The statistics of inequality

A year ago, when I was getting ready to present my talk at the Moscow chapter of ACM/SIGMOD, I was a little bit panic-ing, since it was a totally new experience for me. In order to deal with this panic and to convince myself there is nothing scary about it, I decided to watch a presentation of the talk given on the previous seminar. And after I watched it, I’ve started to panic even more.

You know why? Because a presentation was given by a guy, and after it is ended, all the questions asked from the audience came out in male voices. They never turned the camera around, so unfortunately I can’t tell, whether there were any women at all in the audience, but if there were some, they were silent.

When I’ve realized that, I decided to go over a complete list of all presentations given at the Russian chapter of the ACM/SIGMOD since the seminars started – in October 1991. I’ve counted all the presentations, and then counted all the presentations, where the speakers were female.  The results of my statistics gathering were crushing….

You may be wondering, why I am recalling this now, a year later? Well. Because last week the Moscow ACM/SIGMOD chapter had one more female presenter, and guess what – that was the first time since I’ve presented a year ago!

This being said, at this point the statistics look like this. Out of 175 total presentations given so far only 11 were presented by female speakers. And ironically out of those eleven five researches started their scientific career at the Database research group of the University of Saint Petersburg (including myself).

Now let me add something else. I’ve being asked, why I am bringing this subject again and again. After all, there is no real “rejection” process happening at this seminar. Well, I am bringing this up mostly for the sake of women in Computer Science themselves. How many times I’ve heard recently: “I do not like to speak in public”! A lot! Even from my younger co-workers, who should not have any of this baggage.

I really wish women would be more bold in volunteering to speak publicly, and I also wish that the organizers of such evens as the ACM/SIGMOD seminar would seek female speakers more actively. I am sure everybody will benefit from this.


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