Closed Ranks in Oceanography
Between 2001 and 2005, women earned 28% of awarded PhDs at the 17 US institutions with physical oceanography graduate programmes, yet only one out of eight talks was given by a female presenter in many of the relevant sessions at the February 2010 American Geophysical Union ‘Ocean Sciences’ meeting. An analysis of the type of jobs held by physical oceanography PhDs in the United States reveals that for those who earned PhDs from 1980 to 1995, the chances of attaining a tenure-track position were almost equal between men and women. Since then, the situation has deteriorated: for those who earned their PhD between 1996 and 2009, the fraction of women in the tenure track was only about a third of the fraction of men who passed that hurdle.
To investigate the observed gender dichotomy between the research and tenure tracks, we examined career paths of men and women in physical oceanography.
Bravo to LuAnne, Renellys and Amelia for these statistics. Not that they need more work, but I am wondering if the decrease in number of female oral presentations at meetings such as AGU coincided with the shift to majority poster presentations at those meetings, which means that session committees/chairman are now required to select only a very few of the submissions for oral presentations. If they are making decisions based on apparent “visibility”, or if only “invited” speakers are getting oral slots (and if they are inviting a preponderance of male speakers), then it could lead to this sort of bias.
In the first version of the paper which was quite a bit longer, I stated that the percentage of oral presentation could lead to more established scientists, and thus more likedly to be men, being more likely to give talks as opposed to posters. Unfortunately, Nature Geoscience limited the length of the article and we could not include everything that was in the first version. Your suggestion does suggest that session chairs should think about gender balance when putting together the oral versus poster sessions.