Female convenors invite more female speakers (or do they?)

Women are underrepresented in most academic fields, including my own (economics), and especially at higher levels. People are always trying to find simple interventions to improve the situation. According to a new study in the microbiology journal mbio (reported somewhat breathlessly in the Atlantic) one such intervention is to ensure that women are amongst the organisers. This is argued to increase the probability of inviting female speakers (a worthy intermediate goal) which, they argue, will advance women in academia generally (the end goal):

“Put at least one woman on the team that organizes a scientific symposium, and that team will be much more likely to invite female speakers,” said study co-author Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of microbiology & immunology at Einstein, director of the College of Medicine’s Center for Immunological Sciences, and attending physician at Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein.

[from the press release]


ABC’s Q&A and panellist gender

Following up of my examination of the political affiliation of Q&A guests, I have done some very simple analysis of gender on Q&A, based on episodes since February 2009. Two results stand out: (1) the average Q&A panel had 2.8 men and  2.0 women and (2) even allowing for that, a man on a panel had around 50% more opportunities to speak.

The overall effect was that around two-thirds of words spoken by panellists on Q&A are spoken by a man (excluding the host, Tony Jones, of course).


Women in Australia’s Parliament

Is there an easy explanation for Tony Abbott’s male-dominated cabinet? Not that I can see.

Australia’s Prime Minister-elect, Tony Abbott, has received a lot of criticism for selecting only a single woman amongst his 19 cabinet ministers. ‘The cabinet of Afghanistan now has more women (three) in it’ noted acting Labor leader Chris Bowen. Or as the Guardian put it, somewhat more sedately, ‘Tony Abbott unveils experienced, male-dominated cabinet.’

This plays nicely into the Labor opposition’s continuing narrative that Abbot has a problem with women. But I’m unwilling to ascribe to malice what can be otherwise explained, so I wondered: perhaps the Guardian had inadvertently uncovered the cause. Perhaps, I thought, the Coalition simply has very few experienced female parliamentarians who would be suitable for cabinet positions.

It’s not a completely ridiculous idea: the proportion of female MPs has been steadily rising, so the median years of parliamentary experience of a female MP is certain to be less than that of a male MP. Could this explain Abbott’s cabinet?