Where are all the female speakers in STEM? IP Expo Manchester has more speakers named David than women
Women are grossly underrepresented as speakers at tech conferences, and IP Expo Manchester, opening today in Manchester, is no exception, as a Project Ada analysis reveals it has just seven per cent female speakers.
The problem is a familiar one: women are missing not just from the industry, but on stage. Even when an event’s audience is more equally split between genders, among keynote speakers and panelists women can still be hard to find, and all-male panels still all too common.
At IP Expo Manchester, held 18-19 May, just three of the 43 speakers advertised on the website are women. A whole 92.5 per cent of the speakers are male.
In fact, there are more Davids among the event’s speakers than there are women, as we found that four of the promoted speakers are named David – and just three are women.
IP Expo Manchester’s organisers tell Project Ada they’d love to see more female keynote speakers and panelists:
“It is one of our main aims, that we remain focused on attracting the thought leaders in the field, irrespective of gender but would certainly like to see a bigger representation from the talented women in technology,” said a spokesperson for the event.
This isn’t just a problem for IP Expo. “Where are the women speakers?” is a question that’s been asked time and again. It’s a vicious circle, of course: with a lack of women in the industry leading to a lack of women on stage – damaging women’s career prospects.
But women are underrepresented even when taking into account their smaller numbers in STEM industries. And not all the blame can be laid at organisers’ feet: Women, it seems, are more likely to say no, when asked.
In 2013, researchers from the University of Sheffield found 50 per cent of female biologists turned down an invitation to speak, against just 26% of men.
IP Expo Manchester’s spokesperson confirmed this has been a difficulty:
We’ve worked really hard to promote gender equality on our keynote programmes, however, despite approaching a huge selection of relevant, qualified female speakers it is really difficult to get commitment.
So is there a good way of solving the problem? One study suggests that an effective way of increasing female speakers is actually quite simple: make sure there is at least one woman organising the event.
One woman makes all the difference, according to researchers at Yale University and Yeshiva University, who found that having one or more women involved in organizing scientific conference increased the proportion of female speakers by 72 per cent.