Increasing the number of female speakers at a scientific conference can be done relatively quickly by calling attention to gender disparities common to such meetings and getting more women involved in the conference planning process, suggests a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researcher.
Reporting online August 4 in the journal mBio, Dr. Arturo Casadevall, professor and chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School, explains how the American Society of Microbiology General Meeting was able to increase the percentage of female speakers from 27 percent in 2011 to nearly 50 percent in 2015. This comes at a time when women make up a significant majority of scientific trainees and oral presentations at important conferences are seen as one key to academic advancement.
“Invitations to speak at major meetings are prized by scientists because they provide visibility and the ability to present their work to an audience of their peers,” says Dr. Casadevall, who is also the editor of mBio. “When you have an underrepresentation of women as speakers and many panel discussions made up only of male researchers, you’re sending the message that perhaps the field is not welcoming to women. That isn’t the message we want to send.”