'Not Amazons'

All-women lineup at science conference labeled discriminatory by men’s rights activists

(REUTERS/Paul Hackett/Files)

A scientific conference’s decision to only invite female speakers has become a topic of controversy after right-leaning groups denounced it as discriminatory.

The inaugural International Microbiome Meeting, which is being hosted by the University of California, San Diego, invited 27 women microbiome experts — and no men — to serve as presenters. The goal, the conference’s website initially claimed, was to “demonstrate that it is possible to have a large representation of women presenters in a scientific meeting by inviting only women speakers.” But despite the widespread normalcy of conferences with all-male presenters — a reality that is often justified by claims that the lack of women is explained by an absence of qualified female speakers — some men’s rights activists have taken exception to the decision.

Wall Street Journal columnist James Freeman took exception to the conference’s all-female lineup in an Op-Ed titled “No Men Allowed” that was picked up by conservative groups such as think-tank The American Enterprise Institute. According to Freeman, it was unjust and potentially a violation of the university’s standards for discrimination for the conference to explicitly seek out only women speakers. In response to the uproar, USCD removed the sentence laying out why only women were invited to speak.

Speaking with STAT News, the conference’s co-organizer, Sandrine Miller-Montgomery said that she felt Freeman had “made an unfair representation of our intent.” Last month, she noted, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference hosted three all-male panels and keynotes. And in June, a large annual biotechnology conference was centered around 25 all-male panels. According to Miller-Montgomery, it’s absurd to argue that the reason these events remain so dramatically male-dominated is because of a lack of qualified women.

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

Read the full story at STAT News.

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