Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Get thee to a conference podium

  Oh little blog, I am sorry I've been neglecting you. I promise I have ideas and thoughts about what I'm doing in the fall (spoiler: it's not starting a tenure-track position). But not today.

  I attended a conference/workshop this past weekend, one that was helpful and interesting and in a lovely spot. It mixed biology, bioinformatics, and programing, and I've got new ideas and programs to try out. But I couldn't help notice the gender imbalance. There were lots of women attending, but only one woman symposium presenter out of 12, and perhaps 1 out of ten workshop presenters. Now I think the most common reaction might be that there just weren't enough women involved with these projects, and the lead developers were men, and they wanted to get the lead developers to speak. But I follow the posts over at geekfeminism, and there's a lot of discussion and posting about women at conferences. In particular, the idea that in order to get women speakers, you have to (and should) make a conscious effort to invite women and encourage submissions. You can bet the organizers will get a link to this post when they ask for feedback (which will otherwise be positive). Sure, this was a small conference, but since we know that having women in role model positions is important, it's important to make the effort.
  I'll also note that I tried to follow this advice about getting out of my comfort zone and talking to people. I talked to people in line, I sat down next to people and introduced myself, I tried not to stick with the group of people I already knew. It must have worked, because one woman said 'I'm going to stick with you, since you're talkative' - to which I replied - 'only when I have to be'.

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