A couple of weeks ago my colleagues and I submitted a session proposal to ESA (Paleoecological patterns, ecological processes, modeled scenarios: Crossing temporal scales to understand an uncertain future) for the 100th anniversary meeting in Baltimore. I’m very proud of our session proposal. Along with a great topic (and one dear to my heart) we had a long list of potential speakers, but we had to whittle it down to eight for the actual submission.
The speaker list consists of four male and four female researchers, a mix of early career and established researchers from three continents. It wasn’t hard. We were aware of the problem of gender bias, we thought of people who’s work we respected, who have new and exciting viewpoints, and who we would like to see at ESA. We didn’t try to shoehorn anybody in with false quotas, we didn’t pick people to force a balance. We simply picked the best people.
Out of the people we invited only two turned us down. While much has been said about higher rejection rates from female researchers (here, and here for the counterpoint), both of the people who turned us down were male, so, maybe we’re past that now?
This is the first time I’ve tried to organize a session and I’m very happy with the results (although I may have jinxed myself!). I think the session will be excellent because we have an excellent speakers list and a great narrative thread through the session, but my point is: It was so easy, there ought to be very little excuse for a skewed gender balance.
PS. Having now been self-congratulatory about gender I want to raise the fact that this speakers list does not address diversity in toto, which has been and continues to be an issue in ecology and the sciences in general. Recognizing there’s a problem is the first step to overcoming our unconscious biases.