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Gender and Science

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The idea that there is such a thing as pure science is a myth. Science is as socially constructed as everything else. Anyone who knows the first thing of about the history of science knows this to be true. So it’s hardly surprising that if you do what so many scientists don’t really want to do–take gender seriously–it can both influence and improve your work.

Whether it’s designing equipment or developing drugs, scientists often fail to consider how gendered preferences, biases and assumptions can lead to unintended consequences.

According to Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger, it’s time for science to catch up.

To address the lag, Schiebinger and a group of scholars have published a paper in Nature that discusses why a sex and gender perspective matters in science and how the scientific community can make research more inclusive – all while fostering growth and innovation.

“Integrating sex and gender as variables in research, where relevant, enhances excellence in science and engineering,” said Schiebinger, who is the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. “The operative question is how can we harness the creative power of sex and gender analysis for discovery and innovation? Does considering gender add a valuable dimension to research? Does it take research in new directions?”

Schiebinger and her co-authors address these questions and draw from a range of scientific areas – such as biomedicine, artificial intelligence and machine learning, social robotics and the marine sciences – to show how a gender and sex analysis can lead to new discoveries.

Not that I need to cheerleader for my own field any more than I already do, but it’s hardly surprising that when scientists bring historians into their projects, really useful things happen.

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