Why work to improve the gender balance and increase diversity in research?
It is important to clarify the reasons for working for gender equality and diversity in an institution. The Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (2014-2017) gives the following arguments for its efforts to promote gender equality and ethnic diversity in academia.
Gender balance and non-discrimination are a matter of fairness. Women and men, regardless of their ethnic background, must have the same opportunities to participate in, and the same power to influence, the higher education and research community.
Democracy and credibility
To have a well-functioning democracy, women and men, as well as various ethnic minorities, must participate on equal footing in all areas of society. If the community of researchers and research managers is more gender balanced and ethnically diverse, the institutions will more accurately reflect the diversity of the population. This will strengthen the institutions’ credibility and ensure that they incorporate the research interests of a larger portion of the population.
National research objectives
To achieve national policy objectives for higher education and research, Norway must utilize all the human capital at its disposal. An imbalance in recruitment results in a loss of research talent. The various subject areas are still segregated by gender and tend to recruit a disproportionately low number of ethnic minorities. It is therefore essential that a gender and diversity perspective underlies the establishment and realization of national research priorities.
High-quality research that is relevant to society requires that research communities are able to raise the “right” questions and consider a number of different solutions. This is best ensured when research communities are open to different types of people with different experiences and have the ability to cooperate across and within disciplines. Research and education are integral to policy formulation and public administration, and contribute to a more critical, diverse and open public debate. When researchers reflect the diversity of the population as a whole, the credibility and relevance of research is enhanced.
Heterogeneous research groups that include women and ethnic minorities have been shown to be more robust and innovative than homogeneous groups. This promotes quality and innovation in knowledge production. A focus on gender and diversity perspectives in research will enhance the quality of research as well.
Women comprise 50 percent of the talent that institutions compete for when recruiting to positions and academic communities in higher education and research. In addition, some people with a minority background are excluded for a variety of reasons. If women and ethnic minorities cannot be recruited, talent is lost and research quality is affected. This in turns weakens the competitive advantage of academic institutions as they work to develop their academic areas.