Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Conference_de_londresDear Conference Organizers,

I love your conferences! They are in such wonderful locations. Many times I get to escape the cold or wet of my home institution to work on science with others in a warm, exotic or just plain different location. It is wonderful and really helps me to be creative and explore new areas of science that I might not be exposed to otherwise. It is great for my career to see and be seen, to talk to other scientists about not only science, but also management, mentoring, and other career issues.

I have a request, though.

  1. Can you maybe have at least one keynote speaker who is a woman? It really means a lot to me, personally, if one of the keynotes is not a macho, argumentative man, but rather a loud, bossy, argumentative woman. They are role models – still. I am surprised when this doesn’t happen.
  2. Can there be more than one woman in each room? I literally had to give someone the finger to get the point across that I wanted to speak in a session at a recent meeting. It was all in good fun, as I am notoriously PUNK ROCK but the point was clear: let me talk, too! I am still astonished that this continues to happen, and it is not your fault that another participant did this, but it is better when the room isn’t such a “sausage-fest.”
  3. Can we have bath tubs? I know not all women feel this way, so I will not speak for all, but I, personally, really want to have a bathtub. Here are my reasons:
    • I like taking baths. It is relaxing. I sit in there for a while, soaking, reading, unwinding. This is often especially important at meetings when relaxing and unwinding can give you time for your creativity to soar.
    • I like shaving my legs. No use being in an exotic, warm location and not being able to shave your legs. This is mostly a woman-only issue. Sure, I could shave in the shower, but I always miss spots, and I cannot see because I cannot wear my glasses in the shower. I guess I could not shave, but that is not really socially acceptable considering the hairiness level I allow my legs to approach when I am at home and always wearing pants. I suppose I could shave before coming, but I didn’t know there wouldn’t be a bath tub, and I used all my personal shaving time taking care of my children, getting my class ready for while I was away, and packing. I would love the opportunity to shave at the conference.

Overall, these functions are wonderful and fruitful for my career, and despite the drawbacks I listed, I would never stop going, participating, and working at your conferences. They are essential for my career development and maintenance.

Thank you for your attention,


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Comments on: "Open Letter to Conference Organizers" (2)

  1. Senior Trailing Spouse said:

    Awesome post! Seeing female keynote speakers and award winners at conferences is still so important, and inspiring, to me, and it does not happen often enough.

    And I am glad, but also sad (as I often am when I read a post for another woman of science and think, “Me too!”) to know that I am not the only one who looks forward to conferences not only for the science and interaction with colleagues, but also to have some uninterrupted personal care time. When the kids were little, I got my morning routine down to ~22 minutes — not coincidentally the time of a typical kids TV show — this was all the time I had to shower, brush teeth, yank hair back in a ponytail, and dress. How sad is it that we do not have time to shave at home? 🙂 Twenty minutes still seems to be the upper limit of “me time” I can get before someone in the house needs something from me.

  2. Great post! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as (a) I’ve been moving into an even more male-dominated field and (b) I’m getting old enough to realize that even when the ratio’s not that bad, most of the other women in the room are students and postdocs.

    One thing I’d add is that the other conference goers (and not just the organizers) have responsibility in this too. Somehow the men don’t always notice the imbalance. I recently had the experience of being the only woman at a 20-person round-table discussion. When I later mentioned this to a friend who had been sitting right next to me, he had no clue! Everyone should pay attention to–and ask for an increase in–diversity. Sometimes this means asking the organizers for a more diverse line-up, and perhaps more often this just means asking a simple, “Were you trying to say something, Betty?” to bring a colleague who is getting talked over back into the conversation.

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