Wednesday, October 18, 2006

WIS: Small Conference edition

This conference is small (~100 people) mostly faculty and post-docs from across the US and all working in a specific discipline.

And the conference population is mostly male (90% +). So of course in service of my blog readers I've been thinking about gender issues when not totally preoccupied with ology.

  1. The institution where I am now is over-represented in the conference population because it is local. And the most striking effect of that over-representation is that the attendees from Utopia are ~50% women. Which makes me wonder whether women in -ology don't travel to conferences as much as their male counterparts (because of family obligations, etc.)? Or whether Utopia has really been quite exceptional in recruiting and retaining female faculty members and post-docs? Unfortunately, a quick survey of the literature will tell you that the explanation is the latter rather than the former. Another reason Utopia deserves its pseudonym but a bit disheartening as I contemplate moving on.
  2. The women at the conference seem to be paid equal respect and listened to as befits their expertise. However, the official after-conference social activity the first night was a pub crawl (along with complementary conference-emblem emblazened mugs) which is such an innately male thing to do that I wasn't the only woman attendee who commented on it.
  3. Of all of the women at the conference that I have talked to (and I've talked to most) only one woman has any children. The other female post-docs and jr. faculty attending are universally single (in a universe of 4). I'm finding that my thinking about time frames for research and collaboration and travel are biased and filtered in a way that is not common even among my female colleagues.
  4. The best thing about being at a predominantly male conference. No line for the bathroom. ever.
And now I've got to get back to it.


ceresina said...

Hee! I love your "best thing about a predominantly male conference."
I do know some women who like pub crawls. Since I don't know many people who like them at all, it sorta balances out 50/50.
Yay! for Mini having lung sacs. :-)

turtlebella said...

Yes, now we *know* you aren't in ecology which has lots of women in it!

This is a bit disheartening. At my current institution there is a single woman (meaning one woman) who has children, and she adopted after she got tenure. And this is in a large, very well-known (i.e., one of the top programs in the country in my discipline) department with 10 out of 32 faculty being female. My advisor has been known to say that female scientists shouldn't have children if they are really dedicated to science; but to be fair I think she was speaking about her own decision and the person who heard it (a female grad student) took it personally. So that doesn't make one feel really good about having children and being a successful scientist. However, I think things are changing. Many of the female post-docs I know here are married and/or have children and are successful, I don't believe anyone on the faculty thinks the worse of them. And lots of junior faculty I know at other institutions have children. A sign of hope, anyway.

PhD Mom said...

I find that having children does take time away from other activities. For me this is free time, though and not work. Although it would be nice to have more time for reading, knitting, music, TV, video games, etc. I find that my children are much more rewarding than those activities. Hopefully you will find a balance that suits you as well.

As far as the pub crawl goes...don't most confernece events in the evening center around drinking in some way?

volcano girl said...

Here's another thing that is annoying about going to a dominantly mate conference --

unwanted flirtatious advances.

And I finally have a wedding band to ward them off!

Annie said...

Okay, so maybe I suck, but I don't think pub crawls are ALWAYS a bad idea... I remember a few fun trips around the Point with you, kid. (Although I'll give you the point that it's really dull when you're pregnant, and therefore the perpetual DD.)

Anonymous said...

Volcano girl:
mate conference? No wonder they flirt.

As for the ring, does it actually work as a ward, or does it simply function as a high-pass sleaze filter?

SW: Can you think of an alternative activity to the pub crawl that allows the same level of networking, socializing, and facilitation of blackmailable activity?

MissPrism said...

I'd never thought of pub crawls as particularly male - maybe it's a drink-addled Brit thing.

But I do sympathise. I was at a one-day conference yesterday and we heard women's voices for a total of about 2 minutes in eight hours, of which one and a half minutes was someone from the host institution telling us where the fire exits were. Another 10 seconds was me asking a question - and I was picked last and told "make it quick".

On the bathroom thing - I used the tampon machine in the ladies' toilets of a university maths building once, and the special offer on the packet expired in 1983.

B said...

I don't really mind the pub crawl itself (I like beer :) although, being pregnant can really put a damper on that ;)
But, I guess I don't really like the aspect of it still ending up very male dominated, very old boys club like. Previously, I have forgone the drinking and felt like, because I didn't mingle w/ the old guys, I wasn't IN. But my ability to sit and bullshit while drinking is not really related to my ability to process science and present posters, so I guess I'm over it? Or given in to drinking...