Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others: Have more women on the team

February 19, 2015 at 8:07 am 2 comments

An argument for diversity is that it leads to better team decisions and designs.  But it turns out that having women on the team at all leads to better group performance.  It’s an important finding to argue why we need more women in CS, which is still a question I hear regularly, “So what if almost all our undergraduates are women?”  Or as one blogger recently put it (see here if you really want to read more of this), “No one in the tech sector right now gives a shit about diversity. There is no reason whatsoever why a lack of diversity in the field would be a problem unless it comes from government quotas and legal threats.”

Instead, the smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics.

First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.

Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.

Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not “diversity” (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at “mindreading” than men.

via Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others – NYTimes.com.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doug Blank  |  February 19, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Interesting. One could see a small number of students in the classroom as a team. We found that male and female students both had higher “comfort levels” when in a more balanced classroom [1]. Comfort could be related to the “reading the mind in the eyes” and increased discussion levels reported in the study.

    [1] – http://dangermouse.brynmawr.edu/pub/survey.pdf

  • 2. alfredtwo  |  February 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I believe that many in the tech industry do care about diversity and care about it a lot. Not just because of government mandates and/or pressure. Maybe not so much in the start up area but certainly in more mature companies there is a realization that a lack of diversity is limiting in many ways.

    And the person who made that statement about no one caring was also highly critical of the role of a developer evangelist, a job title I had for a number of years, and that seriously kills his credibility in my eyes.


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