After attending two recent scientific conferences, one which was gender balanced, and one which was so gender-imbalanced that it engendered snarky out-of-band twitter comments, it struck me that we might need a Bechdel Test for scientific workshops. The Bechdel test is a simple test for movies. To pass the test, a movie has to have:
- at least two [named] women in it,
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man.
Seems simple, right? You’d be amazed at just how few popular movies pass the test, including some set in universes that were originally designed for equality. (I’m talking about you, Star Trek reboot.)
Here’s an analogous test for scientific workshops or conference symposia. Does the workshop have:
- at least two female invited speakers,
- who are asked questions by female audience members,
- about their research.
Again, this seems simple, right? But you’d be shocked how few scientific conference symposia or workshops can live up to this standard. I suspect this depends strongly on specific research fields.
Rigoberto Hernandez has been talking about advancing science through diversity for quite a while. I finally got to hear him speak about the OXIDE project on this latest trip, and he’s got a lot of great things to say about how diversity can strengthen science. I think one great way to help is to point out the good conferences we attend which live up to this standard.
Rigoberto also happened to be one of the organizers of the gender-balanced conference, which was also one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended.