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This won't do - all-male conferences

I chaired a session at a conference yesterday, and unfortunately had to add these remarks to the traditional thanks and compliments to the organisers with which I opened the discussion:
There are 22 panellists and moderators for today's conference, and we are all men. I see only one woman in this room out of more than thirty people. This isn't good enough; in fact it is unacceptable. We are all here because we are experts on today's topic; we all know women who are engaged as deeply as we are with this particular issue; as it is, we are now supposed to have an in-depth discussion in which half of the population will not be represented adequately. I hope that the organisers and the funders will ensure that this never happens again. I will not participate in any future event where this is allowed to happen, and I hope that the rest of you here will commit to do the same.
The only detail I want to give about the event is that, ironically, one of the funders was the government of an EU member country which has a female head of state. (There are four of them - can you name them all?)

The organisers did say that they had originally had two women panellists scheduled (and I think that they must have been on the draft programme for the event that I was originally sent) but that they both pulled out for family reasons. They also said that they accepted my point (which is why my remarks were directed at least as much to the other men in the room).

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
marypcb
Apr. 21st, 2013 12:53 pm (UTC)
go you
The best way to fix it is to make it more work to run an all male conference. If it takes quotas to kick-start equality, let's get quouta-ing
pennski
Apr. 21st, 2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
Thank-you for calling this out.
dalmeny
Apr. 21st, 2013 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

I just had a look at the invited speakers for the three conferences I'm attending this year.
Conference 1: 4 men, 0 women,
Conference 2: 10 men, 1 woman.
Conference 3: 5 men, 2 women.

(Deleted comment)
nwhyte
Apr. 21st, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
It's a free internet!
saare_snowqueen
Apr. 21st, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Good on Yer! I totally applaud you.
fjm
Apr. 21st, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC)
Well done.

But of course the next step is the difficult one: refuse to take part in future. That, I find, is where men balk.
nwhyte
Apr. 21st, 2013 05:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was lulled into a false sense of security by the female names on the draft agenda, and of course didn't look properly at the final programme until I was already inside the venue!
gareth_rees
Apr. 21st, 2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
Denmark (head of state Margrethe II)
Lithuania (head of state Dalia Grybauskaitė)
Netherlands (head of state Beatrix)
UK (head of state Elizabeth II)

Edited at 2013-04-21 05:46 pm (UTC)
nwhyte
Apr. 21st, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yes; although one of those, of course, only till the end of this month!
steepholm
Apr. 21st, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
And only one them elected.
sierra_le_oli
Apr. 22nd, 2013 11:52 am (UTC)
And then we're stuck for another 30 odd years. Or hopefully sooner, if we get to elect a female president. Bea, again? ;-)

And I meant to add, well done. I think saying it publicly the way you did is helpful.

Edited at 2013-04-22 11:53 am (UTC)
redfiona99
Apr. 21st, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
First can I say thank you for standing up and saying this.

I was reading the conversation on your facebook and I was astounded by the person who commented that it reflected the overall skew in his field. I don't think he gets that that isn't the point.
fallenpegasus
Apr. 21st, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
A question?
How many of the "engaged as deeply as we are with this particular issue" people who were *not* there were men?

nwhyte
Apr. 21st, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: A question?
I don't think one can quantify that, and I don't understand why it is a useful question to ask.

The point is that there are plenty of women with a good knowledge of this topic, and none of them were named speakers at the conference (and only one was even in the room, at least for my session). The role of such an event is not to represent precisely the geographical and gender spread of expertise, it is to ensure a sufficiently diverse panel of experts to drive an interesting discussion.

Perhaps it may answer your question, if indirectly, to say that 0/22 (or one out of thirty-plus) is not an accurate representation of the gender spread of expertise on this subject. But I don't think one could tie down the numbers much more than that, and I also don't think it is worth trying to do so.
alitheapipkin
Apr. 22nd, 2013 11:29 am (UTC)
Good for you.

We actually managed a work project meeting with 4 women around the table last week (out of about 20 people), without either of our admins there. I have yet to see the draft speakers or indeed the attendees list for our June user meeting but it's amazing (by which I mean incredibly depressing) how all the women in life sciences research disappear when you have a meeting about software.
moseleyjules
Apr. 22nd, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
Good for you :)
hfnuala
Apr. 22nd, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
Argh , I thought Ireland, of course for the female head of state because we did for over half my life. Michael D is great at times but I still miss the Marys.
irishkate
Apr. 22nd, 2013 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for being a stand up guy.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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