In which I rant about “we only choose the best conference proposals and we can’t help it if they’re mostly from men” #NewMR #MRX
I’ve had this post on my mind for many months now but I’ve been hesitant to write it. It seems today is the day.
If you’ve been following my speaker gender ratio post, you’ll see that I keep adding to the list conferences where fewer than 40% of speakers are women. Today, I added several to that bucket. On top of that, Ray Poynter just pointed out that the nine new and genuinely deserving fellows of the MRS are all, you guessed it, men. Have women not made any important contributions? I highly doubt it. So today is the day.
There are many different reasons for conferences to over index on male speakers but I’d like to address one reason in particular. Conference organizers regularly say they choose the abstracts that will be the most interesting and intriguing for their audience. If that means that most of the speakers are men, then so be it. Quality wins. As it rightly should.
Men do not propose better topics than women. Men do not have better ideas than women. Men do not propose more innovative nor more important ideas than women. This is truth.
How do I know? I’m lucky that I get to go to a lot of conferences. I’ve been in the audience for literally hundreds of talks. I’ve seen lots of men give horrible talks. But, as expected, the vast majority of talks given by men are fine. Not horrible, not great, just fine. Most male speakers are awkward or forget what they were going to say or don’t speak loud enough or rush or go over or under time. Most men are basically acceptable speakers. Such is the law of averages.
To be clear, most women are also basically acceptable speakers. I, for one, know I’m an awkward speaker who regularly forgets what I want to say. If the goal of conference organizers is to choose great speakers, well, I’m not seeing it. They could have randomly selected speakers by putting submissions in a hat and the quality of speakers wouldn’t decrease very much. It could even increase because the gems who keep submitting awkward proposals might actually get chosen.
And when it comes to the topics of the talks, most talks that men give are fairly ordinary. People like to think that THEIR talk is unique and innovative and offers a previously undiscovered point of view in their field but that’s usually not the case. The vast majority of talks given by men cover material that has already been addressed in twenty other talks at twenty other conferences and in twenty other white papers and fifty other blog posts. New material is exceedingly rare. Our industry simply doesn’t move very fast.
To be clear, most women also cover material that has been addressed in twenty other talks at twenty other conferences. Again, the topics I present are rarely truly new and innovative. If the goal was to choose innovative topics, I’m not seeing that either. Once again, we could randomly choose talks with a magician’s top hat and the degree of innovation would… Well, actually, the talks might be more innovative simply because people who stink at bragging would finally have their papers chosen.
Even better, random choosing based on top hats would increase the demographic diversity of speakers, and ensure speakers better reflect the diversity of submissions.
My point is that men and women are similarly generally ok speakers. Men and women give similarly ordinary talks. If submission acceptances for men outweigh acceptances for women, something is terribly wrong with how organizers identity “greatness.”
Maybe it’s time to completely rethink how conference proposals are reviewed. Maybe it’s time to use only blind submissions where names and companies are removed. Maybe it’s time to find a way to remove writing style gender cues that unconsciously affect our perceptions. Maybe it’s time to consciously review proposals with the mindset that some people brag and exaggerate the importance of their work whereas other people stick to the facts and discuss their findings within the confines of appropriate generalizations. Maybe it’s time to give the magician’s hat a chance – remove the obviously horrid submissions and then put every submission in the hat.
It could only improve things. Rant done.
(By reading this far, you hearby commit to submitting to at least one conference this year. Thank you for being part of the solution. )
Let me begin by saying I love AAPOR. I go to many conferences around the world and so can make some fair comparisons regarding the content and style of presentations. While AAPOR presentations are not known for skill in the physical presentation, AAPOR is top notch for its focus on methods and science. There is no fluff here. Give me content over decoration any day. I always recommend AAPOR conferences to my scientifically minded research friends. That said…
Today i heard inferences that the difference between probability panels and nonprobability panels is quality. Are you kidding me? Since when does recruitment method translate into poor quality. Different isn’t bad. It’s different. I know first hand just how much work goes into building a quality panel. It ain’t easy to find and continually interest people in your (my) boring and tedious surveys. Fit for purpose is the issue here. Don’t use a data source for point estimates when it’s not suited for point estimates.
And stop asking for response rates with nonprobability panels. High rates are not good and low rates are not bad. High response rates mean every person with a low response rate has been kicked off the panel. It does NOT mean you’re getting better representativity. Instead, ask about their data quality techniques. That’s what truly matters.
I heard today that a new paradigm is coming and AAPOR ought to lead it. Well, sadly, if AAPOR members still think response rates with panels are meaningful, nonprobability panels are worthless, and they’re still doing email subject line tests, oh my you’re in for a treat when you discover what eye-tracking is. AAPOR leading? Not even close. You’re meandering at the very end of an intensely competitive horse race.
Dear AAPOR, please enter the 21st century. Market researchers have been doing online surveys for twenty years. We finished our online/offline parallel tests ten years ago. We finished subject line testing ten years ago too. We’ve been doing big data for 50 years. We’ve been using social media data for 10 years. I could go on but there’s no need.
Where have you been all these years? Arguing that probability panels are the only valid method? That’s not good enough. Let me know when you’re open to learning from someone outside your bubble. Until then, I’ll be at the front of the horse race.
Enough already. I’m tired of presenters complaining that we show too much data in presentations and I’m tired of research users saying there are too much data in reports.
Data is massively important.
Without data, we would not be able to draw any conclusions. Without data, we would not understand consumers. Without data, researchers would not be able to independently determine whether they agree with someone else’s conclusions. Without data, there is no debate, no difference of opinion, no opportunity to become more comfortable using data, no opportunity to teach others about the use of data.
Data is not the issue. Data presentation is the issue. We need to learn how to choose the data points that best demonstrate the point we wish to make. And, we need to learn how to choose the chart that best presents that point. We need to stop choosing the first chart in Excel and instead choose the best chart, the best colours, the best formatting, the best labeling, and more. Easy and quick is not best. It’s lazy.
As part of your next presentation, INCLUDE DATA. For every single point you want to make. Write out a clear description of the point. Show me a clear representation of the data in a picture. And if you want to appeal to even more people, show me a audio visual component that brings the point to life. Give me all the factors I need to decide for myself whether I believe you. I’m not stupid and I don’t think you’re God. But give me all the pieces I need and I’ll figure it out for myself, perhaps come to the same conclusion as you, and then be impressed with your data.
We’ve gotten over the “DIY sucks” and realized that “Unskilled researchers” are the real problem.
Now it’s time to get over “Data sucks” and realize that “Poor data presentation” is the real problem.
- WAPOR Day 3: Margin of Error is too complicated to understand #AAPOR #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- When is a relationship not a relationship? #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- What Do Regression Models Indicate? #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
A kind friend recently gave me a $100 gift card from a major credit card company. The company obviously knows how to create an endearing and delightful customer experience that encourages life-long loyal users so I’m excited to spread the love and share the joy with all of my friends. Here is what I learned.
- Ensure the safety of the gift card. Brands should force the gift receiver to visit the brand’s website and register the card before it can be used. Ignore the fact that the purchase contract was between the credit card company and the purchaser. Insist that the gift receiver, an unaware third party, share their first name, last name, birth date, and email address so that their personal and private information may be added to a marketing database.
- Make the shopping experience the focus. In my case, I spent a good half hour choosing and trying on jeans, and after realizing that none of them fit well anyways, I took the best of the worst to the cash register and pulled out that $100 gift card. My new jeans actually cost $103 so I slapped 3 loonies on the counter and grinned. Woo hoo! $3 jeans! I watched as the cashier carefully wrapped and packed the jeans like they were the were most precious jeans on the planet. The cashier took the gift card, swiped it 7 times, and then asked, “Would you like to pay some other way” because the gift card didn’t work.
- Create opportunities for engagement. I had to void the purchase, return home, and call my friendly neighbourhood credit card representative to inquire about the problem. After enjoying some lovely tunes for 20 minutes, I was able to speak to someone and tell them my gift card didn’t work. He asked my name but was not satisfied that I wouldn’t tell him because I didn’t want it added to their marketing database. He insisted on a name for his records so I told him John Smith. Unfortunately, he informed me that John Smith wasn’t the name the gift card was registered with. So I told him my name was Private Private. Finally, he was willing to speak with me because that was the name I had registered the card with. Thank goodness I remembered because I register all kinds of things with all kinds of fake names, fake birthdays, and fake email addresses. Finally, he was allowed to tell me the problem with my non-working card. The problem was that I should have paid the $3 cash first and then the card would have worked. Of course, why didn’t I know that? All gift cards work exactly like that!
- Create new joyous shopping experiences. This time, I wasn’t naive. I didn’t spend half an hour tediously picking out an item. I needed new runners. I picked out new runners. $105. But I was wise. I brought the runners to the cash register, slapped a $5 bill on the counter, and helpfully informed the cashier to use the cash before the gift card. But she ignored me. She swiped the gift card first. Which worked. The first time.
So now I have a new pair of shoes and I still need new jeans. But let me tell you. If I ever want to give someone the fun of a gift card, it is absolutely not going to be that brand. Unless I need a gift for someone I don’t like. In that case, I will give the gift of annoyance. Hey….. Wait….
The lovely thing about social media is just how easy it is to throw your opinion out there. Indeed, anyone can whip off a short twitter rant or massively long essay style rant.
Here’s a long rant about alcohol at conferences, a position I feel for and wish more people would take to heart. Do read it if you haven’t already as it has generated much controversy.
This rant is about unrealistic and sexist comments that women have to put up with. It’s another good rant that will make you re-evaluate your own thought patterns.
And here is a rant is about the prices at Tiffany’s, as if we really expected them to be stunningly reasonable.
And finally, a rant about closed content in public places.
But you know, I love rants. I love how they share massive quantities of data in a very tight space. I love how other people respond to individual pieces of the opinion, each one creating yet another piece of data. I love that every time someone rants about a brand, my database of insight generating tidbits grows.
So my dear friends, I beg of you. Rant on. Oh yes, rant on.