Summer is in full swing, which means it’s conference season! At every stage of our careers, conferences are essential for our growth as professionals, but these meetings need to be inclusive of everyone attending for them to have the most meaningful impact. Maybe you’ve never had any issues attending a conference and don’t really see why something like this would need to be discussed, in which case, great for you, but I implore you to keep reading!
Diversity within our scientific communities is extremely powerful and strengthens the outcomes of our work, however, the structure of our community has traditionally only taken one kind of person into account, which prevents the rest of the members from flourishing. We need to ensure that these critical meetings are inclusive from the planning stages all the way to the actual presentations given on the day. Whether you are planning the meeting, presenting or attending, there are ways we can all work together to make these experiences successful for everyone.
Luckily, other organizations have put together helpful resources focused on this specific topic that we can all benefit from. These are obviously just a few select resources – I urge you to start with these but seek out more.
- If you are planning a meeting or symposium, the 500 Women Scientists have created a comprehensive guide to organizing an inclusive meeting that is definitely worth using. It also explains what implicit bias is and why guides like this are necessary. There are also resources for mindful gender pronoun usage as well as ensuring gender neutral restrooms are available.
- To make sure that your conference is accessible to disabled people as well, Gabi Serrato Marks published this guide via the Union of Concerned Scientists. What’s great about this How-To is that it’s helpful for organizers, presenters and attendees.
- Does the conference have reasonable accommodations for lactating scientists? Access to these spaces is critical for those caring for infants while attending the conference – this wonderful guide is a great place for organizers to start as well as for attendees to use to suggest improvements.
- Academic conferences also need to be prepared to handle reports of harassment (sexual or otherwise) during the meeting. Does your professional society have a code of conduct for expected behavior and enforcement procedures to handle these issues? If not, the American Geophysical Union, has a great example to suggest for the future.
Conference season should be an exciting time for all scientists/physicians, let’s work together to make sure this becomes the reality.
Christa Trexler, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow in the cardiology department at UC San Diego studying the mechanisms behind cardiac development and pathology. She is also one of the coordinators of the 500 Women Scientists San Diego Pod, which focuses on promoting equality and inclusivity while advocating for science in the community. You can follow her tweets @ChristaTrex