Study finds women biologists more likely to avoid spotlight at conferences

Pers / media: OnderzoekAcademic

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Women who have beaten the odds to find themselves in the upper echelons of science face a further hurdle—visibility. Female scientists are less likely to sit on science advisory boards, receive awards, and give invited talks at conferences. However, a new study suggests that the reasons women appear less often on the podium are complicated.

Reporting in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Julia Schroeder of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and Hannah Dugdale of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom found that only 16% of invited speakers at the European Society for Evolutionary Biology Congress between 2001 and 2011 were women. The total—66 of 430 individuals—was half of what would be expected based on the number of senior female scientists in the life sciences.

The dearth of women is not because they aren't being invited. Instead, female scientists were twice as likely as their male counterparts to turn down an invitation to talk in slots reserved for presenting original and important work. At the same time, the number of female presenters of posters and uninvited talks was almost at parity with men.

Evolutionary biologist Trudy MacKay of North Carolina State University in Raleigh says that relatively short notice and a tight budget contributed to her decision to decline an invitation to talk at the congress in 2011. Women also turn down talks because they receive too many invitations each year and are anxious about balancing the demands of family and work, says Jeanine Olsen of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who headed one of Europe's Seventh Framework Programme's Gender Action Plans aimed at promoting gender awareness. Younger women also tend to do less self-promotion, Olsen adds.

Finding ways to address those issues is next on Schroeder and Dugdale's agenda. And the first step is to contact scientists to find out why they declined invitations. "Then we [will] know what can be done to change their minds," Schroeder says.

Periode21-jun-2013 → 18-aug-2013

Media-aandacht

6

Media-aandacht

  • TitelWomen Nobel Prize winners: 16 women who defied odds to win science's top award
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletThe Huffington Post
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited States
    Release datum18/08/2013
    BeschrijvingWomen make up a bit more than half of the world’s population, yet even in the most developed countries, men hold the lion's share of jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. What's more, men take home most of the prestigious scientific awards. That includes the Nobel Prizes, widely considered the ultimate mark of scientific achievement.

    Of the 357 people awarded a Nobel in the science categories — Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and Economic Sciences — only 16 have been women (see slideshow below).

    What accounts for this discrepancy?

    "This low representation is likely due to there unfortunately being very few women scientists in the first half of the 20th Century," Dr. Hannah Dugdale and Dr. Julia Schroeder, two researchers at the University of Sheffield who have studied barriers for women in the sciences, told The Huffington Post in an email.
    Producent / auteurAdam Toobin
    URLwww.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/18/women-nobel-prize-winners-science-award_n_3541686.html
    PersonenHannah Dugdale, Julia Schroeder
  • TitelGender imbalance
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletNature Seven Days
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom
    Release datum27/06/2013
    BeschrijvingFemale evolutionary biologists may enjoy a smaller level of professional exposure compared with their male colleagues, in part because they give fewer conference talks, according to analysis published on 20 June (J. Schroeder et al. J. Evol. Biol. http://doi.org/m2w; 2013). At the 2011 Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, women accounted for 23% of the invitations to speak — similar to their representation among senior scientists and those who publish in high-profile journals. However, only 15% of actual conference speakers were women. Female scientists were about twice as likely as men to turn down the speaking invitations. See Nature 495, 22–24 (2013).
    URLwww.nature.com/news/seven-days-21-27-june-2013-1.13266
    PersonenHannah Dugdale, Julia Schroeder
  • TitelFemale scientists' research is less well recognised than men's, study reveals
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletThe Daily Telegraph
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom
    Release datum24/06/2013
    BeschrijvingExcellent work by female scientists is not as widely recognised as that done by their male counterparts, a study has shown.
    The research, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, showed that women who have beaten the odds to be in the upper echelons of science face another hurdle in that high-quality science by female academics is underrepresented compared with that of men.
    The researchers analysed the gender of invited speakers at congresses of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) and found that male speakers outnumbered women.
    Even compared with the numbers of women and men among world-class scientists - from the world's top-ranked institutions for life sciences, and authors in the top-tier journals Nature and Science - women were still under-represented among invited speakers.
    Dr Hannah Dugdale, of Sheffield University's department of animal and plant sciences, said: "This could relate to child care requirements, lower perception of scientific ability or being uncomfortable with self-promotion."
    Co-researcher Dr Julia Schroeder, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, said: "Women scientists at a career phase when it is important to communicate one's findings and build networks may be pregnant, or have children. Lower exposure and fewer networking opportunities are costly to the career."
    Kirsty Grainger, head of skills and careers at the Natural Environment Research Council, added: "Taking action to foster a culture that supports equality and diversity in research and that encourages better representation and support for women is extremely important.
    PersonenHannah Dugdale, Julia Schroeder
  • TitelInvited speakers, role models and women
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletThe Royal Society - Inside Science
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom
    Release datum24/06/2013
    BeschrijvingDo role models matter? And if so, in what kind of situation are they most important? Two papers, coming from very different parts of the scientific spectrum, were brought to my attention last week which brought these questions into focus. In particular, building on the earlier post on this site I wrote about selection of speakers for conferences, it is worth considering the complexity of who slots into the slate of speakers who actually appear on any given scientific programme.
    Producent / auteurProfessor Athene Donald
    URLblogs.royalsociety.org/inside-science/2013/06/24/invited-speakers-role-models-and-women/
    PersonenHannah Dugdale, Julia Schroeder
  • TitelWomen underrepresented at academic conferences
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletTimes Higher Education
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom
    Release datum24/06/2013
    BeschrijvingStudy suggests women more likely than men to turn down invitations to speak

    A greater tendency among women to turn down invitations to speak at prestigious conferences could account for their relative scarcity among senior academic ranks, a study has suggested.
    Producent / auteurPaul Jump
    URLwww.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/women-underrepresented-at-academic-conferences/2005015.article
    PersonenHannah Dugdale
  • TitelStudy finds women biologists more likely to avoid spotlight at conferences
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletScience Insider
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited States
    Release datum21/06/2013
    BeschrijvingWomen who have beaten the odds to find themselves in the upper echelons of science face a further hurdle—visibility. Female scientists are less likely to sit on science advisory boards, receive awards, and give invited talks at conferences. However, a new study suggests that the reasons women appear less often on the podium are complicated.
    Producent / auteurJennifer Carpenter
    URLnews.sciencemag.org/people-events/2013/06/study-finds-women-biologists-more-likely-avoid-spotlight-conferences
    PersonenJulia Schroeder, Hannah Dugdale

Mediabijdrages

1

Mediabijdrages

  • TitelWomen’s contribution to science goes unheard
    Mate van erkenningInternational
    Media naam/outletThe Conversation
    MediatypeWeb
    Land/RegioUnited Kingdom
    Release datum26/06/2013
    BeschrijvingEven today there are few women graduate students and even fewer women academics, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths). Why is this the case, even in 2013, and what can we do about it?

    Lower visibility of female scientists is one of many potential reasons for the under-representation of women in senior academic ranks. To succeed in academic science, researchers must produce many widely cited publications and attract independent funding. Success clearly requires doing excellent science. However, academics can also raise their profiles and improve their work through presenting their findings at major international conferences. In academic science, as in many other high profile professions, it is hard to advance if your voice is not heard and your work is not known.

    In a new study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, along with 37 academics from around the world, we investigated the numbers of female and male invited speakers at six biannual congresses of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) – the most prestigious gatherings of evolutionary biologists in Europe. Male speakers invited to the congress outnumbered female speakers, a finding that was expected since women make up a smaller proportion of the pool of potential speakers. But women were under-represented even after taking this into account.

    We compared the number of female and male invited speakers to the number of females and males available in the potential pool of candidate speakers. What qualifies a candidate to be considered is debatable, therefore we investigated two pools. Using sex ratio data from the world’s top ranked institutions for life sciences and first authors in the top-tier journals (Nature and Science) we found only about half as many females as expected.

    This shows that high quality science led by female academics is under-represented in comparison to that of their male counterparts. If this dearth of female voices in conferences harms women’s advancement within academia, then society as a whole is also losing some of its best scientists.

    On delving deeper into the data from the 2011 congress, we found women were under-represented as invited speakers, not because men were invited proportionally more than women, but because men accepted invitations more often. This result is based on a single conference in a single discipline, and the two lead authors of the study, Julia Schroeder and Hannah Dugdale, are investigating whether this trend can be generalised.

    So why would men accept speaking invitations more than women? There are many reasons, but two stick out. First, the most demanding phase of a career in academic science coincides with the age at which most scientists, women and men, are starting families. In a perfect world, women and men would share the demands of building a family equally, but recent research has shown that babies matter more in the careers of female academics. Second, women are less likely than men to self-promote – behaviour that may be a form of self-defence, since studies show that it doesn’t pay for women to be seen as successful and ambitious.

    The roots of these trends probably begin long before girls and boys embark on academic careers. We are conditioned from a young age to believe that caring for the children is the woman’s domain, whereas career success is the man’s domain.

    You don’t believe that this is true in 2013? Test your own gender biases online. Or simply take a walk down the toy aisle at a department store and marvel at the gender specificity.

    Determining the solutions to under-representation of women in STEM fields – and in positions of power in general – is beyond the scope of our expertise. But our opinion is that we could begin to remedy these major societal challenges with small steps, like insisting on non-gendered toys and clothes.

    Start small, at home, with friends, nieces and nephews, grand-kids. These measures will trickle up, as youngsters grow up without implicit bias, and adults are made more aware of the biases they unconsciously harbour. Eventually women and men will be equally likely to have their voices heard – in conferences, faculty meetings and boardrooms – and society as a whole will benefit.
    Producent / auteurDebbie Buehler & Julia Schroeder
    URLhttps://theconversation.com/womens-contribution-to-science-goes-unheard-15532
    PersonenDebbie Buehler, Julia Schroeder, Hannah Dugdale