Conferences. I don’t know if I’ve ever attended one that I loved. If there’s a choice between sharing an air-conditioned room with 200 strangers while sipping instant coffee out of a polystyrene cup, and staying in bed – I’ll take the latter. Even smaller, arts-related conferences tend to share in a few of these annoyances. The chairs are wobbly, your tailbone goes numb thirty minutes in, and there’s always someone equipped with *shudder* more of a statement than a question.
We put up with all this in order to share in brilliant ideas.
Despite the grievances listed above, I’m the kind of person who attends a hell of a lot of conferences. That chick who just about elbowed you in the face as she rushed through the buzzing Aotea Centre? That was me! I was supposed to be in the room with the corporate-sounding name, near the third foyer, but underground?
Seriously though, I’ll deal with anything in order to see Roxane Gay.
It’s curious, then, that in the year of our lord 2019, Auckland University would host a manel.
With everything that would keep people from attending a dreaded conference, you would think the organisers of the Gluckman Symposium would try harder to entice audiences by providing a diverse range of talent. And that’s not to even mention what a poor choice it is to host a SCIENCE panel without any WOMEN in it, at a UNIVERSITY in 2019.
I attended an all-girls high school, and one of the things I loved about my school was that there were simply no ‘boys’ subjects’. Science class was full of brilliant girls. Maths class was full of brilliant girls. Drama class was full of brilliant girls. English class was full of brilliant girls. I must take for granted the rewiring such an education has done to my brain because it would never occur to me in a gazillion years to harass Katie Bouman, the computer scientist who led the creation of an algorithm that successfully captured the first image of a black hole.
It did occur to other people though. It occurred to a BUNCH of other people. The idea of a 29-year-old woman getting the credit for such a breakthrough in the STEM industry has been so abhorrent to some people, Bouman has faced an avalanche of organised abuse. As shocking a thing as this is to say, I won’t be surprised if she receives death threats. This is the world we live in. And to pretend that the exclusion of women from STEM panels (events, stories, classrooms) doesn’t correlate with the public’s perception of said women is woefully naïve at best, wilfully ignorant at worst.
When asked about this lack of diversity, Sir Peter Gluckman called the question unfair, citing his lack of involvement in organising the event. One might point out that Sir Peter seriously undersells himself if he thinks he doesn’t hold sway over an event called The Gluckman Symposium.
He might also look to other men in similar situations, who have pledged not to “serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair.”
The Gluckman Symposium has been and gone and, to be honest, my gripe isn’t really with them. The rest of the symposium DID include a number of women, and they are just one event.
I write instead to everyone else organising conferences this year. I have a question. Could you please pledge not to put together a manel in 2019?
Actually, it’s less of a question, more of a statement.Support Villainesse