An Interesting Duo

Two exciting events occurred this week – well, in terms of nature, overall, lots of exciting things happened!

I went off to visit a reserve that I had never been to before – Mynydd Ffoesidoes. It’s a difficult one to get to, it involves driving to the middle of nowhere, going through a gate, then driving even further into the middle of nowhere! The weather wasn’t great either. Whilst it wasn’t raining, or even drizzling, it was very overcast and ridiculously windy! However that did make it very atmospheric.

A word of advice, if you’re thinking of going to Mynydd Ffoesidoes or another remote reserve, take the directions with you!

Friday saw me in the big smoke (London) attending a conference on invertebrate conservation, jointly run by the Amateur Entomologist’s Society and the British Ecological Society. It was a great day with a good range of topics (who knew that springtails and soil biodiversity could be such an interesting topic!), with my favourite being Zoe Randle from Butterfly Conservation on their citizen science projects and what the data has been used for. Particularly fascinating for me because I love citizen science and I contribute to some of BC’s projects so it was good to hear what has resulted from them.

One thing I did note from the conference was that there was only one woman speaker – out of a possible 9 (including the chairman). Whilst this might not seem much, I am noticing a trend in all the conferences I’ve been at this year. There is either a low percentage of female speakers, or none at all! Maybe this could be seen as being picky, but I would like to see and hear from more female speakers – as a young woman working in conservation, it does feel a tiny bit tedious to constantly be wondering where the female speakers are. I know there are plenty of women working in conservation, and in good level jobs, so why aren’t they appearing at conferences? Is it that they just don’t want to? Is it selective bias by those inviting speakers? Or unconscious bias perhaps? Any way, I am hoping to see a greater proportion of female speakers at the next conference that I attend.

This reminds me of the discussion at the A Focus On Nature conference, which caused a bit of rift in the attendees. Personally, I feel that women are often under-represented at conferences and do face the usual workplace issues that come with being female. That’s not to say that men don’t have issues, such as paternity leave for example – we need more equality for both genders.

2315 replies
  1. Paul Seligman
    Paul Seligman says:

    As far as I can tell from the outline programme at http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/shared_documents/events/more_info/2014-12/2014-12-05-bto-annual-conference-2014-booking-form.pdf , this year’s BTO conference will have 7 female speakers to 13 male (the latter including the Chair and Director).

    So that’s a better ratio, even if not equality, than your example. Perhaps ornithology is moving in right direction faster than etymology.

    In general, these meetings get speakers by sending out a message saying ‘would you like to speak at this year’s meeting’ to their contacts. Unless you think there is general discrimination in selecting the final list from the volunteers, this must reflect the ratios of experienced people willing to speak in the field in question. Of course, a few speakers may be directly invited especially for keynote talks; these will tend to be people with some new research and/or a reputation in the field, which might be open to more selectivity by the organisers.

    Do you think there should be positive discrimination?

    Of course, reasons could be more subtle, such as women being less confident in public, or having less extra time on top of their day jobs to prepare presentations.

    Why not make it one of YOUR ambitions to become a speaker in your chosen field in the future? Many non-academic conferences love having young people talking about their particular enthusiasms (It’s become a feature of BTO conference in the last few years) so it needn’t be that far in the future. Be the change you want to see!

    You could ask the organisers of your chosen event, well in advance, what they would need to consider you as a speaker.

    Or you could research and publish something on the articles and trends of presenter gender in the ecology field…..

    • mgshersby
      mgshersby says:

      Agreed, that is a much better ratio than normal.

      I was actually a guest lecturer recently, so I guess on the path towards it! I don’t have a specific field / enough expertise yet though to give a speech at a conference / meeting. Maybe sometime in the future.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *