We investigated the hypothesis that the gender of conveners at scientific meetings influenced the gender distribution of invited speakers. Analysis of 460 symposia involving 1,845 speakers in two large meetings sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology revealed that having at least one woman member of the convening team correlated with a significantly higher proportion of invited female speakers and reduced the likelihood of an all-male symposium roster. Our results suggest that inclusion of more women as conveners may increase the proportion of women among invited speakers at scientific meetings.
Importance: The proportion of women entering scientific careers has increased substantially, but women remain underrepresented in academic ranks. Participation in meetings as a speaker is a factor of great importance for academic advancement. We found that having a woman as a convener greatly increased women's participation in symposia, suggesting that one mechanism for achieving gender balance at scientific meetings is to involve more women as conveners.