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women speakers at meetings

Chris Hitchcock hitchcoc at sfu.ca
Tue Jun 30 23:40:47 EST 1998

In article <199806290852.JAA01914 at gps1.leeds.ac.uk>,
Michelle Peckham <mp at chb.leeds.ac.uk> wrote:
>Dear All
>I have been to two smallish meetings recently, where the proportion
>of women attending was about 20% but the proportion of women
>speakers was at 5-10%.  

I recall reading about the idea of first asking "Who can we invite as 
speakers?" then asking "Which women can we invite as speakers?" and finding 
that the second question resulted in the listing of a lot of speakers
who weren't on the first list, but, when ranked by people in the field,
were just as good as the first set. Yet another one of those biases that 
operates at an unconscious level. I can't remember whether this was a 
formal study or an anecdotal report and thought experiment, but it rings true
to me. 

In an analysis of abstracts from the Animal Behaviour Society Meetings in 
the 1980's, another trend that we found was that women are also more likely
to choose poster presentations rather than talks (in ABS, this is a choice 
made by the presenter, not a choice by a selection committee as occurs at 
some meetings. That may contribute to the (lack of) visibility of women as 
speakers. I also wonder how general this result is.


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