Accountability 101: The Biochemical Society Strives for Balance

When you’re in the business of calling organizations out on their poor representation of women, you witness a fair amount of deflection and defensiveness. Often, when GenderAvenger points out the lack of women on a conference or panel we get non-answers. One that comes up often is “We are always looking for ideas. Could you please send some names?” On the surface this may sound like someone who is open to fixing the problem, but what it really says is they haven’t tried or looked very hard.

The Biochemical Society recently released a statement with concrete suggestions for improving the gender balance in their conferences in hopes of setting an example for the rest of the field. While the Society already had an existing policy requiring “appropriate representation of women as invited speakers” and aspired “to reach up to 40% female speakers”, the authors of the statement recognized, on their own, that this was not enough and that they could, and should, do better.

The Biochemical Society's statement reads:

…It is time to update these guidelines… we should aspire to true “gender equality” rather than “appropriate representation”. Scientific meetings need to reflect our aspiration for a fair, equal representation and not continue to reflect the shortcomings of a wider gender equality problem in our academic institutions. It is time for our community to take concrete steps to address this very important issue.

Bravo, Biochemical Society. This is how it’s done. They see a problem and are addressing it. There are many organizations taking active steps as well, reshaping their internal policies or offering lists and databases so that ‘we couldn’t find any’ will cease to be an excuse. Initiatives such as Women Also Know Stuff and Innovation Women and lists such as “103 Speakers you Need at Your Next Journalism Event to Avoid All-male Panels” are great examples, and now the Biochemical Society joins them. We applaud you all and the necessary work you do.

Have any favorite organizations tackling gender balance head on? Let us know.