Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
I have been quietly updating the male:female plenary count of ELT conferences worldwide for a year now. I tweet it each month, also fairly quietly as I don’t really use Twitter that much these days. It was never really a medium I fully embraced but it is useful as a record. So I can see, and so can you, how the year progressed.
Before we get to that, a little reminder how this counting was organised. Russ and I had done a similar count for our IATEFL talk Where are the Women in ELT? At that time we were counting retrospectively and a lot of information wasn’t available as conference websites don’t always keep pages live after an event has passed. So, beginning in November 2015, I redid it at the end of every month (or thereabouts) for the month ahead. I got the list of events from Tyson Seburn’s brilliantly useful calendar of ELT events. There are a number of caveats.
Not every event will be on that calendar (though I am sure it’s pretty comprehensive) but I added events if I heard about them from another source
The results of one year’s counting are:
75:59:41 male majority:female majority:equal
Number of slots in total 658, male = 360, female = 298
Or in other words:
42.5%:32.5%:23% male majority:female majority:equal
Slots to men 55%; slots to women 45%
My sense is that it has improved slightly for women’s representation over the year, though more because of losses in equal conferences than from male dominated ones, and we can see that by looking at the tweets embedded below. In the first few months up to winter early 2016 the ratios were 44%:27.5%:27:5%. Over the year both the men and women dominated plenary lineups would fluctuate up and down against the fluctuation in equal conferences and we’ve arrived not so far from where we started. So I think we can say that if ELT is 60:40 female to male based on predictions extrapolated from CELTA and DELTA numbers and IATEFL attendees in 2014, then we can say that the ratio of plenary speakers worldwide is a reversal of that. Note that there is not a single month where the number of equal or female dominated plenary lineups ever exceeded the male dominated ones.
And I suspect it won’t do any time soon.
This makes sense when we see the total number of plenary slots are not equal. They’re only 5% off being equal but they’re 15% off representing the make up of ELT. My guess therefore is that women actually must be the ones who have more power to change this than the men. If ELT is dominated by women then perhaps the committees that book plenary speakers are female. Perhaps the in-house teams in publishers that market books and organise which authors to send here and there are mostly female. Conference attendees, who vote with their ticket buying power, are majority female. If all three of those groups choose to ask why there are more male gurus and more male speakers in the highest profile roles at conferences, maybe there will be a more equal balance.
Some conferences are worse than others. And the ones that are bad are APPALLING.
I am looking at YOU British Council Algeria (2016, 5 male:0 female) …
… and YOU TESOL Arabia (2016, 8 male:2 female) … update, 2017 invited speakers (9:7)
… and YOU IATEFL Poland (2016, 7 male:2 female) …
… and YOU Adaptive Learning in Practice (2015, 5 male:1 female) …
… and YOU English Australia (2016, 5 male:1 female) …
and especially YOU MexTESOL (2015 9 male:3 female and 2016, 5 male:1 female) …
… and especially YOU IH Barcelona** with NO equal female and male plenaries in six years and 2016, 3 men: 2 women. update, 2017 (2:2)
** Update: IH statement regarding comments I made towards their statement in my ELT Gazette article about gender balance and their conferences in particular: Given recent comments concerning the gender balance of plenary speakers at ELT conferences in general and at the IH BCN ELT conference in particular, we feel that we need to give a formal response to this issue.
The values and policy of IH Barcelona are not to discriminate in terms of gender, race, sexuality or religion. However, it is true to say that in the past, we could have made more effort to consider male / female parity at the ELT Conference, and this is something we will look at more carefully in the future
Jonathan Dykes – Director
Sam Whiteley – Head of Teacher Training
International House Barcelona
There’s another group of course who can make a difference here. Male speakers who accept plenary roles, multiple times a year some of them. They can say “No, thanks for the offer but here are some women I really rate. Try them instead.” And they should unquestionably be doing that if they are looking at a proposed line up like any of the above. I think any man accepting a plenary at an event like those above should be embarrassed to do so. Absolutely ashamed by the idea of having his photo taken afterwards surrounded by women, too uncomfortable to share the event on social media.
As you can imagine when I have suggested the mere idea of turning down such a role I have been met with assurances that it’s not so glamorous, nor so financially gainful, but that they have mortgages to pay and can’t turn work down. Newsflash: women have mortgages and bills to pay too and you can spout on as much as you like about desiring equality but when you have more of something, someone else has less just because the system favours you and you can’t/don’t say no. ELT might not be as glamorous as rock star life but whatever industry you’re in, if you’re in the spotlight, you’re enjoying all the benefits that brings with it. If they’re small, they’re still more than those lower down who are paying their own way to go to conferences.
I am not sure if I can bring myself to carry on counting for the next 12 months. It’s indescribably tedious. I had no idea there were so many events all over the world and would bring up the calendar at the end of each month hoping it was a quiet one. May was so jam-packed I did it in 2 or 3 sessions. Sometimes I break it down into one week chunks and then force on through it as an endurance test knowing it will be over quicker if I can do more than one week.
What I might do is just look at the events on the list that were male heavy last year and see if they have caught on and caught up as we head into 2017. That I think I can force myself to do. It means, of course, that I won’t notice if some of the other conferences switch back to male dominated rather than female or equal. But I think, much as I hate to even partially agree with the people that dismiss plenaries as no big deal and not so far off equal anyway, that yes, actually the situation is probably much improved from further back in the past and that it is going in the right direction and has momentum because of things like the Fair List and a general move towards expecting, and demanding, to see women everywhere we see men. The outliers and the repeat offenders are perhaps the ones to watch as they are entrenched in an outmoded and unacceptable way of thinking and need something like Sauron’s eye relentlessly fixed in their direction.
More pleasant work on #WomeninELT is in the pipeline. Delayed by Brexit and summer and then the fact we’ve moved city this month, I have ideas still on my mind and will talk about them in my next post which, unlike last time I said that, isn’t going to be subject to any more delays. In fact it’s coming out tomorrow 🙂
Jan’s ELT conference count looks better. Plenary male:female:equal=1:1:3.3 Since Nov unequal but catching up? 13:8:8 https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) January 1, 2016
4th month of ELT conference counting: male majority plenaries 20: female 13: equal 8. So men still dominating…https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) February 1, 2016
ELT Conference countup March update, plenaries 26:16:13 male majority:female majority:equal. Gender gap widens 😦 https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) February 28, 2016
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) April 2, 2016
1/2way thru May,conf count up-> improving! 38:31:18 male majority:female:equal plenariesThx to events in Braz&Canada https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) April 28, 2016
7 mnths counting plenaries. Improving (tho some shocker events) 46% male dominated,36% female,20% equal https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY Pressure on?
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) May 2, 2016
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) June 5, 2016
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) August 2, 2016
Aug ELT conf count added! 61:47:33 male majority:female majority:equal https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) August 8, 2016
And I missed one.Guess which gender the missing figure got added to? 68:50:37 male majority:female majority:equal https://t.co/qF7bLLhVsY
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) September 12, 2016
A year in #ELT conferences=75:59:41 male majorityplenaries:female majority:equal. 42.5%:32.5%:23% Good enough??
— Nicola Prentis (@NicolaPrentis) October 3, 2016