Joint FTF/COSWL/WGSS Research Project on Gender Presence in ALA Conference Presentations
Introduction
In 2006 a discussion took place on the FEMINIST list (Feminist Task Force’s (FTF) listserv) about the number of male presenters versus female presenters at ALA programs. List members felt that there were more men presenting in spite of the fact that the profession is heavily dominated by women. It was suggested that some kind of study be done to examine this issue and that it could come out of FTF and/or the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL). FTF continued the discussion at Annual and decided to move forward with a study and to ask both COSWL and the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section (WGSS) (then Women’s Studies Section (WSS)) to participate in what would be a joint project. Dr. Dolores Fidishun agreed to chair the project and those who were interested from the three groups were solicited to participate in coding and evaluating data.
Over the next few months a protocol was developed and presented. The goal of the study was to address the perception that there is a disproportionate ratio of male speakers to female speakers at ALA. It included the subgoals to: evaluate whether certain division or other entities have more female or male speakers, evaluate whether certain topics have more male or female speakers and to evaluate whether certain level programs, such as President’s programs have more female or male speakers.
Protocol for the Study
It was decided that the group would focus on ALA Annual using the years, 2007 inWashington, D. C., 2008 in Anaheim, CA and 2009 in Chicago, IL. ALA did not keep gender or diversity statistics on presenters and printed programs were the only access to the data. There were no electronic files available to convert for use in evaluation of the study making it necessary to scan copies of the programs and for coders to manually enter data about programs into an Excel spreadsheet. A research site was created on Penn State’s ANGEL course management system to be used as a repository for study documents and a place to upload data files as they were created.
Volunteer coders were assigned sections of the program listings and were responsible for coding the data into various fields. Sample coding of data from a year not included in the study was completed by two committee members to test the categories of for coding and the process. When that was completed the protocol was slightly revised, further directions were created, assignments were sent to committee members and coding began.
Data entered into the spreadsheet included: the name of speaker, probable gender (f/m), library type represented if library speaker (public, academic, etc.), name of program, number of speakers on program, sponsoring entity, co-sponsoring entities, indication of refereed or invited speaker, topic of program and level of program (ALA, section, division, roundtable, task force, etc.).
It was decided that the use of names was the only way to assume gender. This created an issue for names that are not usually gender-specific or that were not familiar to coders such as non- English names or non-traditional names. A protocol was developed for those names that are not clearly male or female. Coders were instructed that they could do minimal searching on the internet to establish gender but that they should not spend large amounts of time trying to establish gender if it could not readily be assumed. This decision was necessary because of the volume of data being coded. In addition, there were some presentations that did not list the presenters. In both of these cases presenters were coded as unknown.
Qualitative analysis was used for the evaluation of topics for presentations with coders listing a topic based on the program description and evaluators using thematic analysis to group like topics then considering gender representation for the program presenters in each topic.

Results


Before the details about data are shared it should also be noted that to this point those we have been contacted at ALA have not been able to give us breakdowns for gender of the membership of ALA or its Divisions, etc. or the current percentage of women to men in the profession so we cannot draw conclusions about the relationships to percentages of gender membership versus percentages of gender in presentations, etc. This information will be pursued at a later date.

Percentages of Gender in Annual Presentations As A Whole
For ALA Annual presentations for the three years individually, and as a whole, the data indicated that presentations were made by more females than males. It should be noted that due to minor coding variations and the amount of programs to be counted some evaluators had slightly different numbers of programs in some categories. When this happened the evaluators were polled for their results and reported numbers of programs were decided upon based on the prevalence of that count among the coders.
Total numbers of presenters:

Year
Female n
Male n
Unknown n
Female %
Male %
Unknown %
2007
466
262
37
61%
34%
5%
2008
369
219
49
58%
34%
8%
2009
577
266
104
61%
28%
11%
2007-09
1412
747
190
60%
32%
8%

2007-2009 Gender Analysis by Number of Speakers for a Program
When looking at the gender break-out for the number of speakers at ALA Annual Conference programs, there were only two categories in which there were more male than female speakers: programs in 2007 with four speakers and programs in 2008 with one speaker. Of these, only the 2007 programs with four speakers involved over 50% more male than female participants (139 males vs. 67 females).
For programs that had 2 – 17 speakers, there were 17 categories in which female speakers outnumbered male participants by over 50%. Fourteen of these categories occur in programming with 5 to 17 speakers.
All programs with 9 to seventeen speakers had over 50% more female participants than male participants for all three years of the study. The one exception may be a 2008 program with 13 speakers, because the gender could not be verified for 6 of the participants.
A trend than may be drawn from these findings is that the more speakers for a given program, the more likely the participating speakers will be female. Since so few programs involved 8 to 17 speakers, however, we cannot claim any statistical significance from the data. (The only program with 17 speakers occurred in 2008. The only program with 11 speakers occurred in 2007.) While the data might suggest women are more collaborative in programming involving eight or more speakers, many variables may influence the reasons for the gender representation at events with many speakers.
Number of Program Speakers
Male 2007
Female 2007
Unknown 2007
Male 2008
Female 2008
Unknown 2008
Male 2009
Female 2009
Unknown 2009
1
20
22
0
24
16
0
26
42
0
2
28
43
2
9
36
1
24
50
0
3
50
93
0
41
50
0
60
136
3
4
139
67
1
56
96
4
81
134
1
5
48
72
0
51
94
0
39
104
7
6
21
56
1
23
30
1
12
42
0
7
20
22
0
4
10
0
9
19
0
8
6
10
0
1
7
0
0
7
1
9
0
0
9
1
5
3
5
13
0
10
0
0
0
2
8
0
3
7
0
11
2
9
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
12
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
13
0
0
0
3
4
6
2
11
0
14
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
15
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
16
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
17
0
0
0
4
13
0
0
0
0


Sponsoring Entities

There were several sponsors that consistently had more male presenters than females. These included LITA, LLAMA, LLAMA/BES, RUSA/BRASS, BCALA and the SRRT. ACRL division programs had a little less prevalence of male presenters but still showed some male prominence. There were a number of sponsors who has more women presenters. These included: AASL, ALCTS, ALTAFF and PLA.

Program Topics

The Committee noted that there were a number of topics that distinctly stood out as having more male presenters. These included technology programs, those on digitization and preservation, buildings and equipment, safety and security issues in libraries, programs on business resources, management issues, environmental and sustainability programs, and programs on science resources and science fiction.

Refereed Versus Invited Presentations

In general there were more female than male presenters in both the refereed and invited categories of programs. In 2009 the referred presentations were 3/4 women which is slightly higher than the norm of 60% to 30%.

Affiliation of Presenters

The Committee did not find any real prominence of gender in the type of library or organizational affiliation with one minor exception. In programs presented by ALA staff there were 58 female presenters versus 9 male presenters. We do not have data for the percentage of gender among the ALA staff but the committee theorizes that this may be the reason for the numbers of presenters listed.

Level of Program

It was noted that among all levels of programs the only category that had more males than female presenters were President’s Programs from various entities, including ALA. The Division that had the most President’s Programs with heavily male presenters was LITA.

Recommendations About Dissemination And The Need For Further Study

The Committee found that the trends evidenced were fairly stable across all the years studied and so, although some in the sponsoring agencies had asked whether a similar study should be done for the 2010 and 2011 conferences, the Committee feels that this data provides a good snapshot of the current situation and does not recommend further study. Given the large amounts of data that would need to be evaluated the Committee feels there would not be much change in the results and it would not worth the large amount of time that this evaluation would require. It is suggested that if, in the future, there are once again questions about the gender percentages at Annual the study could be redone at that point.

The Committee asks COSWL to share the results of the study with ALA Council so that the entire organization can become aware of the results of the gender presence in presentations. As suggested originally by FTF, the group also suggests that this be disseminated more widely such via a vehicle such as a possible article in American Libraries. In addition, the final copy of the report should be put on the web site or presence of each of the three sponsoring entities.

For now the study data will remain on the Penn State ANGEL system where it has resided since the study began. The Committee requests that the data also be transferred to the WGSS archive at University of Illinois making it available for anyone who would like access to it in the future.


Conclusions

Overall the Committee commends ALA for gender representation of conference presenters that is mostly in concert with the gender representation of the profession. Clearly there are a number of topics where those arranging programs should be aware of the need to include more females, or in a few cases more males. It is also important to note that unfortunately the Association shows signs of societal stereotypes in areas such as programs on technology, statics, and buildings as well as Environmental and sustainability issues and science including science fiction. It is hoped that this survey will provide a tool to raise awareness of the issue of gender among presenters at future conferences.

This study was conducted by the Joint FTF/COSWL/WGSS Research Project on Gender Presence in ALA Conference Presentations Committee:

Chair:
Dolores Fidishun, Ed. D., Penn State University Libraries

Data Evaluators:
Erin Gratz, University of La Verne
Betty Glass, University of Nevada, Reno
Jane Ingold, Penn State University Libraries
Deborah Tenofsky, University of Cincinnati
Ellen Greenblatt, University of Colorado DenverDolores Fidishun, Penn State University Libraries

Data Coders:
Barbara Andrews, Immaculata University
Jill Barr Walker, New York University-Abu Dhabi
Marcia Barrett, University of Alabama Libraries
Kayo Denda, Rutgers University
Dolores Fidishun, Penn State University Libraries
Jennifer Gilley, Penn State University Libraries
Jane Glasby, San Francisco Public Library
Betty Glass, University of Nevada, Reno
Ellen Greenblatt, University of Colorado Denver
Erin Gratz, University of La Verne
Alexia Hudson, Penn State University Libraries
Cynthia Ingold, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jane Ingold, Penn State University Libraries
Amanda Maddock, Ohio State University at Mansfield
Rachel Masilamani, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
John Moorman, Williamsburg Regional Library
Jane Nichols, Oregon State University
Caitlin Shanley, University of Pennsylvania Libraries
Beth Strickland, University of Michigan
Theresa Tobin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, East Tennessee State University
Susan Wood, University of Memphis

Staff support:

Mary Murray, Penn State University Libraries

6/5/12