Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Are your panel introductions gendered? Tips for moderators

Add this to our list of what panel moderators can do to advance gender equity at conferences: Making sure you don't undercut the women on the panel right at the start.

We're talking introductions here, specifically, whether moderators are introducing both male and female speakers with their formal titles, such as "doctor" for physicians and scientists.

Our friends at Gender Avenger shared When Doctors Are Not Called "Dr.": How Forms of Address Reveal Gender Bias, with the story of Dr. Julia Files, a physician and researcher. She reports:
A sinking feeling overtook me as I realized what had just happened.  I was an invited speaker at an event where I shared the program with three male physicians each of us presenting topics pertaining to our areas of expertise. The moderator (male) ended the program by thanking “Drs. X, Y, Z and Julia.” Wow! This wasn’t the first time I’d been inappropriately addressed by my first name in a professional setting, but it was certainly the most public and glaring example. Had he intended to strip me of my professional title? Did anyone else notice? Does this happen to other women, or is it just me? Instead of being appropriately proud of my contribution to the program I was stuck trying to process why this happened to me (again).
So the GA team pursued some research into gendered introductions, and took a special look at "grand rounds," educational weekly lectures in medical institutions where physicians share their expertise. Here's what they found:
We confirmed that whether doctors are introduced as “Dr.” depends on the gender of who introduces them. Women introducing any Grand Rounds speaker used “Dr.” virtually all the time (96%) regardless of the speaker’s gender. Men, on the other hand, were less formal overall: across all speaker introductions by men, only 2/3 ever included “Dr.”....Among introducers, there was a distinct gender difference in their use of titles: male speakers were introduced by men as “Dr.” 72% of the time, but less than half of the women were introduced as “Dr.” This is both statistically and socially significant.
Holders of non-medical doctoral degrees also experience the problem:
A top rule for moderators? Be consistent. If you're using titles, use them for all of your panelists, male and female. If you're only using first names, do the same for all. It's helpful to know the customs of the group before whom your panel is appearing, so ask the organizer if you don't know what is customary--and if what is customary also is gendered, show them how to do it right.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by aaron gilson)

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.