Imperial College London

‘Gendered innovations’ needed in STEM, says Stanford expert

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Professor Londa Schiebinger

Professor Londa Schiebinger

A leading US academic visited Imperial to discuss the importance of gender to achieving excellence in STEM research and education.

On 15 March Professor Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford University, hosted a series of workshops and a lecture at the College. Introducing her audience to gender analysis with the question: “How can we harness the creative power of gender analysis for discovery and innovation?”, Professor Schiebinger shared insights from decades of research.

Expertise in gendered innovations

“How can we harness the creative power of gender analysis for discovery and innovation?” Professor Londa Schiebinger

Professor Schiebinger is a leading international expert on using sex and gender in research and has addressed the United Nations on the topic. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize and Guggenheim Fellowship.

Sensing that the world of science and technology was only to become more globalised, Professor Schiebinger formed ‘Gendered Innovations’ – a worldwide research project aimed at bringing together over a hundred experts from across the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia. The project received funding from the European Commission, U.S. National Science Foundation, and Stanford University.

Innovative solutions

‘Gendered Innovations’ advocates the third and final of the three commonly used approaches to gender equality detailed below:

1) ‘Fix the numbers of women’ - focus on increasing women's participation in science and technology

2) ‘Fix the institutions’ - promote gender equality in careers through structural change in research organisations

3) "Fix the knowledge" - stimulate excellence in science and technology by integrating sex and gender analysis into research. 

Professor Schiebinger included case studies from stem cell research, animal research, machine learning, and assistive technologies to demonstrate the impact of gender and sex analysis.

In the case of stem cells, it was demonstrated that the sex of the cells was often not considered during research, despite it being the case that matching the sex of the stem cell with the sex of the test subject may be considerably more effective that mixing the two.

Imperial's ambition to transform teaching and learning

In highlighting the importance of gender analysis across a wide variety of countries and sectors, Professor Schiebinger pointed to Imperial as an institution she considers to be ahead of its time. 

“At Imperial we want to create a healthy learning and working environment which will foster a community in which different backgrounds and cultures are cherished and recognised." Professor Simone Buitendijk Vice Provost for Education

The College is the proud recipient of a Silver Award from Athena SWAN and is using its Learning and Teaching Strategy to transform education and create a community that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. 

The College's Vice-Provost for Education, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “I am delighted that Professor Schiebinger was able to visit Imperial to share her insights on gendered research and innovation and I look forward to colleagues collaborating with her on a range of research projects. 

“At Imperial we want to create a healthy learning and working environment which will foster a community in which different backgrounds and cultures are cherished and recognised. By exploring and prioritising some of the issues raised during Professor Schiebinger’s visit, we will be well-placed to achieve this in future.”

All case studies can be found at the Gendered Innovations website

Reporter

Murray MacKay

Murray MacKay
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 8432
Email: m.mackay@imperial.ac.uk

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Strategy-educational-experience, Research, Human-behaviour, Robots, Equality, Animal-research, Artificial-intelligence, Education, Diversity
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