Inclusion unlocks the creative potential of gender diversity in teams


Several studies have highlighted the potential contribution of gender diversity to creativity, also noted challenges stemming from conflicts and a deficit of trust. Thus, we argue that gender diversity requires inclusion as well to see increased collective creativity. We analyzed teams in 4011 video game projects, recording weighted network data from past collaborations. We developed four measures of inclusion, based on de-segregation, strong ties across genders, and the incorporation of women into the core of the team’s network. We measured creativity by the distinctiveness of game features compared to prior games. Our results show that gender diversity without inclusion does not contribute to creativity, while at maximal inclusion one standard deviation change in diversity results in .04–.09 standard deviation increase in creativity. On the flipside, at maximal inclusion but low diversity (when there is a ‘token’ female team member highly integrated in a male network) we see a negative impact on creativity. Considering the history of game projects in a developer firm, we see that adding diversity first, and developing inclusion later can lead to higher diversity and inclusion, compared to the alternative of recruiting developers with already existing cross-gender ties. This suggests that developer firms should encourage building inclusive collaboration ties in-house.