Push for more diversity in science

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has launched new measures to increase diversity in New Zealand’s science system.

“Diversity guarantees we capture the very best ideas and talent to support the highest quality research. This work will maintain the existing high level of scientific excellence in the workforce while enabling fair and equal opportunities for all,” says Dr Woods.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that while female doctoral graduates outnumber male doctoral graduates, women make up just 32% of the scientific workforce. And whilst nearly a quarter of the New Zealand population identifies as Māori it is estimated Māori make up less than 2% of the scientific workforce.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s new Diversity in Science Statement aims to support a vibrant and successful science and research workforce that is as diverse as New Zealand. This will happen through the way policies are developed, encouraging diversity of people and perspectives as part of scientific process, challenging bias, and ensuring fair and inclusive funding processes.

Specifically, it’s a commitment to:

  • collect and report on the diversity of science funding applicants,
  • review funding policies and process to understand their impact on inclusion and diversity,
  • ensure a diverse range of people and perspectives in science advisory, assessment and decision making bodies, and
  • showcase researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds and raise awareness of unconscious bias.

“This initiative is a big step towards everyone having a fair and equal opportunity to participate in our science system to their fullest potential,” says Dr Woods.

“Diversity of genders, ethnicities and career stages throughout the science community cannot be achieved without strong leadership, mentors and role models who challenge bias and encourage inclusivity at every step of the science process.

More can be done to encourage diversity to create a stronger science system which will benefit all New Zealanders. The statement is a starting point to raise awareness of bias, and build understanding of the inequities in science and research infrastructure,” says Dr Woods.