Improving sex and gender identity equity and inclusion at conservation and ecology conferences

24 September 2020

Conferences are important for professional learning and for building academics' reputations and networks. All members of the scientific community should feel supported and free to contribute their best at such events. I evaluated the actions and policies of conferences held by international academic societies for ecology and conservation since 2009, to assess whether conferences support participation across sexual orientations and gender identities. Although half of the 30 conferences had codes of conduct promoting equity, diversity and inclusion, the quantity and quality of initiatives to support such principles varied between societies and years. Conferences with codes were significantly more likely to implement structural initiatives to minimize discrimination or harassment, such as procedures for reporting misconduct and submission guidelines to promote speaker diversity, as well as initiatives to support parents. Initiatives minimizing barriers to attendance were rare; 47% of conferences were held in locations that discriminate against certain identities and <10% promoted event safety and accessibility to potential attendees. Piecemeal actions and inadequate conference evaluation have resulted in no significant growth in gender equity or diversity initiatives. I propose a six-step timeline that improves conference inclusion by embedding diversity and equity into planning, financing, marketing, scientific and social scheduling, evaluation and reporting.