When Beryl Cummings asked her first-ever question in a genetics conference auditorium, she picked a topic that she knew a lot about, formulated her question as accurately as possible, and addressed her request to a presenter.
Questions play a major role in science, said Cummings, who earned his PhD in computational genomics at Harvard. As a young scientist she spoke in a public forum about the fact that the missions are only a little higher.
It's about deepening the consensus: For women seeking a career in science, engineering, engineering and mathematics Space may be half the battle.
Slightly more than half of all doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences are now earned by women. However, if their growing number in STEM fields translates into significant scholarly contributions, these women need to hear their voices ̵
The study was published last month in the American Journal of Human Genetics . Data from multi-year genetics conferences were collected and found that men were overrepresented in scientific meetings and symposia among the questioners. Women were on the other hand too short.
The authors of the study say that there are many explanations for the reluctance of women to comment at specialist conferences. But they also suggest that greater documentation of the gender gap and greater awareness of their existence could help address the imbalance.
Finally, the problem is not limited to the field of genetics. Previous work has shown that women are underrepresented as spokeswomen in a variety of scientific disciplines, including microbiology, virology and evolutionary biology.
"We miss" when the voices of women and minorities are not fully represented, Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview.
Collins himself has recently highlighted the lack of diversity – gender and otherwise – among speakers at scientific meetings.
"I want to send a clear message of concern," he wrote in a public statement. "It is time to end the science tradition of male-speaking bodies, sometimes referred to as" manels. "
Collins stated that "it is not enough to pay lip service to equality" Comment: In order to secure his participation, they must provide evidence that "scientists of all kinds" have been considered and invited to give lectures and meetings to lead.
"And I will not accept the idea there" There are not enough women in this area to fill these spaces, "Collins said in an interview," It just is not true.
The new research, which focuses on genetics conferences, offers a differentiated profile of women's representation in one of the most advanced scientific fields.
About 45% of the approximately 8,000 geneticists belonging to American society are women, and the work presented at annual conferences suggests that female geneticists make a major contribution to their field: in nine out of 14 subregions of the Genetics found that the proportion of women's work submitted to their general representation in society study authors found.
But the pattern was different in the question-and-answer part of the process, where professional reputation is shaped and research agendas are driven 65% of the questions were addressed to speakers.
Even in sessions where the majority of the audience were women, men dominated the survey.  "When women account for 70% of a room, they still only account for about 40% of the questions," said Natalie Telis, who led the study with Emily Glassberg while both earned their PhD from Stanford University.
According to Telis, 80% to 90% of the public should be women to ensure that the issue is shared equally between men and women.
Collins said that these measurements provide solid confirmation of his own experience.
"I have attended many scientific meetings and I can confirm that this would have been my observation: men are likely to flaunt themselves and demonstrate their competence and willingness to self-promotion," he said. "Women are less likely to do that."
Telis said that conference attendees who publicly question, contextualize or simply reinforce someone else's comments speak volumes about their sense of security among peers. It may come as no surprise, then, that male questioners tended to direct their inquiries to men, while female questioners tended to address their requests to women, as Cummings did. According to Telis, discrimination is not just gender-based but also implicit Preferences for "people like me" and prejudices against "others". There is also the possibility that increasing people's awareness of these preferences is an effective way of counteracting these subtle distortions.
Their preliminary findings sparked a broad discussion about women's participation in question and answer sessions.
As a result, she and her co-authors made a measurable difference. The proportion of women's questions following invited talks and plenary talks was similar to previous years. However, the proportion of interviews that were not answered by women fell from 51% to 30%.
Cummings, whose first conference question was asked during this meeting, stated that the new data certainly reflects their own experiences.  As she considered asking her to stand and ask a question, she sensed the weight of the possible judgment of the audience. Over the years, she had asked some male colleagues questions that were silly or misinformed. But such a misstep did not seem to be an option. This was no reason to stumble or wander into unknown territory, she concluded.
Now she has some data to back up these impressions, as well as colleagues who were skeptical of the obstacles that many women perceive.
"People are talking about it all the time," said Cummings, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "But that's actually data, and that's what scientists call in the language they understand."
Men ask most questions at scientific conferences; we can choose to change that
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