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    Christopher Cramer said:

    I don’t mean to continue to pile on, but surely it should be recognized that the excuse “a large fraction of the people already on the list was outside the control of the organizing committee, including medalists and newly-elected IAQMS members and previous organizers” merely serves to illustrate that extreme gender imbalance permeates all IAQMS activities.

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    Leanne C said:

    Merely adding women to the speaker roster does not solve the problem. In fact, it only strengthens the internalized bias many hold, that “men are better than women at quantitative/analytical reasoning; however since it is beneficial to be ‘politically correct’ in 2014, men need to help women be better represented by enforcing a strict gender ratio at conferences”.

    I find it extremely disturbing if not infuriating that women are still assessed on a different scale from men after establishing themselves in academia as outstanding members despite all the sexism they have faced along the way.

    What message does this send to all the young female students/postdocs pursuing theoretical chemistry and aspiring to join the ranks of academia? We are all but convinced that no matter what talent we possess, no matter how clever our ideas are, no matter how much we demonstrate to the world we are indeed the cream of the crop — we will never be recognized as such (equal to our male counterparts!) due to this bias.

    Why are there so few women in this field, then, indeed?

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    Jay Schufman said:

    I will not defend the inequality of women in any profession! However, 1 woman out of 27 people was on the speaker invite list! That’s 4%. My question is: What is the percentage of women currently engaged in and publishing new and current articles in Quantum Chemistry? If it’s more than 4%, then there might be a problem!

    Should there be more than 4% women engaged in Quantum Chemistry? Perhaps! Maybe! But if there isn’t, that is another and separate issue to be addressed, and not necessarily the problem of the speaker invite committee!

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    Emily Carter said:

    After seeing my remarks above, the organizer alerted me that in fact he had sent an email asking academy members for more suggested speakers including females five days prior to posting of the all-male speaker list. I immediately alerted Nature so as to correct the original blog post, which led to the clarification above. I would have to say this timeline only makes the case of discrimination stronger, since he did not wait to properly construct a speaker list representative of our profession, which, in answer to the query above is far higher than 4% female.
    Waiting five days before posting an all male speaker list is surely not an appropriate amount of time to get ideas from busy people, reach consensus among a committee, send out invitations, and get acceptances. All of that should have been done before anything was posted, which is the essence of the harm done here.

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    A Non Chymist said:

    This debacle seems to be a prime example of a tempest in a teapot.

    From the discussion and links above, my interpretation of what occurred is the following:

    1) The organizers of a major chemistry conference sit down and come up with a list of speakers, with the restraints that some are pre-defined, and those scientists who in the recent past already lectured in the conference series should not be considered.

    2) With two thirds of the speakers selected, they, commendably, recognize that the gender balance is skewed. They ask for help and recommendations from colleagues on filling the remaining slots, properly noting that more women would be desirable.

    3) In order to get attention toward their conference, the organizers proceed to put up a partial list of speakers on the web, a common or at least not rare practice. Being natural instead of social scientists, it probably never even occurs to them that someone would be offended by a list of good scientists within their field. Perhaps having a cultural background where gender equality isn’t constantly being discussed plays a role as well.

    4) A few prominent scientists within the field see the list of speakers, not knowing that the list is only partial and not final. Having first-hand experience of gender-based discrimination, to them, the absence of female speakers immediately jumps out.

    5) Before contacting the conference organizers, the offended scientists start a boycotting campaign against the conference.

    Mistakes were made by both parties. The conference organizers should have clearly communicated that the published list of speakers was preliminary, perhaps even waited until the final programme was complete. The boycott organizers should have started by asking the conference organizers “What’s up with this female-free speakers list?”. To err is, proverbially, very human, and scientists are just as human as the rest of the population.

    Had tempers been tempered, the community would now not be in such turmoil. For the conference itself it is of course unfortunate. I fear that, due to the too-quick-on-the-draw boycott campaign, the female speakers of the final list cannot help but feel that they really are after-thought additions, even when that never was the intention. Then again, this being a prominent conference, all speakers, regardless of gender or background, will probably be recognized as the great scientist they are.

    This whole exercise, although misplaced, at least serves as a reminder that the majority of the scientific community really does not accept discrimination. In the end, perhaps the undeservedly tarnished reputation of one specific chemistry conference isn’t such a high price to pay for this awareness to be further ingrained. Even though significant progress has taken place, discrimination unfortunately still does exist, and should naturally be abolished to the highest degree humanly possible.

    Cordially, A Caucasian Male Scientist

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