Skip navigation

A Powerful Engine for Inclusion: Virtual Meetings

Recent data shows a huge rise in female participation in scientific conferences thanks to the virtual medium. The next challenge: Better networking methods within the online realm to complete the experience.

With all the negatives that came to society and to the business world during the Covid pandemic, a few positive things came from the ordeal as well. For instance, there is a renewed focus on elements of life outside one’s work plus greater flexibility on where many people can work from.

And in the related area of career development, there is this: The shift that scientific and engineering conferences made to being held virtually over the past two years not only reduced their associated carbon footprints, but it also significantly improved diversity and inclusion at such meetings, according to a recent study led by the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin, and Arizona State University.

In short, when scientific conferences went online, female participation grew by more than 250 percent, and gender-queer scientist attendance jumped 700 percent.

Dr. Archana Pradhan, associate dean for clinical education and associate professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., told MeetingsNet several months back that “we doctors know that in-person is still very important” but online education that is interactive has become a formidable challenger. Also, “practitioners tend to prefer the in-person medium over the electronic when they are in earlier stages of their career, and if they are male.”

Because of that, “if we truly want to improve inclusion and diversity in science and engineering then we need to learn from the past two years and continue to develop alternative virtual-networking methods,” said Andrea Armani, the study's co-author and a chemical engineering and materials science professor at USC.

To read more about the study, click here. And to read about the hurdles that other audience segments face when deciding whether to attend scientific conferences in person or online, click here.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.