The annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology very nearly achieved gender parity for speakers, writes Johns Hopkins University's Arturo Casadevall, who chaired the ASM general meeting program committee in 2014 and 2015, in mBio.
A study of previous meetings had found that women were underrepresented among presenters, but also that when a woman served on a team of conveners who choose session speakers, there was an increase in the number of female speakers in that session.
Invitations to speak at meetings, Casadevall notes, are crucial for advancement in academic science as promotion and tenure committees use them gauge external recognition.
To boost participation by women in the general meeting, Casadevall says the committee planning the meeting was given the gender statistics on the 2014 meeting along with an analysis of recent trends. The committee was then told to do better on gender balance and to avoid sessions with all male speakers.
For the 2015 meeting, which took place at the end of May and beginning of June, 48.5 percent of speakers were women, Casadevall reports. He adds that the number of all male speaker sessions dropped and that the gender difference among conveners vanished as all male convener teams were just as likely to invite female speakers as teams with female members
"These results establish that it is possible to achieve gender equity among speakers in a major scientific meeting in a reasonably short time frame," Casadevall adds.