected if the teams in the data had been formed without regard to gender. These findings reveal potentially new gender and teamwork synergies that correlate with scientific discoveries and inform diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.


Conducting an analysis of 6.6 million published papers from more than 15,000 different medical journals worldwide, we find that mixed-gender teams—teams combining women and men scientists—produce more novel and more highly cited papers than all-women or all-men teams. Mixed-gender teams publish papers that are up to 7% more novel and 14.6% more likely to be upper-tail papers than papers published by same-gender teams, results that are robust to numerous institutional, team, and individual controls and further generalize by subfield. Finally, in exploring gender in science through the lens of teamwork, the results point to a potentially transformative approach for thinking about and capturing the value of gender diversity in science.

Another key finding of this work is that mixed-gender teams are significantly underrepresented compared to what would be expected by chance. This underrepresentation is all the more striking given the findings that gender-diverse teams produce more novel and high-impact research and suggests that gender-diverse teams may have substantial untapped potential for medical research. Nevertheless, the underrepresentation of gender-diverse teams may reflect research showing that women receive less credit for their successes than do men teammates, which in turn inhibits the formation of gender-diverse teams and women’s success in receiving grants, prizes, and promotions.