Guest Blog by Angela Martin
Speaking at these events also sends a message to others in your demographic, that this is their space too. In a world without bias, at events that seek to address and find solutions to global issues, the diversity of global views should be heard and the global audience should be reflected by the diversity of the speakers.
Women and people of colour have repeatedly been excluded from these forums. And I know this goes beyond gender to class, sexual orientation, ability, age, religion and further.
Once it has been seen, it cannot be unseen.
I was shocked to learn that at one high profile international ocean-focused conference, taking place this year, the ratio of being a white male speaker is more than 2:1 than being any other demographic. The figure for being white versus any other demographic is much higher. And this is just one example, of which there are more.
It feels like we´re not making the progress we should be in 2018.
This is not the fault of the people on the speakers list. Systemic bias (whether through ignorance or otherwise) promotes men over women and white people over other demographics, in these situations, in perpetuity.
Unless we stop it.
We have an opportunity here to push back through W4O. I know Farah continues to raise the importance of diversity with her contacts, including conference organisers, film makers, journalists, and award panels. I encourage you to sign yourself up to the W4O map and database, now. I will proactively contact conference organisers and point them in the direction of that database. Let´s bury the excuse that it´s hard to find women or diverse speakers. Conference organisers, if you´re listening, we want to help you!
You can share the W4O map & database widely too. You can also approach conference organisers and call for change. If you know of a colleague seeking partners for a project, a journalist looking for an expert view, a person looking to donate to a worthy ocean cause, point them to the W4O map and database.
Don´t forget W4O has created a gender balance and inclusion bingo app to encourage better representation at conferences. If you experience or observe dismissive or inappropriate behaviour at a conference, use #W4OBingo to raise awareness on social media and to call for change. We know conference organisers can and want to do better, let´s help them. Also use the app to celebrate and applaud your positive experiences and observations.
Let´s open up the space for everyone.
It would be good to know your reasons for why you haven’t attended a conference, haven’t raised your hand to ask a question, haven’t applied to speak, have turned down an opportunity to speak. It’s likely that, if it’s happened to you, it’s happened to countless others and held them back too. If patterns emerge, we can work to overcome those barriers.
Let’s take a moment to give this movement a good push!
We don’t have time to wait for a broken system to fix itself.
Angela Martin is a Research Fellow at the Universitet i Agder in Norway, studying the role of fish in the carbon cycle, and has been an ambassador for Women4Oceans since its inception.
Note - As well as my personal experience and observations, I have been reading the work and experiences of many others, and learning through conversations and links shared between members of the Women in Academia Support Network (WIASN). Some links are below if you would like to learn more. - Angela