Women of Color Get Snubbed in Offers to Present at a Major Earth Science Conference

Scientists from racial and ethnic minority populations, already underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are likely to have relatively fewer speaking opportunities at scientific conferences, according to the results of a new study authored by women scholars in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The research focused on the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an international nonprofit scientific association with approximately 60,000 members in 137 countries. The analysis showed that while female scientists as a whole had equal or more opportunities to speak at the Fall Meeting, women from ethnic minorities were invited to give fewer talks, invited to give talks less often, and opted for poster presentations more than researchers who were not from underrepresented minorities.

Margarita Azmitia, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a co-author of the study stated that “when reviewers — often senior White males —know the identity and rank of the authors of submissions, implicit biases influence their decisions and maintain the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the academy.”

Professor Azmitia added that “these biases and stereotypes also occur in STEM classes in high school and college, and they contribute to the migration of underrepresented students to non-STEM majors and professions where they feel more accepted, competent, and validated.”

The full study, “Women From Some Underrepresented Minorities Are Given Too Few Talks at World’s Largest Earth Science Conference,” was published in the journal Nature. It may be accessed here.

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