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Female Representation in ASMs

WIN committee members Lucy Modra, Danielle Austin and Sarah Yong, were amongst a group of authors who have raised important issues in their recent publication in the MJA: ‘Female representation at Australasian specialty conferences’.

The observational study assessed the proportion of female program speakers and the time allocated to them at Annual Scientific Meetings (ASMs).

Their results showed that the College of Intensive Care Medicine had the lowest proportion of female speakers at their ASM from 2012-2014, as compared with 5 other specialty colleges (ACEM, ANZCA, RACP, RACS & RANZCOG). In 2013, excluding the RACS, the proportion of female speakers was lower than the proportion of female doctors in the corresponding specialty workforce.

These results raised an important question: “Should the proportion of female speakers at conferences reflect their representation within the college membership? Or should conference organisers be striving for greater female representation?” (1).

If we are only encouraging the proportion of female speakers to reflect their representation within the College, we know that without encouraging a larger representation of women within the College, female speakers will remain low - currently within CICM only 4 of the 18 board members are women. It seems quite obvious that conference organisers should be looking to equal this gender imbalance within ASMs if Colleges claim to support equality within their specialities. Encouraging female representation within the CICM board members itself also seems imperative if we are to improve a gender balance.

Recently in 2013, at the CICM ASM, there was an apparent attempt to address this very issue: a time slot for Associate Professor Di Stephens to discuss gender imbalance in ICU. The title of her talk “Hallelujah It’s Reigning Men?’ seemed like the beginning of new things. It would appear that the organising committee were on track to change these statistics but even at that very ASM, Di Stephens was the only female national speaker out of a total of 14 (7.1%). Of the 4 international speakers, none of them were female. The organising committee was made up of 11 members, all of whom were men. Why was Associate Professor Stephens asked to speak about gender issues if the balance wasn’t already being addressed at that very meeting?

At the CICM ASM the following year, in 2014, women quadrupled their representation in the national speakers numbers to 4 but the number of national speakers totalled 40 at this conference, so only 10% of the speakers were women. An increase from the year before but only from 7.1% to 10%, but progress, you might say.

Dr Modra et al carefully set out to address an important issue, and the discussions it will generate will hopefully lead an increase in gender balance at speciality ASMs. Perhaps CICM can lead the way…

Read the full article here