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Gender diversity is key to a robust ecosystem for research, innovation and education

Research and innovation benefit from diversity in all respects. As Lokesh Joshi of the National University of Ireland, Galway and Elmer Sterken of the University of Groningen discuss, it is key to untap the potential possessed by women both to create a more equal society and to overcome the immense challenges facing our planet.

The most stable ecological systems on Earth are those with the greatest biodiversity. Similarly, healthy and progressive societies thrive with diversity. Many of human society’s major achievements during the 20th century have been in the field of technological advances. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are living in an age of unprecedented technological acceleration and convergence that have the potential to shape our future in a positive way. However, despite this remarkable progress made around the globe, we face substantial challenges in building an inclusive and equal society. In fact, in some domains these gaps are widening. Gender equality, diversity and the inclusion of minorities are vital to creating a sustainable, resilient and progressive society, for future generations to thrive.

International Women’s Day is a reminder to celebrate the value, importance and fundamental rights of women and the contribution they have made, and continue to make in all parts of society, including in research, innovation and education. The fact that we set a day aside each year to focus on women is a poignant reminder that our society is not yet equal. In an ideal world gender equality would be ingrained in all aspects of our lives in each day of every week of the year.

Women have historically been disadvantaged in both education and employment opportunities. There is a lot of legislation to prevent conscious discrimination against women, and yet unconscious biases still persist preventing women from reaching their potential. These biases start from the moment a child is born, through their formative years in the way that boys and girls are treated differently in schools and at home. It continues in the workplace and in society at large. In academia, we suffer from hysteresis: in hiring and promoting, the principle of “more of me” blocks gender balance for instance. Despite this, a great number of women have become notable researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs across the globe. However, we will never know how many great women have been overlooked throughout the years, nor the cost of this loss to society.

In this globally connected and interdependent world, it is our responsibility to support gender equality at all levels to ensure that every individual, including women, are given the opportunities that they deserve. Research and innovation benefit from diversity in all respects. It is important to untap the potential possessed by more than 50% of humankind to create a more equal society, to overcome the immense challenges facing our planet and to harness the opportunities presented to us in 21st century to create a more sustainable and fairer society.

All views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of EUA.

Elmer Sterken

Professor Elmer Sterken is the Rector of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands and a member of the EUA Research Policy Working Group representing the Dutch Rectors’ Conference (VSNU).

Professor Sterken’s research focuses on monetary theory and policy, bank-business relations and sports statistics. He has held his current position as the rector since 2011. Previously, he was the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Groningen and professor-director at the National Network Business Economics. In addition, he is editor of the scientific journals Corporate Governance: An International Review Journal of Sports Science and Engineering and the Journal of Sports Technology.

Image copyright© Gerhard Taatgen.

Lokesh Joshi

Professor Lokesh Joshi is the Vice President for Research at the National University of Ireland, Galway and a member of the EUA Research Policy Working Group representing the Irish Rectors’ Conference (IUA).

Professor Joshi’s research focuses on the role of complex sugars in health and diseases. He is the Director of the Glycosciences Research group at the National University of Ireland, Galway and is a co-investigator in CÚRAM, the SFI-funded national medical devices research centre. Previously, Professor Joshi was an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Director of the Center for Glycoscience and Technologies in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

Image copyright© National University of Ireland.

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