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Study shows how simple modification can improve female participation at conferences

05 Aug 2021

Small modifications to scientific and/or medical conferences can lead to measurable improvements in female inclusion, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

This ground-breaking study was led by Society members and conducted at our annual SfE BES conference. It is the first to quantify female participation at a scientific conference and to show that simple modifications may be sufficient to encourage a measurable increase in female participation.

The study found that, despite a gender-balanced conference attendance, women asked fewer questions and were more likely to ask questions classified as 'empathic'. However, by increasing the number of female session chairs and having the first session question asked by a woman, this disparity in participation was mitigated. This important and interesting study is the first to quantify and address this inequality and suggests that these very simple strategies may be effective for medical and scientific events and beyond. 

The research was featured in the Guardian, where lead researcher, Victoria Salem (Imperial College London), commented, "There are still clear differences in male and female behaviour. Whatever the cause, whether it’s social engineering or biology, we need to somehow address that and take that into account when we are delivering platforms that are about equal access to science.”

The Society is proud to have supported this research and looks forward to further exploring strategies to improve female inclusion at our upcoming SfE BES conference in November 2021.

Read the Lancet study and see the Guardian article.