Although the proportion of women in science, and in evolutionary biology in particular, has substantially increased over the last century, women remain underrepresented in academia, especially at senior levels. In addition, their scientific achievements do not always receive the same level of recognition as do men's, which can be reflected in a lower relative representation of women among invited speakers at conferences or specialized courses. Using announcements sent to the EvolDir mailing list between April 2016 and September 2017, and the symposium programs of three large evolutionary biology congresses held in summer 2017, we quantified the representation of women announced as invited speakers in conferences, congress symposia, and specialized courses. We compared the proportion of invited women to a baseline estimated using membership data of the associated scientific societies, and surveyed organizers to investigate their influence and that of potential gender-ratio guidelines on the proportion of invited women. We find that the average proportion of invited women is comparable (conferences), significantly lower (specialized courses), or significantly higher (congress symposia) than the current baseline (32% women). It is positively correlated to the proportion of women among the organizers, and it is on average higher for events whose organizers considered gender when choosing speakers than for those whose organizers did not. To investigate the impact of Equal Opportunity guidelines, we then collected longitudinal data on the proportion of invited women at two series of congresses, covering the 2001-2017 period. The proportion of invited women is higher when Equal Opportunity guidelines are announced. Encouraging women to sit on organizing committees of scientific events, and the establishment of visible Equal Opportunity guidelines, thus could be ways to ensure higher number of invited female speakers in the future. Our results suggest that change, if desired, requires deliberate actions.
Keywords: Academic conferences; diversity; equal opportunity; evolutionary biology; gender discrimination; implicit bias; invited speakers; women in STEM.