May 27, 2011 Practice Points

Adding Women to a Team Increases Its Intelligence

By Patricia C. O'Prey

A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that a group’s collective intelligence increases when the group includes women. The study gave subjects aged 18 to 60 standard intelligence tests and assigned them randomly to teams. Each team was asked to complete several tasks—including brainstorming, decision making, and visual puzzles—and to solve one complex problem. Teams were given intelligence scores based on their performance. The study found that teams with more women tended to fall above the average while teams with more men tended to fall below it. The study also found that there is little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. Thus, although the teams that had members with higher IQs did not earn much higher scores, those that had more women did. The authors of the study attributed the findings to the importance of having individuals with high social sensitivity in a group; many studies have shown that women tend to score higher on tests of social sensitivity than men. The study also concluded that facts such as group satisfaction, group cohesion, and group motivation were not correlated with collective intelligence.

A copy of an interview with the authors of the study can be found here.

Patricia C. O'Prey works at Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP in New York, New York.

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