Scientists Call for Conference Boycott over All Male Shortlist

February 21, 2014
Editor: Sophia Zhu
Scientists Call for Conference Boycott over All Male Shortlist
The 15th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry (ICQC), to be held in Beijing in June next year, is facing a boycott from many scientists because it recently published a list of 24 confirmed speakers, all of them men. [baidu.com]
The 15th International Congress of Quantum Chemistry (ICQC), to be held in Beijing in June next year, is now facing a boycott from many scientists because it recently published a list of 24 confirmed speakers, all of them men.

The list, published on February 15th, provoked three eminent US theoretical chemists – Emily Carter of Princeton University, Laura Gagliardi of the University of Minnesota and Anna Krylov of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles – to set up a petition calling for a boycott of the conference.

The boycott has received overwhelming support from the rest of the scientific community. Consequently, Josef Michl, the president of IAQMS, which is organizing the event, has apologized.

Carter said in an email, "The discrimination much of the time is often just thoughtlessness: they just don't even think about the ramifications of putting on a program that includes no women – they don't even think about how deeply discouraging that can be for young women to not see anyone that looks like themselves speaking at a meeting."

Shuai Zhigang, conference chairman, also explained that one woman had been invited in the first round of invitations, but had not replied before the list was published. He says he has requested all members to recommend female scientists and there will be more women in the final list.

Shuai commented that the boycott is too "reluctant" in an interview by Chinese media. "Every year the ICQC will choose five to six scientists and one scientist under 40 years old, they have to be invited to the conference. Unfortunately, none of them have been female for the past three years." Shuai addressed the boycott as a lack of foundations and could be a show for some people in the interview.

Deputy Director of the Women Chemical Workers Association under the Chinese Chemical Society Fang Xiaohong also commented on the boycott, "Shuai is not someone who has no respect for female scientists. He has spoken out in support of female scientists on numerous occasions."

Underrepresentation is rampant in many fields for women. Why does it keep happening? Do those scientists overreact as Shuai put it or is it a much bigger issue, as Carter said, happening because the men involved are simply thoughtless?

The psychological state of a human is to choose people more like ourselves, hence men choose men. Could this be the explanation for the all male list? In fact the issue is much broader than merely including women in major theoretical conferences. It has to be addressed that omitting women from major conferences affects women's careers in terms of the recognition and distribution of the work they produce.

(Source:ifeng.com./Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

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