A behind the scenes look at choosing speakers for the Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research, by Susan Abbott #MRX #Diversity
This is a guest post from my colleague Susan Abbot who was on the speaker selection committee for the Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research. After reading an earlier blog post of mine about diversity of speakers, Susan decided to run the numbers on the conference and see how the conference did. These numbers can be seen in context with others on my conference comparison post. I would be thrilled if other conferences followed suit because this type of transparency is how we can really determine where any problems may lie.
We received multiple proposals from the same speakers, in varying combinations. Any given name was only counted once, and counted in the place first recorded, which would have been in the order received.
Some proposals had more than one speaker. We counted only primary and secondary speakers.
Our keynote speaker is female. We did a search, and invited this individual to speak, we did not solicit proposals. Factors considered: wanted an expert on futures, wanted an expert based in Europe, wanted someone who would connect with our audience, wanted to be within our budget. We looked at three speakers from one organization as finalists, two males and a female, and felt the woman would connect better because she had some qualitative research background. She is not included in the numbers shown below.
Proposals received from:
|Primary speaker gender||Secondary speaker gender||Totals|
|Total count female||33||12||45||57%|
|Total count male||26||8||34||43%|
The final program line-up is as follows.
I would note here that some people who were offered a speaking slot (including both males and females) declined the offer, for a variety of reasons.
As well, I believe one male secondary speaker was added after the session was accepted, and I didn’t try to take that into account.
|Primary speaker gender||Secondary speaker gender||Totals|
|Final Program Female||19||6||25||58%|
|Final Program Male||13||5||18||42%|
We have a speaker committee of three people who have done a lot of conference planning work over the years.
In addition, I was involved in the initial discussions with the committee, and Kendall Nash, my co-chair, also participated in some of the final selections.
A consideration in forming the committee was to have at least one European (which we did, from the UK).
We did actively solicit speaker proposals through social media, through e-mail announcements with partner organizations, and so forth. The committee also invited noteworthy individuals to submit, and we made announcements at other industry events. Basically, looking for the best and brightest.
The initial review of proposals was blinded as to name and organization. It is difficult to do that entirely, because you see trademark phrases and styles in the proposal content that make it easy to guess, however I would say we worked hard NOT to guess. Where people recognized the content, or had close friends or associates with a proposal, they disclosed this and/or recused themselves from discussions.
I have to say that we didn’t really give gender a lot of consideration in discussions.
After an initial independent rating of each proposal by the committee members, any session rated below a cut-off was not given significant further consideration.
We DID give region/country quite a bit of consideration, as we wanted to have a truly global program, which we do. Since we had many more proposals of merit than we had speaking slots, we did not have to sacrifice anything to get this global mix.
In our final deliberations, we considered our collective knowledge of the individual’s skills at presenting, as well as how often we had seen them on a conference platform recently. We also tried to ensure that the same people are not on the podium every year, even if they are really good speakers, because they already get a lot of air time for their ideas.
So, I am pretty thrilled to see that gender does not appear to have been a factor in our deliberations.
Gender is clearly a factor in how people choose to engage with QRCA – our volunteers tend to skew female, and I think that chapter meeting attendance also skews female. I’m not sure about overall membership, and there is really no way to know about participation in the workforce, as there are a lot of people who do qualitative and other marketing research that are not members of any organization. My hypothesis is that conference speaking is a more appealing way for males to participate in the industry than volunteering is.
Insight and Innovation
Rating conferences on gender ratios is not easy. Though we may want every conference to be 50/50 male/female, it doesn’t always make sense.
- Not all industries are balanced on gender. For instance, qualitative researchers are much more likely to be female than male, and some regions in the world have very different employment rates for women and men.
- Men and women don’t necessarily submit at the same ratio. For instance, maybe 70% of the submissions were male and thus it makes sense that 70% of the speakers were male.
- Men and women don’t necessarily agree to speak at the same rate. A conference may offer equal numbers of acceptances to men and women but then it’s up to men and women to actually accept those offers. Conferences with 10 speakers can instantly drop from 50% female to 44% female if just one women declines the invitation.
- Normal variation means that sometimes a conference will have more men or more women. That’s just how numbers work and you can’t fault an organization because one time, one of their conferences wasn’t perfectly equal. But when ‘random’ variation across every conference is consistently in the same direction, you’ve got to wonder what’s happening behind the scenes.
Regardless, the best way to be aware of whether there may be gender issues is to actively measure reality. My methods aren’t perfect. I can’t always tell the gender of a speaker from their name and so I manually check names in LinkedIn and other times I leave that speaker out of the equation. I never know the submission rate by gender and so I can’t defend a conference that has few female speakers even if they had zero submissions from women. If you can correct my numbers, then I absolutely welcome your help. And, if you’ve been to a conference that I haven’t attended, do let me know the numbers and I’ll add them here.
TOTAL (Excluding AAPOR/WAPOR): 1845 men, 1096 women: 37% female
A: Ratios between 47% and 50% – Huge round of applause for any conference that lands here!
- TTRA June (Colorado): 194 speakers, 78 men, 89 women (cannot identify gender of many names) = 53% female
- TMRE October (Florida): 126 speakers, 65 women, 61 men = 52% female
- TMRE Consumer Insights May (California): 12 men, 12 women, 50% female
- IIR Insight Tech: 22 speakers, 11 men, 11 women: 50% female
- AAPOR/WAPOR June (Austin): 1463 speakers, 718 men, 745 women = 49% Male (Yes, you read that correctly. 745 female speakers.)
- Quirk’s Event February (USA): 126 speakers, 64 women, 62 men = 49% Male
- LIMRA June (Florida): 39 speakers, 19 women, 20 men = 49% Female
- NewMR February (Global online): 27 Speakers, 14 women, 13 men = 48% Male
- MRIA June (Canada): 63 speakers, 33 men, 30 women = 48% Female
- EphMRA June (Frankfurt): 45 speakers, 24 men, 21 women = 47% female
- AIMRI Under30 February (New York): 9 speakers, 5 men, 4 women = 44% Female. Although this percentage doesn’t strictly belong here, with 9 speakers it can’t get any more equal.
B: Ratios from 42% and 46%
- MRS Health February (London): 26 speakers, 12 men, 14 women = 46% male
- PMRG May (USA): 37 speakers, 17 women, 20 men = 46% female
- IIR New Face: 22 speakers, 12 women, 10 men = 45% male
- Qual360 February (Berlin): 32 speakers, 14 women, 18 men = 44% female
- Media Insights February (Florida): 56 speakers, 24 women, 32 men = 43% female
- IIeX Health April (Philadelphia): 40 speakers, 17 women, 23 men = 43% female
- NEMRA May (Massachusetts): 14 speakers, 6 men, 8 women = 43% male
- ARF Audience Measurement: 58 speakers, 25 women, 33 men = 43% female
- NEMRA May (New England): 14 speakers, 6 men, 8 women = 43% male
- WCQR March : 43 speakers, 18 men, 25 women = 42% male. One of the conference organizers ran the numbers and determined that the ratio of submissions from men and women was the same as for speakers. You can read details about their speaker selection process here.
- MRA ISC May (New Orleans): 43 speakers, 18 women, 25 men = 42% female
- CASRO CRC, October: 72 speakers, 42 men, 30 women: 42% female
C: Ratios from 37% and 41%
- MAGHREB SUMMIT January (Casablanca): 17 speakers, 10 men, 7 women = 41% female
- MRS Travel March (London): 22 speakers, 13 women, 9 men = 41% male
- ESOMAR LATAM April (Bogota): 32 speakers, 13 women, 19 men = 41% female
- ESOMAR APAC May (Tokyo): 51 speakers, 20 women, 31 men = 39% female
- Omnishopper July (Chicago): 67 speakers, 41 men, 26 women: 39% female
- AMSRS September (Melbourne): 61 speakers, 37 men, 24 women: 39% female
- BHBIA May (London): 39 speakers, 24 men, 15 women: 38% female
D: Ratios from 32% and 36%
- MRS National March (London): 94 speakers, 34 women, 60 men = 36% female
- MENAP Forum March (Dubai): 25 speakers, 9 women, 16 men = 36% female
- ESOMAR congress September (New Orleans): 72 speakers, 26 women, 46 men = 36% female
- CASRO Tech (New York): 11 speakers, 7 men, 4 women: 36% female
- PMRC Europe October (Berlin): 25 speakers, 16 men, 9 women: 36% female
- Shopper Brain, June (Chicago): 23 speakers, 15 men, 8 women: 35% female
- OmniShopper International, November (London): 31 speakers, 20 men, 11 women: 35% female
- CXfusion April (Las Vegas): 53 speakers, 18 women, 35 men = 34% female
- ARF ReThink: 141 speakers, 48 women, 93 men = 34% female
- Febelmar Februrary (Brussels): 21 speakers, 14 men, 7 women = 33% female
- MRA CEO January (Florida): 12 speakers, 4 women, 8 men = 33% female
- Sentiment Analysis Symposium July (New York): 15 speakers, 5 women, 10 men = 33% female
- Shopper Brain Amsterdam (June): 21 speakers, 14 men, 7 women: 33% female
- IIeX NA June (Atlanta): 194 speakers, 63 women, 131 men: 32% female
F: Ratios <32%
- MRS Kids January (UK): 29 speakers, 20 women, 9 men = 31% male
- MRSI February (India): 35 speakers, 24 men, 11 women = 31% female
- IIeX Europe March (Amsterdam): 115 speakers, 36 women, 79 men = 31% female
- IIR Analytics: 42 speakers, 13 women, 29 men = 31% female
- ARF ReThink March: 140 speakers, 96 men, 44 women = 31% female
- MRMW Europe: 54 speakers, 37 men, 17 women: 31% female
- IIeX Latam: 68 speakers, 47 men, 21 women: 31% female
- MRweek: 32 speakers, 22 men, 10 women: 31% female
- MRIA QRC January (Toronto): 15 speakers, 11 women, 4 men = 27% male
- CASRO Digital March (Texas): 46 speakers, 14 women, 32 men = 30% female
- CX Fusion: 53 speakers, 35 men, 16 women: 30% female
- BVM Kongress April (Berlin): 28 speakers, 8 women, 20 men = 29% female
- Market Research Exchange, Florida (May): 41 speakers, 29 men, 12 women = 29% female
- AMA Analytics February (Arizona): 18 speakers, 5 women, 13 men = 28% female.
- NMWF April (Dubai): 36 speakers, 9 women, 27 men: 25% female
- Insight Show MW May (London): 123 speakers, 30 women, 93 men: 24% female
- CX week May: 25 speakers, 6 women, 19 men = 24% female
- MRMW APAC March (Malaysia): 39 speakers, 8 women, 31 men = 21% female
- ESOMAR Big Data: 27 speakers, 22 men, 5 women: 16% female
- Text Analytics Event April (Chicago): 19 speakers, 3 women, 16 men = 16% female
- SampleCon January (USA): 40 speakers, 6 women, 34 men = 15% female
- Predictive Analytics World April: 28 speakers, 4 women, 24 men = 14% female
Upcoming ratings: ESOMAR congress September, AMSRS congress September. (Please let me know of others.)
What can YOU do?
- Submit! You can’t complain if you don’t join the cause. Take the plunge and submit your first proposal ever this year! Make it easier for conference organizers to find you by taking the first step yourself.
- Encourage! Look to your left and look to your right. Have your neighbors submitted to a conference yet? Well, maybe right now is the perfect time to encourage them to just do it!
- Demand diversity! When you notice that conference speakers reflect a very narrow group of people, point it out and ask for more. Organizers want to give you want you want. But first, you need to tell them what you want. And, still, sometimes organizers don’t realize what is happening.
- Recommend! Remember that awesome speaker you saw at the last company meeting? At the last chapter event? Email your favourite organization and let them know you found a speaker for them. Organizers can’t ask them to speak if they don’t know who to ask.
What can conferences do?
- Look at submissions from a new point of view. Realize that people from different walks of life write differently and that some proposal styles may have greater appeal to you. Notice how much the writing style is affecting your choice of content and remove your style preferences from the equation. Recognize that some equally high quality proposals brag and exaggerate, while others are factual and modest.
- Ask sponsors to promote diversity. As conference organizers, only you know when the collection of speakers has veered away from a diverse group. Take a proactive approach and let sponsors know you care about representing the entire community. Ask sponsors to send great speakers who don’t fit into traditional boxes – really old, really young, differently abled, non-white, women.
- Ask for recommendations. Not just of the most popular speakers who know other popular speakers. Ask your fringe speakers about other awesome fringe speakers.
- Go to Twitter. There are tons of lists of women speakers and experts. My Lovestats account has several lists you can use. WIRe has a list a women speakers. Just ask.
- Share your numbers. When it turns out that one of your conferences seems skewed, let people know that the submissions were also skewed. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if 30% of your speakers were female if only 30% of your submissions came from women.
- Be the change we want to see. Even if your speaker ratio matches the submission ratio, if it’s not mostly equal, do something about it! Don’t wait for submissions. Hunt for awesome speakers who didn’t submit.
Demand that your conferences be Diversity Approved! (Tweet this post!)
Similar posts for other conferences
- Because it’s 2015: I challenge you to make your #MRX conference Diversity Approved
- The gender split in #MRX conferences: we’re not there yet – 2015
- The Presenter Gender Split #IIeXap14
- The Gender Bias Rears its Face #ESOMAR
- The Conference Presenter Gender Gap #WAPOR
- Gender bias among #AAPOR presenters
Demand that your conferences be Diversity Approved! (Tweet this post!)
When Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked why his cabinet was 50% male and 50% female, his answer was simple. Because it’s 2015. Such a simple answer to a long standing problem.
As I look back over 2015, I see that “because it’s 2015” didn’t apply to every market research conference. Some conferences had speaker lists that were 70% male. Some conferences had speaker panels that were 100% male. No conferences had attendee lists nor industry lists that were 100% male let alone 70% male.
There are many reasons that men might be over-represented as speakers, but few that are acceptable.
- Random chance. As a lover of statistics, I accept that random chance will create some all male panels. But since I’ve never seen an all female panel, random chance is not what’s at play here. If you’d rather see the math, Greg Martin calculated the chance of having all male speakers here. It’s not good.
- 70% or more of submissions were from men. That also is an acceptable reason. If women aren’t submitting, then they can’t be selected. So on that note, it’s up to you ladies to make sure you submit at every chance you get. And don’t tell me you’re not good enough to speak. I ranted on that excuse already.
- You haven’t heard of any women working in this area. This excuse is unacceptable. You can’t look for speakers only inside your own comfortable friend list. Get out of your box. Get online. There are tons of women talking about every conceivable industry issue. Find one woman and ask her for recommendations. You can start here: Data science, Marketing research, Statistics, Tech.
- The best proposals happen to be from men. This excuse is also unacceptable. It demonstrates that you believe men are better than women. You need to broaden your perception of what ‘better’ means. Men and women speak in different ways so you need to listen in different ways. It’s good for you. Try it.
- Women decline when we ask them to speak. It’s a real shame particularly if women decline invitations more often than men. But any time a woman declines, ask her for a list of people she recommends. And then consider the women on that list. No women in the list? Then specifically ask her if she knows any women.
- It’s a paid talk and they only sent men. Know what? It’s okay to remind companies that their panel isn’t representative of the industry. You can suggest that they send a broader range of people.
- We didn’t realize this was a problem. Inexcusable. Diversity has been an issue for years. People have been pointing this out to market research conferences for years. The right time to fix things is always now.
When was the last time you prepared a sampling matrix balanced on age, gender, and ethnicity and then were pleased when it was 70% female, 70% age 50+, and 90% white? Never, that’s when. You stayed in field and implemented appropriate sampling techniques until your demographics were representative. This is absolutely no different.
So, to every conference organizer out there, ESOMAR, CASRO, MRA, MRIA, ARF, MRS, AMSRS, ESRA, AAPOR, I challenge you to review and correct your speaker list before announcing it.
- What percentage of submissions are from men versus women? Only when submissions are far from balanced is it acceptable for the acceptance list to be unbalanced.
- Are there any all male panels? Are there any all female panels? (By the way, all female panels talking about female issues do NOT count.)
- Are more than 55% of speakers male? Are more than 55% of speakers female?
- Is the invited speaker list well balanced? There is zero reason for invited speakers to NOT be representative.
- Did you actively ask companies to assist with ensuring that speakers were diverse?
If you can give appropriate answer to those questions, I invite you to publicly advertise your conference as Diversity Approved.
Will you accept this challenge for every conference you run in 2016? Will you:
- Post the gender ratio of submissions
- Post the gender ratio of acceptances
- Proudly advertise that your conference is “Diversity Approved”
Demand that your conferences be Diversity Approved! (Tweet this demand!)
I’m behind on conference tallies this year but I think this is a better way to do it anyways. I’ll continue to add all conferences to this page as the year progresses. Do note that I mainly attend quantitative research conferences so other types of conferences may have different results. Also note that, for the most part, quantitative research conferences don’t generally have a gender bias in terms of attendance – men and women are about equally likely to go.
These counts represent the number of speakers listed in the program not including any changes made after the fact. They are also based purely on my interpretation of people’s first names or their photo. If I didn’t know whether a name was likely male or female, I ignored it. Thus, counts will not accurately reflect reality. If you are able to provide a more accurate tally, I’d be more than happy to correct my numbers.
In addition, these numbers say nothing about the gender split that submitted applications to speak, and the gender split of those who were invited to speak but declined.
AAPOR Hollywood (To come)
MRIA Toronto 33 male, 43 female, 43% male
Given that the entire history of MR has been ridiculously in the other direction, this is a welcome and delightful change. The normal curve dictates that sometimes there are more male speakers and sometimes more female speakers. I do believe this is the FIRST EVER conference on the female side of the normal curve.
IIeX Atlanta 126 male, 53 female, 70% male
Ok folks. What happened here? This is too far from 50% for me to be okay with it. All the round tables were led by men. All the DIVA award judges were men. Here are the options: Skilled women aren’t in digital, tech, and innovation areas of MR. Women are choosing not to speak at this conference. Women weren’t sought out to speak at this conference. Which problem area can YOU address at the next conference.
In other words, if you doubted whether there are enough female speakers in the survey/research/polling niche, I can tell you that there are at least 412 of them. Most of the women I heard speak were good speakers and they knew their material. If you need a speaker, get the speaker list from this conference.
QRCA Orlando 25% male
Well, QRCA is a tough call. Everyone in the research industry knows that qualitative research is dominated by female researchers. But what exactly is the true ratio? Is it 25% male, 5% male, or 35%? If you’ve got those stats, i’d love to put them here so that readers can judge for themselves whether the speaker ratio here is acceptable.
AMSRS Sydney 57% male
CRC St. Louis 23 men, 18 women; 56% male. (Early program)
ESOMAR Dublin 98 men, 59 women; 62% Male. (Early program) We’re still a couple of weeks away from the official event so things may change but as of today, the program is leaning male dominated. Not good Esomar!
Why. Tell me why.
I know it’s not because the speaker organizers didn’t try. I know it’s not because there aren’t qualified female speakers. So what it leaves is this.
- Women think they aren’t qualified (Sorry, there are plenty of qualified women)
- Women think they have nothing new to talk about (Sorry, women have plenty to talk about)
- Women are too busy (Sorry, you’re no busier than anyone else)
- Women are terrible speakers (Sorry, you’re no worse than anyone else)
- Women aren’t submitting speaker proposals —- Well?
- Women are turning down speaker requests —- Well?
So ladies, the next time a request for proposals comes around, submit a proposal! Think about that awesome project you just worked on and turn it into a presentation. Ask a great speaker to mentor you so you feel more comfortable as a speaker yourself. Make the time to do it. It’s good for you and your career. Diversity comes in all forms and you are one of them.
Submit. Speak. Make me proud. 🙂
And now it’s time to check on the gender ratio of presentations at ESOMAR, a little task I try to do at every conference I attend. Since I am not an expert in first names around the world, I’ve only inferred gender from names where I am fairly confident that it represents a man or a women.
For all the speaker/author names listed in the ESOMAR programme, 42 were for women and 60 were for men. Thus, out of 102 names I could infer gender from, 41% were for women. That is definitely a bias towards male presenters, certainly not as bad as it has been in decades past, but a bias nonetheless.
The usual suspects include:
- Ladies, did you submit a proposal? If not, WHY NOT? Your ideas are as just as good as anyone else’s. If you don’t submit, you will not be chosen. Get in the game and make your voice heard!
- Ladies, did you make your proposal sound as confident as possible? Other presenters are certain that their idea is the most astonishingly new and innovative idea out there. Even if you think your idea is old and boring, you need to present it with as much confidence as you possibly can. THAT’s how your proposal will be chosen.
- And of course, maybe the conference committee was biased towards proposals from men? Very likely not, but it’s always possible. Reasons we don’t like are still reasons to think about.
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I always like to evaluate the speaker gender ratio at conferences. This is my first time at a World Association of Public Opinion Researchers, and so a quick check is definitely in order.
I’ve got the conference guide in front of me and I’ve coded the first names of all the first speakers for each paper. Given the much higher rate of attendance by non-English speakers, my ability to infer gender is greatly reduced. Since there are many names I am unable to code, my numbers may not generalize well. Here goes.
Of the 108 first names I could infer from, 47 were female names and 61 were male names. If you can’t divide 47 by 108, that’s 44%. In my books, that’s a slight bias towards male speakers.
At least one of these is the cause:
1) fewer women than men submit papers
2) women don’t brag enough in their submissions and so they aren’t chosen
3) women’s submissions are less likely to be chosen due to sexism of the judging panel, whether conscious or unconscious. (Everyone is sexist is one way or the other, be honest with yourself.)
If I had to guess, I’d say #1 is 50% of the problem, #2 is 45% of the problem, and #3 is 5% of the problem.
Most market research conferences suffer from the same problem – old white guy syndrome. It’s hard to say whether women are less likely to be accepted as presenters or less likely to offer to be presenters. Either way, men are often much more likely to be presenters.
With such a large program, I just had to check whether #AAPOR suffered from this problem as well. My methodology is not perfect. I am unfamiliar with gender associations of non-Canadian names and so ignored all names that I didn’t recognize. I also ignored all names that could be male or female like Chris.
I ended up with 320 names that I was 99% confident with.
148 were women and 172 were men.
That’s 46.2% and 53.8%.
And you know what? That’s pretty damn awesome! Whatever you’re doing #AAPOR, keep it up!
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