Tired of male-dominated meetings, leading cancer conference makes nearly all of its speakers women

Science | AAAS | 9/28/2018 | Staff
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Calling out “manels”—all male panels at meetings—has been one way researchers concerned about gender equity have called attention to the frequent imbalance of men and women on scientific conference programs. Now, organizers of a meeting at a leading cancer institute in Germany have gone a step further. At the Frontiers in Cancer Research meeting early next month, 23 of the 28 invited speakers—or 82%—are women.

“We invited women who are driving the field. … The ratio is the opposite of what it usually is,” says Ursula Klingmüller, a systems biologist at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg and chair of the center’s Executive Women’s Initiative, which is organizing the meeting, which will run from 9 to 11 October.

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The aim of the meeting, hosted by DKFZ, is to “show that we have really outstanding researchers around the world doing excellent work.” Organizers briefly considered inviting only women as speakers, Klingmüller says, but decided that wasn’t the approach they wanted to take. Instead, the organizers invited a man to speak at each session. “No one is excluded,” she says.

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Indeed, she says, the organizers will be pleased if, at first glance, no one notices anything unusual about the names on the program. So far, she says, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with nearly 250 participants registered so far. “People are impressed with the speakers we were able to invite,” she says.

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Efforts to consider gender equity at meetings can be eye-opening for...
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