Not-All-Male Panels: Tips for Conference Organizers

My first post on all-male panels ( answered a reader’s question about how he should respond to an invitation to chair an all-male panel at this year’s SMT Annual Meeting in St. Louis. But what about future, not-necessarily-SMT conferences where speakers have not yet been invited? If you’re organizing a music theory conference yourself, how can you ensure the inclusion of women among invited speakers in a field where men outnumber women 2-to-1?

Here are some excellent tips from Feminist Philosophers (a sister or perhaps mother blog to What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?, the inspiration for our CSW site). The author(s) offer these suggestions to conference organizers, but also anthology editors and “anyone else who is putting together a collection of philosophers and finding they’re all male:”

“So, you’re trying to think of people to invite to your conference, and all the ones who come to mind are male. Well, there was one woman but she said she was too busy. You’ve read (perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere) about the harms this can do in terms of implicit bias and stereotype threat. So you’d like to avoid an all-male conference. How might you do this?
What follows are some suggestions:
1. Realise that the first names you think of are overwhelmingly likely to be male. This is exactly what work on implicit bias would predict. So if you want some female names, you’ll need to work a little harder. You might ask around a bit. Or you might look at the papers cited by some of the men you’ve thought of to find some women who work in the area. Neither of these is ideal, though, since the same biases will make it harder for others to think of women, or to remember to cite them. Perhaps a better idea is to search for your topic on [IIMP/Music Index/RILM], and see what women have written on it.
2. Studies have shown that women often need to have done a lot more to be considered successful than men do. There’s a good chance that you’re only thinking of super-famous women, while considering much less famous men. That is, you may well be setting the bar higher for women. So consider inviting some less famous women than those you first thought of. (This will also help redress injustice, since in many cases implicit bias will have been involved in these women being less famous.)
3. Don’t wait till the last minute to invite women.
4. If there really are not that many women in your field, perhaps consult with them first about dates. You have to ask someone first, so why not them?
5. Women are often at lower-prestige institutions, in lower ranked jobs. This means they’re likely to have less access to funds. (In a recent poll, we found that lack of funds was the top reason women declined invitations.) One way to make it more possible for women to attend would be to prioritise funding for those with less resources to draw upon. The super-famous often have super-big research accounts too. So go ahead and ask if they can self-fund. (If they’re offended by the question, they’re arseholes and you don’t want them at your conference.
6. Offer childcare at your conference. It’s not as hard as you think. [The CSW has found it’s not easy, either, but that’s a topic for another post. SMT does offer childcare grants to conference attendees, though; see]”

These tips are part of FP’s “Gendered Conference Campaign,” and–especially if you’ve been asking yourself “what’s the harm in having an all-male panels, anyway?”–I highly recommend reading their page explaining the reasons behind this campaign:

Finally, how could I not leave you with some music? Here’s a link to the Gendered Conference Campaign’s own theme song! (I think given our field, we should have a contest to come up with our own!)

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair

How Do I Post a Question or Contribute a Blog Post?

Last week, we launched our “Share Your Stories” page, where readers can post their experiences. But since comments are disabled on that page, what do you do if you’re looking for answers to a question or want to start a public conversation? For now, just go to “Contact Us,” and send your question or blog post idea to one of the e-mail addresses provided. (Right now, on June 11, 2015, it’s my address — — but that will change in the next few months so if you want up-to-date contact info go to our contact page.)

If you’re asking a question, please let us know whether you’re ok with us answering it publicly (in a blog post with comments enabled so other readers can join in the conversation).

(If you’re looking for advice on a personal matter that you’d like to keep confidential, please see our Ask Me! situational mentoring page and contact one of our mentors.)

Coming right up — the question of all-male panels.

Laurel Parsons, CSW Chair