All-female speaker lineup at UC San Diego conference sparks controversy

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

To emphasize the number of successful female scientists in the field, the University of California, San Diego curated a conference featuring a lineup of only female presenters. However, the move has sparked controversy among some members of the scientific community, STAT News reports.

Four things to know:

1. The university's Center for Microbiome Innovation is expecting roughly 250 microbiome experts to attend its inaugural two-day International Microbiome Meeting, which takes place Feb. 26-28. The experts will have the opportunity to listen to 27 speakers during the conference, all of whom are women.

2. In an interview with STAT last week, conference organizer Sandrine Miller-Montgomery, PharmD, PhD, said the goal of the all-women lineup was to subvert the argument that male-only panels or mostly-male conferences are that way because it's difficult to find enough female speakers to achieve gender parity on stage.

"We are not the Amazons. We are not wanting to control the world. We just wanted to show it is possible to have 100 percent women speakers," she said.

3. However, an editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal argued in a recent article that the conference's all-female lineup may violate UCSD's standards about discriminating against certain groups of people. Shortly after the opinion piece was published, language about the conference's inclusivity goals was removed from its website and "updated to eliminate any confusion with regard to objectives," a UCSD spokesperson told STAT.

4. In an email to STAT after the WSJ opinion piece was published, Dr. Miller-Montgomery said she believed the piece "made an unfair representation of our intent."

To access the full report, click here.

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