Is diversity in teams always that good?

Washington: While it is popularly believed that individuals who work with a team involving diverse people are known to show better outcomes, a new study has stated that it might not be the same every time.

The study highlighted that individuals who add more demographic diversity to their teams surprisingly do not experience positive outcomes.
For the following study, researchers examined diversity in two categories: demographic (race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality) and scientific (career stage, academic discipline, tenure on team).

A sample of 266 participants filled questionnaires about individual and team diversity, their satisfaction with their teams and authorship practices, and perceptions of the frequency of data sharing.

They also disclosed perceptions of their team climate, including team collaboration, inclusion and procedural justice, which focused on influencing team policies related to research.

The findings of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE indicated that participants with more underrepresented demographic characteristics (e.g., black women, gay men not born in the U.S.) perceived their team climate or attitudes and expectations on the team to be more negative.

This was associated with lower team satisfaction and more negative perceptions of authorship and data sharing on their teams, said the study’s lead author Isis Settles.

However, regardless of their own demographic characteristics, individuals on diverse teams based on scientific factors perceived their climate more positively than individuals on more homogeneous teams.

“Creating successful teams that are demographically and scientifically diverse is not a simple matter of recruiting more individuals from underrepresented groups and combining team members from a variety of backgrounds,” said Settles.

“Diverse teams can struggle with allocation of credit, differences in perspectives and unequal power dynamics,” she added.

“Team policies must be clear and openly discussed, and transparent policies and procedures must be followed to alleviate power imbalances,” Settles suggested.

Study co-lead author, Kevin Elliott added that teams must be mindful of the experiences of all members, especially those who contribute to demographic diversity.

The bottom line is that diversity does benefit the teams as a whole, and when combined with careful and inclusive practices, it can help in the advancement of the careers of underrepresented minorities, Elliott opined.

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