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Feminism: chat

Women participate less at conferences

10 replies

Theeyeballsinthesky · 30/07/2021 11:23

This surprises me not at all. I attend & speak at a number of conferences and am very familiar with the “not so much a question as a comment” brigade

OP posts:

thecatfromjapan · 30/07/2021 11:28

Oh, the 'not so much a question as a comment' thing makes my heart shrivel and die!

I spent last year chairing a lot of meetings. I self-consciously tried to mitigate against this but my attempts caused me migraines.

So, so annoying.


slug · 30/07/2021 11:40

Back in the 80s when womens studies were still about women and not slaves to gender theory, I attended a conference where Dale Spender gave the keynote. She announced at the beginning that, in line with her research around the differential amount of attention given to male and female students in classrooms, whe would replicate this ratio in the question period, but switching the order. i.e. more attention given to women than men (I forget the exact ratio but it's around two thirds male/one third female)

Despite being very clear about this at the beginning and reiterating it before the questions, I have never seen a more angry group of men at an academic conference. When they realised that women's questions would be prioritised over theirs, they started shouting, waving and, in one case, attempting to jump on the stage. What started out as a way of illustrating inequities in classrooms became a master class in exposing men's entiltled belief in their right to speak and have their voices heard.

I went away hugely amused.


EmbarrassingAdmissions · 30/07/2021 12:16

Eve Tuck has excellent advice on how to handle Q&A at conferences:

I am very deliberate about how an academic Q & A should go after a talk or panel. I think of this as an Indigenous feminist approach to facilitating academic Q & A.…People don’t always bring their best selves to the Q & A—people can act out their own discomfort about the approach or the topic of the talk. We need to do better. I believe in heavily mediated Q & A sessions.


guinnessguzzler · 31/07/2021 08:56

I saw this and found it fascinating. I felt the article focused on how to fix it by getting women to speak more, aka be more like men, rather than questioning the whole idea that the way to move ahead in academia is to get your face out there, blather on at conferences when you should be learning etc. I don't work in academia so I accept that I don't fully understand this but certainly in my field, and I'm sure every area of work, there is a similar approach. People want to get known so take the opportunity of 200 of their peers being in the same room to make some 'clever' observation / talk about themselves rather than actually trying to learn anything from the panel of experts. Women don't need to do more of that shit, men need to do less of it.


mynameisnotkate · 31/07/2021 09:06

@guinnessguzzler that’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure how it would work. Developing personal relationships is a really important way to get involved in a community and the speaking up to be more noticeable then the rest of the crowd is how that works at the moment. We need to move to a system that is much more focused on stuff like break-out groups and group engagement. Actually I think this would have a lot of other benefits. One person talking to a room and then a few people having their say is much less effective than more engaging methods. There’s been a big push to move beyond this approach in teaching - maybe it’s time to do it in conferences. Huh, I started this post to say how I agreed but was doubtful it would work, and now I’m feeling inspired about a different way to manage conferences. Interesting.


memberofthewedding · 31/07/2021 09:10

I can remember presenting a paper at a conference a few years ago when the 2 speakers in front of me (both male) over ran. I was encouraged to cut my presentation short but refused. I replied quite strongly that the previous presenters had over run with no comment from the chair, so I was going to have my full allocated slot come hell or high water. My co-author was a bit embarrassed but several women came up to me later and congratulated me on being so assertive.


nettie434 · 31/07/2021 09:43

I definitely agree with this too. It really helps if the conference organisers give advice to the chairs on controlling the timing of presentations or making sure everyone gets a chance to ask a question.
Another clever trick at conferences with lots of break out sessions rather than one plenary is to put the session chair on last to encourage them to do better timekeeping.

I'd like to know if it's any better since conferences have been online because of Covid. Everyone apart from the speaker is on mute and I've seen a lot of people encourage the audience to ask questions in chat.


newnortherner111 · 31/07/2021 12:43

I'm not surprised sadly. Even press conferences, noticeable how only one female minister ever appears in any Downing Street ones.


Waitwhat23 · 31/07/2021 13:06

I'm on a Commitee and the members are almost all women, with the exception of two men (one who is the Chair). Every conversation is dominated by these two men. We were discussing something quite important and I had trying to make a point for some time but neither myself or any of the other women could get a word in. I finally managed to say that I would like to make a comment and was told 'Oh, we've spent too much time on this agenda item, we need to move on now' and I had had enough by this point and insisted on making my point along with a mention of the fact that the women in the Committee were just being talked over. It still happens at every meeting and women are starting to drop out of the Committee from sheer exasperation.

One of the men mentioned also made a really rude remark in an email conversation and when I pulled him up about it (politely), he had a tantrum, said he wasn't engaging with the conversation anymore and needed time to calm down.

It's all about male egos.


noblegiraffe · 31/07/2021 13:10

They participate less in the classroom too. It starts early.

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