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How to banish manels and manferences from scientific meetings -

Date published: 2019-09-11
Originally published: Here. Excerpt below.

Nancy Amato didnt want to go to Las Vegas. In 2015, it was the chosen venue for one of the main events in her field the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). But she and other women involved in organizing it felt that the city, famed for its strip clubs, was unsuitable. Among the first achievements of the organizing committee which that year was all-female was moving the conference to Seattle in Washington.
The committee had even bigger ambitions for the male-skewed meeting. Often, people say there arent any women speaking because there arent any out there, so we thought, Lets show them a tonne of women and that might change things, she says.
Keen for attendees to focus on the agenda of the event, rather than on the gender of its coordinators, Amato and the committee set out to create the best possible version of the conference. They came up with new features to foster greater diversity and inclusion, including an advice forum for PhD students and a careers fair. They invited roughly an equal number of male and female speakers, in contrast to the 100% male line-up of the 2014 meeting. The event also broke records for submissions and attendance, and sold out of space for exhibitors and sponsors for the first time in its history. Overall, it was a success on any measure, she says.
But if you look at the follow-on years, it doesnt seem like it has changed the story on diversity much, says Amato, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. Over the years, ICRA has slipped in and out of being a manference a conference heavily dominated by male speakers.
Source: ICRA
Its a common problem for scientific fields. A new analysis by Nature suggests that meetings are able to correct a pronounced gender bias at the podium, but that it takes persistent and constant effort to banish the manference.
Our investigation looked at the line-up of invited speakers at key meetings in five disciplines neuroscience, artificial intellige ...

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