Is it who you node?

Tony Karrer at eLearning Technology, musing about Diversity in the Blogosphere, added a comment asking if “speakers at training conferences skews male or female? Keynote speakers I believe skew male. Do conference organizers pay attention to that when they select speakers, i.e., strive for diversity?”

My guess would have been, “It depends.” So I did a little surveying. Here’s a slight rehash of my reply to Tony:

I think there’s some logical correlation. For example, many speakers I’ve seen are vendors or consultants; for them, speaking can be a form of marketing, even if they’re not shilling. (You know the difference, and so does your audience.)Regarding gender, I just looked at the “sessions and learning activities” at the 4/06 eLearning Guild gathering in Boston. (Picked them only because I found them first.) I counted based on name, checked the photo when unsure:

Presentations by:

  • One male: 57
  • One female: 15
  • Two males: 9
  • Two females: 6
  • One male / one female: 10
  • Larger groups (3 or more): 4, of which one was all female

My hunch was that the 4:1 ratio of men to women in the “one presenter” category is skewed more heavily male than at, say, ISPI’s annual conference… so I looked at the educational sessions from ISPI 2007.

No photos, so I guessed based on name:

Presentations by:

  • One male: 45
  • One female: 40
  • Two males: 14
  • Two females: 16
  • One male / one female: 26
  • Three males: 6
  • Three females: 1
  • Three or more, mixed: 6

For ISPI, I had a few singles and half a dozen pairs for which I couldn’t guess sex based on name, so those aren’t in the total. I may have counted a woman as a man, or vice-versa (e.g., I took “Jody” to be male), but that wasn’t so often as to upset the overall pattern.

I would have said, with no evidence, that eLearning leans more to technology than ISPI does, and therefore would have been somewhat more heavily male. But I didn’t expect these numbers.I’m not sure what they mean, really, and they’re just two instances. The difference between the two conferences, however, is striking.

2 thoughts on “Is it who you node?

  1. I’m very late to this conversation, but I wanted to say that I was one of the female presenters at the 2006 Boston eLearning Guild gathering and I noticed two things: The audience was slightly skewed male, while the presenters were overwhelmingly male. So it’s not just the fact that elearning might be considered a techie “guy thing.” My completely unfounded assumption is that men are more likely to submit papers to speak at conferences, just as they appear to be more willing to blog. I have all sorts of opinions on why that might be, but that’s another conversation.

  2. Cathy,

    Good to have your additional perspective. One thing that mildly surprised me was the presumably more representative proportion of women at the ISPI session. (I wasn’t at that particular conference, but I’ve been to ten or twelve ISPI events, and would say they’re close to gender-equal.)

    4:1, though, as at eLearning Guild, is striking. It may not mean anything, or at least not anything significant.

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