Gender inequality is 'drowning out' the voices of women scientists

April 24, 2018, University of Cambridge
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A University of Cambridge researcher is calling for the voices of women to be given a fairer platform at a leading scientific conference.

Dr Heather Ford and her colleagues analysed data from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting and found that, overall; female scientists are offered fewer opportunities than men to present their research.

The team examined the gender, career stage and type of presentation delivered by each participant from 2014 to 2016. They found that female members are at a disadvantage because the majority of them are students or in the early stages of their careers, groups whose members are typically given fewer chances to present their research. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Conference speakers are often at more senior stages of their careers, where there are usually fewer women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. A further problem is that men are more likely to provide speaking opportunities to other men, potentially limiting women's career prospects.

"The burden of representation often falls on under-represented groups. We need the majority groups to think about representation, otherwise minority voices will continue to be drowned out," said Ford, who is a NERC Independent Research Fellow in Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences.

However, the research showed some positive signs, as women were invited at a much higher rate than men in the early and mid-career stages.

The researchers are calling for more students and early career researchers to have opportunities to speak at future conferences, in a bid to help some of the many female members who are at the beginning of their careers. They also want to see more women selecting the speakers, and suggest that all members may benefit from diversity training before they can invite speakers and assign conference presentations.

Attending and presenting at conferences helps academics at every stage of their careers to build their network, meet potential collaborators and share their research.

Conferences are important for progression and can be key in helping researchers to find funding and receive job offers. Presenting at academic conferences can also help researchers to gain recognition and awards for their work.

Ford says she and her co-author Petra Dekens from San Francisco State University were motivated to look into this topic after sitting in "too many conference sessions" with either no female speakers, or a single female speaker.

The global context is also an important issue for Ford, particular the ongoing campaign for gender equality. She said; "A lot of women have been motivated to speak out about gender inequality in the past year - people are much more vocal about how they've been treated. I wanted to find a productive way to channel my frustrations."

The AGU Fall Meeting is the world's largest geoscience conference, with more than 22,000 presentation proposals each year. The AGU has more than 60,000 members in 137 countries, and around a third of its members are . Geoscience is one of the least diverse STEM fields.

Explore further: Race and gender still an issue at academic conferences

More information: Heather L. Ford et al, Gender inequity in speaking opportunities at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03809-5

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13 comments

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julianpenrod
3 / 5 (14) Apr 24, 2018
A characteristic example of "science" being used fraudulently to promote a political end!
Accusations include that women are given far fewer chances than men to present their research at conferences. Nowhere, though, does it verify whether or not women's research largely is better or more poorly done than men's! Was a blind study ever done examining whether or not unsigned research papers by women were accepted more or less often than those by men?
Note the reference, too, to students or researchers at early stages of their careers generally find it difficult to get their material seen. This would seem to be a serious situation overall, threatening many news discoveries. Has this ever been promoted as a matter to be handled?
julianpenrod
2.7 / 5 (12) Apr 24, 2018
And note, overall, too, the question of just why more women have to be in "scientific" fields! If they want to be, that is one thing, but those in charge of "research" like this don't seem to want to take no" for an answer! It seems there is an insistence that the idea of women simply not being interested in "scientific" fields is necessarily forbidden! Those running "research" like this seem determined to push women into those careers if it kills them!
rrwillsj
2.6 / 5 (10) Apr 24, 2018
Yeah, the usual pathetic little-white-boys-club being jerks. They boast of 'free enterprise' and 'conservatism' and 'strict constitutional interpretation' but are too cowardly to actually practice what they preach. Terrified that they just do not, can not measure up to honest competition from women or anyone of color.

And not just in higher education but right across the entire spectrum of American society.

Amazon Scammers�Š—�ŠAn Unregulated Group Pushing out Women, LGBT+, and African American Authors in Romance Fiction

The altright fairytails such as the sad puppy cabal that agitated to hijack the Hugo Awards a few years ago.

And it's not just a case of preventing women from gaining hard-earned positions. But to even prevent equal opportunity by depriving them of income.

I believe there was a recent news report of an engineering fraternity busted for their assaults on women and sabotaging their projects.
PTTG
3.2 / 5 (9) Apr 24, 2018
@julianpenrod, handling that divorce well, I imagine? Or is it a bad breakup?

Who am I kidding, there's no way you'd hide your shitty personality from someone for more than a cup of coffee.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2018
Yeah, the usual pathetic little-white-boys-club being jerks. They boast of 'free enterprise' and 'conservatism' and 'strict constitutional interpretation' but are too cowardly to actually practice what they preach. Terrified that they just do not, can not measure up to honest competition from women or anyone of color
But willis, youre white arent you?

Of course you are.

Im picturing your home life
https://www.youtu..._DfHJtxk
mrburns
2.7 / 5 (7) Apr 24, 2018
WAAh!!! Womenz need special privileges otherwise we cant be equal. Why if you just destroyed equality of opportunity, by giving some undeserving women speaking slots that by any merit based criteria should be offered to men, we could have equality of outcome.
psychotherapist
4 / 5 (8) Apr 24, 2018
"They found that female members are at a disadvantage because the majority of them are students or in the early stages of their careers, groups whose members are typically given fewer chances to present their research."

So this isn't about women, it's about anyone who is in the early stage of their career or who is a student. Which happens to be the same groups many women belong to.

"However, the research showed some positive signs, as women were invited at a much higher rate than men in the early and mid-career stages."

Oh look, actually women in the early stage of their career are invited more than men.

"...suggest that all members may benefit from diversity training before they can invite speakers and assign conference presentations."

Slow down buckaroo. Gimme gimme never gets.
Da Schneib
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2018
I hate to say it but this looks like clickbait.

If people who are students or in the early stages of their careers in science don't get to present as much, then to characterize it as a "women's problem" one would need to show that men in those same stages get to present more. Yet later in the article, we see that women in these stages are invited to present not less, but *more*. Just from those two statements alone one has to conclude the article is horseshit.
24volts
5 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2018
Psychotherapist, I got pretty much the same point from the article and if that is the actual case then all we need to do is give it about 10 years and do they can do the study again. At that point it should be pretty equal or a lot less one sided anyway.
LED Guy
5 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2018
I strongly suspect the same result would be found if you looked at age. Younger researchers are not being given the same chance to present their work.

Until more women and minorities enter STEM programs (read college level academics) there is no hope to change the ratios.
Geni-us
1 / 5 (1) Apr 29, 2018
As I have stated previously (concerning other FORCED EQUALITY articles disguised as research). As soon as my subscription expires. I am turning the ad-block back on and this site will never get another penny from me.

I come here to escape the SueprFicial BIAS of the rest of the internet and it seems EVERY WEEK there are more and more Articles with a (not so) hidden agenda.

You are just hurting us all in the end.
granville583762
5 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2018
You have to analyse how Dr Heather Ford and her colleagues analysed the data from the American Geophysical Union and how she selectively selected it to ensure is displays the correct politically correct bias and complies with the only people reading this, click bait for men.
barakn
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2018
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/famed-cancer-biologist-allegedly-sexually-harassed-women-decades. The problem with this article is just in the word "allegedly". Why sexual abuse reporting can be based on rumors and all others not?

An anecdote is not a statistic, you misogynist prick.

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