Women are still underrepresented as speakers at scientific conferences, something that hurts their career prospects in competitive academic fields where networking and showing off one’s findings are crucial. And fewer women climbing to the top of their scientific disciplines also means fewer role models for younger women and girls as they choose careers.
Several solutions have been proposed: My colleague Becca Rosen, for example, suggested that men simply refuse to speak on all-male panels.
But now it appears as though there’s an even simpler way to try to stop a gender imbalance before the conference planning ever starts.
A new study in the journal mbio led by researchers at Yale University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University says that to make scientific meetings less testosteroney, just make sure at least one woman is in charge of organizing it.
“Put at least one woman on the team that organizes a scientific symposium, and that team will be much more likely to invite female speakers," said study co-author Arturo Casadevall, chair of microbiology and immunology at Yeshiva University, in a statement. The authors analyzed 460 symposia involving 1,845 speakers in two large meetings sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology, the General Meeting and the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.