Sometimes complaining helps

24 May

Two years ago I learned about a conference at Stanford called “Big Data in Biomedicine.” I was interested to sign up, but then found out that there were 40 male speakers and 2 women: not even 5%!

OK, I must admit that I was not entirely surprised, because large parts of Stanford are very male biased. But this seemed extreme even for Stanford. So I sent an email to the organizers and later learned that several others had done the same thing.

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And? It helped. People involved in the meeting realized that there was a problem and several women were added to the speaker list last minute for the 2014 conference.

Now, I just got an email about the 2016 conference and so I was curious to look at the list of speakers. They currently have 48 confirmed speakers and 20 of them are female. That is 42%!! Also, there is a few people of color on the list of speakers. Certainly not yet enough, but more than I usually see at these kinds of meetings.

I’d like to say: congrats to the organizers for creating an (almost) gender-balanced line-up and congrats to those of us at Stanford who opened our mouths. Complaining is not fun, and it’s not going to help us make friends or get ahead in our careers, but it can lead to change!

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