Gender in Science Talks

Attention Fellow Astronomers!

If you'll be attending the upcoming AAS 223 in Washington DC, could you help me collect data for a project? This is for my "AAS Hack Day" idea.

The project stems from an anecdotal observation I made at a recent meeting I attended: the gender ratio of speakers did not appear to be the same as the gender ratio of the people who asked them questions. Part of this was due to a good mix/balance of age and gender in the talk lineup, and part of it because "gray beards" (with a known gender skew) often ask questions from the audience. This begat a slew of other questions: e.g. do women prefer to ask women questions? Do some subfields have better gender parity in speakers vs questioners? Does the questioners gender ratio match the AAS attendance as a whole?

Data is clearly needed to study this...

So I'm reaching out to you, dear colleague. I need 2 things:
1. Help me collect data on the genders of speakers versus questioners!
2. Help me spread the word so I can sample many different sessions/subfields!

The data I need is simple:
  • AAS Talk # (e.g. 123.45)
  • Gender of the speaker
  • Gender of the people who ask questions (a simple string of "MFMFMMFF" etc. is fine)

You can get me the data any way you like! Tweet it at me (@jradavenport), facebook msg me, email me (jrad - a t -, scribble it on a cocktail napkin, carrier pigeons.... or best of all use this handy webform (many thanks to Morgan Fouesneau for putting this together!)

I'll be posting more about this study of gender equality in scientific talks in the future, and will be shamelessly posting reminders/pleas for help throughout AAS223! If you have any thoughts on the project please let me know!

And please, if you like this idea (even if you're not attending AAS), share it online with your fellow astronomers! Thanks!


  1. Will your volunteers also note which questioners interrupted the talk, rather than waiting till the end?

  2. I'd be very interested in cross-posting your results on the Women In Astronomy Blog. Let me know you are interested in doing a guest post for us.

    1. I'd love to! I'll be in touch when analysis is done!


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