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Gender balance at conferences

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  • Gender balance at conferences

    Post your view on this topic here

  • #2
    This is not issue to discuss. It basically depends on societies and countries, however in general it is like animal instinct of human to rule over others. Usually it looks gender-wise, then within male population it is like White, brown, black etc., Asians, Europeans, Americans, Africans, then within countries, as per cast, as per religion etc. Yes this is fact men are insecure in women dominating or women dominated societies, so here power play comes to fore. but it is social evil. Though in Hindus, many deities are women but still not much respect for women outside family. So powerful using counterpart or exploiting for own benefit. It will end some day.
    Dr Shoor Vir SIngh


    • #3
      Thank you for raising an important issue Kumi. It is definitely something to discuss, and I urge the Board to establish a policy to push for a better distribution!
      Søren Saxmose Nielsen


      • #4
        I appreciate the editorial/comment on gender equality but must raise an issue due to a lack of supporting data and/or justification as well as clarity.

        What exactly is equality? Is it 50-50, i.e., equal? Should everything be equal? Equal male:female; equal heterosexual:homosexual; equal white:black; equal black:Hispanic; equal blue:green; etc. How is that fair or justified? If not, then how do we determine what is equality? I will argue that equality, whether gender, sex, or anything else, to be fair, should be proportional, and not equal.

        To give preferential treatment to a specific class of people is a form of prejudice. If I promote someone because they are male, I am considered a sexist and prejudice against females. So I don’t understand if I promote a women because she is female, how is that not sexist? The same can be said about race, sexual preferences, and a host of other things. There is inequality and prejudice everywhere and it will never go away as long as mankind (oops, people) exists.

        You cannot solve these problems by passing laws or policies. I am no longer going to be prejudice against X simply because you said I cannot be? Should we pass a law saying you must have physical equality in female models or movie stars and equality for fat or ugly people? You can laugh, but try to become a model or a movie star if you are ugly? Is this not prejudice and fatism or uglyism or some other phrase not coined yet? There is a reason the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) declared “affirmative action” and quotas unconstitutional.

        This commentary indirectly suggests or implies that the Program Committee of the Colloquium selected speakers because they were male. If I believed this were true, I would most certainly object as I think most members of the Association would. But what is being suggested is that future selections be made based partially on sex, i.e., that preferential treatment is given to females. And this is okay? I don’t think so.

        Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t expect preferential treatment just because you are female, gay, black, green, transgender, ugly, fat, etc. I believe in the best person for the “job” irrespective of any physical or behavioral trait.

        The opinion specifically claims that the gender inequality is evident in our Association and suggests that the Board adopt a policy to address this issue, but fails to provide anything to support this inequality other than the fact that all invited speaks at the Cancun meeting are white males (I added the “white” just to make it more unequal) and that “such gender imbalance should not occur again”. I completely disagree and believe that females are well represented in the Association. I did my homework…

        Based on the current membership list, females represent 24% of all active members. There are 4 invited speaks at the upcoming colloquium. Twenty-four percent of 4 is less than 1. Therefore, to include a female speaker would have been gender inequality or disproportionate equality. There are 4 officers of the Association of which 1 is a female, giving a disproportional leverage to females. The Board of Directors is currently composed of 14 members. Hence there should be 3 females on the Board; but in reality the Board has 5 females or 36% when there should only be 24%. This is inequality when females have a disproportionate voting say in the functions of the Association! Females are well represented in the Association and the need of a public policy is unnecessary and just pushes the liberal “progressive” agenda. Why are there no black speakers? Or gays?

        To attain gender equality, specifically women in science, needs to start at the bottom with a push to get more women involved in science careers. You are not going to achieve it from the top by trying to “promote” sometimes “less-qualified” females (or any other human class) in an effort to meet some quota for the purpose of “equality” and political correctness. Again, take responsibility for your own actions and don’t expect hand-outs and preferential treatment simply because you believe you belong to some real, imaginary, or pretend under-privileged class.

        If this response does not raise the hair on a few and get a response (from at least the 24%) than I am disappointed in my ability to be politically incorrect, piss people off, and raise controversy. Let the hate mail fly !!!



        • #5
          Hmmmm - Rod's comments sure raised some of my fast dwindling hair and eyebrows and it was so long I think I may have lost a few reading the post. First, conflating "balance" (this was Kumi's topic as I understood it) and "equality" (this was perhaps Rod's stream of conscience musings) is perhaps getting this cross-wise.

          My sense is that "balance" is important to ensure proper representation of differing views, and seems a virtuous goal; "equality" is a key principle of most free societies, and equally virtuous. Fighting tribal instincts, inherent biases (including of gender), and general delusions of superiority is important if one wishes to innovate. Organizations that thrive are those that are able to best harness the diversity, and I would hope that we do pay attention to being inclusive.


          • #6
            I would like to state that this wasn't an 'editorial'. It was just my opinion as an IAP member.
            Last edited by KumideSilva; 03-08-2018, 12:58 AM.


            • #7
              It's interesting that Rod has based his estimation of 'appropriate' representation on the number of active members within the Association. Do we not let people who are not IAP members present their work at the ICP? Yes Rod, we should start off with a 50-50 balance as I believe this is roughly the gender proportion globally.

              Many many studies have shown that for the life sciences it is not an issue of getting more women into science though this may be the case for mathematics or the physical sciences.
              I still very strongly believe that this is an issue for the Association to discuss - we need to be progressive if we genuinely want paratuberculosis research to flourish. So please do join the discussion here or email me.
              Last edited by KumideSilva; 03-09-2018, 01:48 AM.


              • #8
                Im finding this a very interesting discussion - especially bearing in mind that it is the International Womens Day today. As food for thought: not everyone who is active within the world of paratuberculosis is a member of the IAP. Out of curiosity I had a look at papers that have been published between March 2017 and March 2018 containing the word 'paratuberculosis' on Scopus (n=141) it seems that there is a roughly 50:50 split in the gender of the first author (5 impossible to tell, 64 female and 72 male). As a measure of taking responsibility for ones own actions and as a representation of the people who are actively carrying out research it would seem that publication in a peer reviewed journal would be a suitable measure?


                • #9
                  This is obviously a topic worth discussing. There is a lot of unconscious bias, stereotyping and discrimination (some alas no so unconscious too) practiced in all sorts of areas of human activity so IAP is hardly an exception if it has no policy to ensure that it doesn't. Indeed no one actually accused IAP of being biased - just that the topic should be discussed and considered and to have a conscious policy so to paraphrase someone much more erudite than I (namely William Shakespeare) 'methinks he doth protest too much'.
                  Absolutely the push to have more women in science must start at the bottom. No one is asking for hand-outs or preferential treatment, merely equal opportunity and equal treatment.
                  My interpretation of the suggestion in the piece in the newsletter was that the speaker/plenary presenter gender representation should seek to be in the same proportion as the audience attending. However, no one suggested that a poor speaker or a non-qualified or uninteresting topic should be given preference based solely on gender. The balance also should not reflect merely one conference in terms of invited speakers, especially when there are few invited speakers - however, aggregating figures representing a number of years e.g. 5 and then determining if the balance is even broadly reflective of the proportions publishing in peer reviewed journals, attending the conferences, amongst the members or on the board would surely be instructive.


                  • #10
                    I am glad I was able to rattle a few feathers, but other than accusing me of bias, stereotyping, and superiority issues, nobody seems to see the big picture. Let me also say that I have made my opinion without referring to the author of the original commentary as not to make it personal, but please feel free to use my name and make it personal.

                    I have nothing against women’s rights in terms of equal opportunity, equal pay, etc. I am against quotas or special treatment of any class at the exclusion of others. You can argue that these are not quotas, but they are (at least according to the US Supreme Court). Once someone says that we have too many male speakers and need at least 1 female, you are instituting a quota system and making a decision based on sex rather than merit. There is no other way.

                    But why only females? What about other alleged under-privileged or under-served classes? Should they not also be given some sort of preference for the purpose of “equality” and “balance”. Should we not also impose ethnic “equality” and “diversity” quotas?

                    The original author says things need to be based on global demographics, i.e., “the gender proportion globally”. Under such a system, to be fair to all, we need, in addition to 50% female, 60% Asian, 14.5% African, 11.4% European, 7.6% North American, and 5.6% South American. And let’s not forget about the 54 recognized ethnic minorities in the world and the 3% homosexuals. I believe all these groups are disproportionately represented within the Association as well as at past and present Colloquia. If we are going to have sex policies and quotas, we need to have an ethnic policy as well.

                    I cannot think of any government, association, or corporation that imposes quotas nowadays (but that is exactly what is being proposed). They have anti-discrimination laws and policies which are entirely different and a different topic altogether. And if we go with discrimination policy (the author did suggest discrimination although now claims not), we need a grievance committee.

                    But let’s not deviate from the original commentary. The original commentary directly criticized the lack of women representation in the invited speakers for the upcoming colloquium and wanted a policy to address this. Specifically, the commentary stated that the “imbalance (in invited speakers) is particularly concerning” and suggested that the Association “adopt a public policy of inclusivity for future meetings to ensure true representation of the field.” The author later suggested that inclusivity be based on “a 50:50 balance”. Please explain to me how this is not requesting a quota or how such could ever be addressed without a quota.

                    Discussing whether the percentage should be based on global demographics, published papers (read the Publish or Perish discussion) , or participation in the Association is all side issues and not addressing the real issue – quotas, sexual (and ethnic) imbalances, etc. I am all for equal opportunity but not quotas. But we are not taking about opportunity; we are talking about “inclusivity” and if that is the route to take, it must include ethnic as well.

                    What is most unfortunate is that raising this issue has created a hornet’s nest that will have far reaching ramifications. Regardless of what the Association does regarding this issue, if anything, if there are any females as invited speakers at the next Colloquium in Ireland it will be assumed that the speaker was chosen because of an undisclosed quota system being filled. And that is a shame as she will be the “token” female speaker chosen because of her sex not her merits.

                    Yes, I am tired of the “poor me” and “lack of tolerance” by the progressive movement.


                    • #11
                      I highly recommend you reading this article.


                      Achieving Speaker Gender Equity at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting
                      Arturo Casadevall Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

                      ABSTRACT In 2015, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) General Meeting essentially achieved gender equity, with 48.5% of the oral presentations being given by women. The mechanisms associated with increased female participation were (i) making the Program Committee aware of gender statistics, (ii) increasing female representation among session convener teams, and (iii) direct instruction to try to avoid all-male sessions. The experience with the ASM General Meeting shows that it is possible to increase the participation of female speakers in a relatively short time and suggests concrete steps that may be taken to achieve this at other meetings.

                      IMPORTANCE Public speaking is very important for academic advancement in science. Historically women have been underrepresented as speakers in many scientific meetings. This article describes concrete steps that were associated with achieving gender equity at a major meeting
                      Last edited by malonsohearn; 03-09-2018, 03:19 PM.


                      • #12
                        This is in my view primarily about values, not tools or statistics, which can easily be flawed and abused


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RodChiod View Post
                          ... nobody seems to see the big picture. ....
                          Haha .... funny .... but that is the point, is it not? The best way to see the big picture is to get divergent views, and look at issues through different lenses, and hopefully, recognize our own biases in the process and improve our understanding / decision making. Yes, I fully agree with saxmose that this is not about statistics, but rather about what we value.

                          Also, the fear that the IAP may pick a "token" speaker at the next conference whose legitimacy might be questioned is hopefully completely unfounded - it pre-supposes that there it is even possible to pick a token representative of a class of people. Just as there cannot be a single representative of 1.3b "Indians" on this planet - or 4.3b (gulp!) "Asians"; or the silly notion that one person represents the views of all grumpy old white men from rural America is both implausible and flawed. Of course, if that were true, all one would need was to get the opinion of a single, transgender, minority, war veteran, paraplegic, vegan, with diminished mental capacity .... "progressive" from each continent, and one should be good to go ....

                          I'm with keeping it real - and open and diverse .....


                          • #14

                            It seems I was wrong when I said no country, corporations, or organization imposes quotas nowadays. It appears that several European countries impose female quotas and force corporations to have female quotas for corporate directors and boardrooms. I was also wrong in that the ASM is or has instituted a quota system. Neither of these makes it right.

                            I personally believe in equal opportunity for all and I recognize that diversity generally results in better decision making and thus better governance and performance. I was the one that wrote the Laws & Bylaws of this Association and intentionally and purposefully created a diverse Board of Directors. That is not the same as quotas.

                            Maybe it’s because I am an American, have read our constitution, and believe that our founding fathers got at least a few things right. Quotas are against the principal of equal opportunity for all. The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution states: “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. As noted by the US Supreme Court, affirmative action hiring quotas that apply only to females and minorities, without equal quotas for other races or gender, means that minorities and women receive MORE protection under the laws than other groups. This violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. Furthermore the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and other Equal Opportunity Laws make hiring decisions based on race, gender, ethnicity, pregnancy, marital status, disability, sexual orientation a violation of the law.

                            The U.S. Supreme Court has also found that the general desire for race, age, or gender diversity (such as student diversity at Universities) does not constitute a bona fide occupational qualification and dismissed the arguments that preference given to a specific class is not a quota. The Courts have also found that preference turns into discrimination if favorable treatment is shown to a person based on individual traits and characteristics covered by equal-opportunity laws. Thus, if preferences are given based on gender it is discrimination against other groups by definition.

                            As a U.S. Corporation, the Association could conceivable be sued for enacting a preference policy (quota) for female speakers under US discrimination laws.

                            So, how have the gender quota laws worked out in Europe? There’s no question that Europe’s quotas are helping bring more women into the top ranks of business, specifically the boardroom, and are accelerating change and gender diversity. But studies have shown that women who were appointed to senior management under quota or preference policies are seen as "less qualified, less competent and less legitimate in their role" than their male colleagues, or women appointed without targets or quotas. Women being appointed to top ranking positions of business based on the European quota laws are commonly referred to as the “Golden Skirts” (in other words, tokens; not sure where you grew up but during affirmative action, we certainly had token employees to meet affirmative action quotas. The questioning of the legitimacy of a speaker chosen based on sex is not “completely unfounded”).

                            The overall notion original put forth, in the broad sense, was the need for increased diversity at meetings and maybe the Association as a whole. Barack Obama, the 44th President of the US that everyone apparently loves (particularly the liberal progressive movement) defined diversity as "diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief." He specifically excluded race, gender, or any other characteristic recognizing that diversity is independent of characteristic traits. We can achieve diversity without quotas, preferences, and/or discrimination. Most would probably agree that I bring diversity of thought and diversity of belief to the Association (I hope at least someone laughed).

                            I found the article about “gender diversity” and the ASM very interesting (Achieving Speaker Gender Equity at the ASM General Meeting), but probably not within the context suggested. I first point out saxmose’s comment that “tools or statistics …can easily be flawed and abused”. Secondly, when teams were under “increased scrutiny” to select female speakers and gave preference to female speakers, they created a quota system at the discrimination of other groups (by definition). I do not find that admirable in the least bit. What I also found interesting was their measurement of inequality. “underrepresented (females) relative to the participation of females in the meeting” which is closest to my suggestion of participation in the Association (for which I was criticized for).

                            Before the Association even discusses this issue at all, we need to determine if there really is a real gender imbalance/inequity at our meetings or is it just perceived by picking on these 4 invited speakers in Cancun. Therefore, before any further discussion, I propose the following:

                            That someone determine the relative male/female participation at the last 3-5 colloquia relative to the male/female speakers to determine if there really is a gender inequality at our meetings. This information is available, but if nobody is willing to do the legwork, then it is a non-issue. I am particularly interested in the comparison of other colloquia with the 13th colloquia in France which was organized by the female gender. If there is inequality in all, including the 13th, then it is a basic issue of participation.

                            Based on the data, if the Association feels or believes it is based on discrimination, then I propose that for the next meeting in Ireland that all abstracts have the authors names encrypted so that the program committee does not know the sex of the presenting author. If this does not resolve the disparity, then the issue is not discrimination.

                            Concurrently (because I do not think discrimination is an issue), the females in the Association need to empower women. Do not expect preferential treatment and/or quotas to do it for you. Although I might be wrong, but I believe only 2 of the 14 Association Colloquia have been organized by women. Step up and take control – you don’t need a quota to organize a meeting and have it in your own image. I have not done the homework, but I will bet that if I did a search on PubMed for articles written by Association females that there are women co-authors on those papers that are not members. Why not? Make an effort to increase female participation. I wrote the Laws & Bylaws in a fashion that the membership can over-rule the Governing Board anytime and on anything – get more active females in the Association and you can rule it.

                            That is how you create equality, by empowering yourself and other women, not asking for preferential treatment and quotas.

                            I am done. You will be happy to know that you will not be hearing from me again (about this subject).


                            • #15
                              Hmmmmm ...... interesting debate, lots to think about - where to start?

                              RodChiod - perhaps an amendment to the US constitution (adopted long after the founding "fathers" were dead) or supreme court rulings should not be the arbiter of the values we seek as an association. Both have been wrong (think slave trade) - but none of that is really relevant in this context.

                              Should we as an association not be seeking both "equality" and "equity"? Equality, as in everyone has an equal chance based on the same "rules" seems desirable and ensures fairness. Equity would mean that under-represented classes are provided "special" conditions / environments / tools by which they can be included and succeed because we value their inclusion, and also see this essential for our own long-term success (think hybrid vigor).

                              Equality is more objective - while equity is subjective. Hence many of us struggle with the apparent unfairness and real or perceived "reverse discrimination" and hence are open to questions of the legitimacy of the process.

                              Equality is easier to count and hence easier to apply, whereas (in)equity is what we see from the results at the end, and hence more difficult to retro-fix. Bottom line- this is a particularly hard conundrum.

                              I would also suggest that this is a false choice - and as an association, I submit that we could and should consider both.

                              Another way perhaps to look at this is that may wish to consider both diversity AND inclusion in our association and meetings.

                              In the context of the current debate, diversity would mean that individuals of diverse background are free-to and invited to join the association / attend the conference; being inclusive would mean that we create the conditions that encourage under-represented classes to actively participate and lead.

                              One is more passive / the other active.

                              I vote for active.

                              Happy to continue this debate with RodChiod and others both here, and in person over a bottle (or two) of good wine.