Who decides who speaks at conferences? Who writes content for the most widely-viewed websites? Do the demographics of the planners and organizers have an impact on which voices are heard and seen? Some recent articles provide important answers.
Students at Sweet Briar College were among more than 600 women who participated in “Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thons” this month. After finding out that fewer than 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors are female, students in a “Seminar on Women Artists” began to look up some of the people they were studying. Surprised to find that many key female artists were missing, they took it upon themselves to improve the information available online. To date, more than 100 female artists have been added to Wikipedia, and the pages of another 90 female artists have been improved thanks to the efforts of these students and others across the world.
But the disparities don’t stop on the web. A new study from researchers at Yale University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University found notable differences in invited conference speakers based on who served on planning committees. They wrote that ”symposia convened by all-male teams contained 25 percent female speakers on average. For the symposia in which the convener teams included at least one woman, women comprised an average of 43 percent of speakers—which meant that including at least one woman among the conveners increased the proportion of female speakers by 72 percent compared with symposia convened by men alone.”
Marie Wilson of the White House Project states, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” We might edit the statement to say, “it’s harder to be what you can’t see.” Either way, it is clear that diverse voices are needed to ensure that equitable representation is achieved.