The symposia convened by all-male teams contained 25 percent female speakers on average. For the symposia in which the convener teams included at least one woman, women comprised an average of 43 percent of speakerswhich meant that including at least one woman among the conveners increased the proportion of female speakers by 72 percent compared with symposia convened by men alone.
"Participating in meetings as a speaker is an extremely important factor for academic advancement," said Dr. Casadevall. "It's a cascade effect once you're a speaker, your work is recognized, and you are more likely to make connections, have your work funded, and to be invited to speak again. And when you speak at a meeting, your reputation at your home institution also improves, and that helps your chances of promotion. So being an invited speaker at these meetings can definitely help advance your scientific career."
Having a woman involved in choosing the speakers also reduced the chance that all of a symposium's speakers would be men: About 30 percent of the symposia at these meetings had rosters of all-male speakers in cases where the convening team contained only men. But the percentage of all-male speakers was only about nine percent for symposia in which at least one member of the convening team was a woman. "All-male sessions can be a turn-off for younger female scientists," said Dr. Casadevall. "They can send the message that the field has few women and that the upper echelons are dominated by men."
The American Society for Microbiology has alerted its committees to the findings from this study. "We'll see if this translates into changes," Dr. Casadevall said. "The lack of women in leadership positions is a big problem in our field, but our findings suggest an easy remedy. I also hope that people in other fields take a look at this issue, and
|Contact: Kim Newman|
Albert Einstein College of Medicine