What to do when you realize the meeting you are speaking at is a YAMMM (yet another mostly male meeting)?

I am supposed to be talking at a meeting Tuesday: Almaden Institute 2014: Sequence the City -Metagenomics in the Era of Big Data.

In looking at the agenda for the meeting I am pretty bummed about the gender ratio of speakers. Looks like 18:5 Men to Women. 
  • Jeff Welser IBM 
  • David Haussler UCSC 
  • Daniel Huson Tubingen U 
  • Joe DeRisi UCSF 
  • Jane Carlton NYU 
  • Ajay Royyuru IBM 
  • Paula Olsiewski Sloan Foundation 
  • Christopher Mentzel Moore Foundation 
  • Anne Marie Kimball Gates Foundation 
  • Jonathan Eisen UC Davis 
  • Jessica Green U Oregon 
  • Mark Adams JCVI 
  • Eric Alm MIT 
  • Raul Andino UCSF 
  • Scott Kahn Illumina 
  • Mike Lelivelt Ion Torrent 
  • Radoje (Rade) Drmanac Complete Genomics 
  • Brett Bowman Pacific Biosciences 
  • Chris Mason Cornell 
  • Bart Weimer UC Davis 
  • David Crean Mars 
  • Astri Wayadande Oklahoma State U 
  • Christopher Elkins FDA
Not sure what to do about this. I am certainly (in a few minutes) going to be writing to the organizers. I am also pondering cancelling talking. I try very hard to be vigilant about gender ratios at meetings and it drives me crazy to see such skews. I know it is not always possible to have meetings have equal representation and I know some people try very hard and do not succeed. But this seems unpleasantly extreme. So - any thoughts or recommendations as to what to do would be appreciated.


UPDATE 5/5 -


Well the schedule has been updated - and now the male: female speaker ratio is 21:6. Note - Jack Gilbert is moderating and speaking and I am counting him twice. Also Robert Prill is opening each day and closing day 2 so in a way this could be counted as 23:6.
  • Robert Prill, IBM 
  • Jeff Welser IBM 
  • David Haussler UCSC 
  • Daniel Huson Tubingen U 
  • Joe DeRisi UCSF 
  • Jane Carlton NYU 
  • Ajay Royyuru IBM 
  • Laurie Garrett (moderating) 
  • Paula Olsiewski Sloan Foundation 
  • Christopher Mentzel, Moore Foundation 
  • Anne Marie Kimball Gates Foundation 
  • Jonathan Eisen UC Davis 
  • Jessica Green U Oregon 
  • Robert Prill 
  • Mark Adams JCVI 
  • Eric Alm MIT 
  • Raul Andino UCSF 
  • Jack Gilbert (moderating) 
  • Jack Gilbert (speaking) 
  • Scott Kahn, Illumina 
  • Mike Lelivelt Ion Torrent 
  • Radoje (Rade) Drmanac Complete Genomics 
  • Brett Bowman Pacific Biosciences 
  • Chris Mason Cornell 
  • Bart Weimer UC Davis 
  • David Crean Mars 
  • Astri Wayadande Oklahoma State U 
  • Christopher Elkins FDA 
  • Robert Prill

UPDATE 5/7

So I decided to go to the meeting and talk. Here is a video slideshow of my talk with audio.

 

 and here are the slides on Slideshare

 


I am not sure if I made the right decision but what I decided to do was to change my talk to feature the work of women and to highlight those women.


UPDATE 5/8

Here are some pics showing the before (left) and after (right) for how I changed my talk from the previous talk I gave about this topic.  Among the changes I made:
  • I added names and pictures of the women behind the work 
  • Changed examples to be about work of women when I had been using work of men
  • Added additional examples of work by women directly related to my talk
And I used the pictures and names on the slides to remind me to talk about the women behind the work. 

I think this strategy is a potentially useful tool in combatting the implicit and subtle biases against women in STEM fields.  All of what I said was true.  I just made sure to emphasize and use examples of work by women when previously I had either not said who did certain work or had sometimes emphasized work by men.  And I made sure to show pictures and say the names of the women behind the work too.

Added name and picture of program officer Paula Olsiweski who I had quoted previously.
Changed example of new publication that we add to our collection and used a publication
by a female graduate student, post doc Rachel Adams.  
Included name and picture of student post-doc Rachel Adams on other slides
about the topic

Included name and picture of student post-doc Rachel Adams on other slides
about the topic. 

Added a mention of the blog post by student post-doc Rachel Adams.

Added picture and name of post doc Allison Fish who organized meeting
I was discussing.

Added name and picture of Mary Jo Seminoff who coordinates
production of the newsletter I had mentioned.

Added screenshot and names of Holly Bik interviewing Amy Pruden for the
"People Behind the Science" series mentioned in previous slide.

Added name and picture of Brooke Borel and discussed her news stories (had mentioned
news stories in general w/o examples)

Added picture and name and blog post of Holly Ganz who wrote about
the news stories by Brooke Borel.

Changed example to be about Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello instead
of Thomas Bruns.

Changed example to be about Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello instead
of Thomas Bruns.

Added extra slide discussing Software Carpentry workshop
organized by Jenna Lang and Tracy Teal (and added
names and pics of them).

Added pics and names of Jo Handelsman and Tiffany Tsang who coordinated
one of the examples on the slide but who had not gotten mentioned
specifically.

Added picture and name of undergraduate student Hannah Holland-Moritz who was
involved in this work.

Added picture and name of research associate Madison Dunitz
who led this work.

Added name and picture of undergraduate student Sabreen Aulakh
who was involved in this work.

Added picture of graduate student Laura Sauder who
was our main contact in the lab of Josh Newfeld.

Added pictures and names of Darlene Cavalier and Caren Cooper who
inspired me to get involved in Citizen Science.

Added picture and name of Darlene Cavalier who was keynote speaker
at these meetings.

Added extra slide on the phone microbiome project and added names and pics of the people
involved including graduate student Georgia Barguil.

Added names and pics of the people behind this project (Holly Menninger and Rob Dunn)

Changed slide a little bit and added name and pic of Jessica Richman, one of the people behind the uBiome project.

Added pics that included more of the key women behind this project - including Darlene Cavalier, Wendy Brown
and Jenna Lang.

Added a slide about Altmetrics and added pic and name of Heather Piwowar and mentioned
her work  Had included one line about Altmetrics on a slide before.

Added reference to paper by Holly Bik and Miriam Goldstein and
emphasized the workshops run by Holly Bik.  Included pics and names on slide too.

UPDATE 5/8

Added links to find out more information about the work of the women in the slides (links are in the image captions).

17 comments:

  1. Hi Jonathan-

    This is a big one for me, too. I recently organized a panel for the Vertebrate Paleontology meetings this fall on divergence dating with fossils that started out with almost equal representation of women, but due to a lot of bad luck, is now mostly male. We kind of expected that, since women are a minority in paleontology (~25%) and we were also courting the theory/computational side, which also skews male. It was really disappointing to watch our panel go from about 40-60 to YAMM.

    I'd say you're doing the right thing by writing the organizers and to see what's up. My co-conveners and I are working on a blog post, with input from women from our panel who ended up not being able to attend, about the challenges of achieving equal representation on an unequal playing field. Maybe your session's conveners would welcome the same chance:)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks April. Please let me know when this post is up. I will see what the organizers of this meeting say ...

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    2. Will do. It probably won't appear until the fall, after the meeting. Feel free to contact me in the meantime.

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  2. Instead of cancelling, you could give a woman in your lab (or a female colleague you thought they should have on there) your spot. Two birds with one stone - help the ratio, protest the ratio.

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    1. I understand but don't like this option. Short term symptom treatment. Does not get to the disease.

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    2. Also, it would feel pretty icky to learn that I was invited to speak just because Jonathan declined an invitation and told them to invite me instead.

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  3. YAMMM is clearly one problem. Another is the high gender bias on (most) editorial boards of journals. One notable exception is Molecular Microbiology (Wiley) which has a majority (5/8) female board of Editors. I am not aware of any other major journals where this is currently the case...

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  4. Thanks for speaking up on this issue! I'm in complete agreement with you, but I'm wondering how you would respond to two of the most common retorts from critics on this topic: 1) If there were enough qualified women out there, we would include them, but the sciences have mostly male experts and that's who we happen to find for these conferences. 2) What's the : selalternativeecting people based on gender and sacrificing the quality of our presenters?

    Please understand, these are NOT my views, but I can just see people reacting this way, so I'm curious how you would respond.

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    1. BTW, my name's Nat, didn't mean to comment anonymously!

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    2. Well, I would respond to those comments as I have before - in many ways

      1) if a field has very few women in it - one way to hel pincrease the number of women is to better engage and listen to the current ones

      2) usually the response is "the field does not have many senior women" - and that is certainly true in some cases. But I do not think meetings are good if they only include the senior people as speakers. A good meeting should have people from different kinds of institutions, different career stages, and different backgrounds.

      3) In the field this post is about there are TONS of excellent women doing work. So this excuse does not work for this field.

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  5. Thank you for showing leadership in this area and ideas of how to approach the problem.

    I just wanted to correct that Rachel Adams (http://pmb.berkeley.edu/profile/radams ) is a postdoc not a graduate student. I also think you might have inadvertently used Georgia's picture where you should have used Rachel's?

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    1. thanks Jason - I have fixed the pics here and in slideshare ... can't fix the video ... I hope Rachel can forgive me ...

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  6. I think that this was a really good alternative to boycotting. If you boycott (and complain,) then your social media followers (who likely already agree with you on the topic) will hear about it, and maybe can exert some pressure on the organizers to change the lineup.

    If you do what you did here (and complain,) you are speaking both to those who are already paying attention to you on social media, AND everyone at the conference. And, the message that you are able to get across via the talk is much more powerful. You are taking advantage of a public opportunity to highlight the awesome work of researchers who are not necessarily senior/male in front of the organizers as well as an audience who may not even have this issue on their radar. So, you're not just saying, "you should invite more women/junior scientists." You are also showing them what they are missing out on by not.

    It would have been much more effective if you had spent a few seconds at the beginning of your talk letting everyone know what you were doing and why, though.

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    1. I suppose it might have been more effective to say why and what at the talk. But I am not sure. And I think it is worth trying multiple kinds of responses and in this case I felt that a non overt response was a reasonable choice.

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  7. I just went through the announced list of speakers for the next nematode meeting around here and the ratio is like 4 female headline speakers out of 9, so maybe it is depending on the scientific field? Would be great to fan the speaker ratios out by research community.

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  8. Do you happen to know if these ratios proportional to the amount of women who applied for the conference? I know a ratio of about 5 women to 18 men is unfortunately fairly typical in my area of engineering, and often lower outside of academia.

    Either way, I think it's great that you highlighted so many women in your presentation when the conference was (perhaps unintentionally) highlighting the lack of women in your field.

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    1. This was an invitation only meeting

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