Female scientists were offered fewer speaking opportunities than male colleagues overall at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, reports a study published in Nature Communications. The authors note that this result is influenced by the gender demographics of the AGU, where women disproportionally occupy the student career stage, at which point fewer speaking opportunities are offered. When controlling for career stage, similar numbers of oral presentations were given by men and women, and at certain career stages, women were invited authors more often than men.
Speaking at a scientific conference not only helps spread scientific results, it also increases professional visibility and is fundamental for career advancement in the sciences. The AGU Fall Meeting is the world’s largest geosciences meeting, with over 20,000 abstracts presented.
Heather Ford and colleagues used data from the 2014-2016 AGU Fall Meeting abstract database and examined first author gender and career stage, type of presentation and whether it was invited or not. They also examined the gender and career stage of the primary conveners. They found that male conveners invited men to speak more often than women across career stages. Since male conveners controlled a larger proportion of abstracts, this had an impact on the overall number of women as invited speakers at the conference.
The authors suggest that promoting student and early-career women speakers, and encouraging women to act as primary conveners, will improve gender parity in scientific conferences and support the advancement of women in STEM.