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One Simple Change Can Help Fix Gender Disparity in Science

January 10, 2014
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One Simple Change Can Help Fix Gender Disparity in Science
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Let them plan the conferences.

In science, bias can ruin an experiment. And it may also be behind the academic field’s gender disparity problem. Women earn roughly half of the graduate degrees in science and engineering in America, but only 20 percent of full professors in the sciences are women. It turns out that academic conferences, which can be key to advancing a scientist’s career, might be playing a big role. Researcher Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that simply adding a woman to the planning committees for scientific conferences increased the number of women invited to speak by 72 percent compared to how many were invited when the organizers were all men. The presence of a woman on the planning committee also significantly reduced the instances of all-male conference sessions. Casadevall, chair of the planning committee for the American Society of Microbiology, told Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience, “My hope is that when people become sensitive to this, they will design convening teams that have gender diversity up front. If that is the case, we should see a significant increase [in female speakers] this year.”

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