US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins has called for an end to the so-called "manel" tradition in which speaker panels at scientific meetings and conferences are made up of only men.
"Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences," Collins says in a statement. "Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities."
This announcement by Collins, The Hill notes, is in response to a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report last year that said leaders in the scientific community could help combat sexual harassment and bolster women in the sciences.
CNN notes that the "manel" issue has been around for some time and is widespread, occurring even beyond the sciences, occurring at, for instance, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and a Variety magazine writers' panel.
"We are fed up. The lack of women — whether in peace negotiations, high-level conference panels, or boards — is alarmingly common," wrote researcher Esther Ngumbi and women's rights advocate Elsa D'Silva in a 2015 CNN opinion piece.