The prominent conference R/Finance, held annually in Chicago, had a great program yesterday and today. As I wrote following last year’s conference, the organizers were criticized for including no women in its speaker lineup. The problem was that no women had submitted papers for consideration; no input, thus no output.
I’m a member of the Editorial Board of the R Journal, and out of curiosity, yesterday I did a gender count among papers I reviewed during my first two years of service, 2017 and 2018. I considered only first-author status, and found that I had accepted 54% of the papers by men, and 67% of those by women. That seems good, but only 20% of these papers were by women. I’m sure the numbers for my fellow board members were similar, and indeed for other journals in data science. For instance, in the current issue of the Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, only 3 of 18 paper have women as first authors.
Thus I felt that the activists’ criticisms last year were unfair. Not only had there been no submissions by women, hence no women speakers, but also the conference organizers quickly made amends when the problem was pointed out. They quickly arranged a special talk by a woman who had presented in a previous year, and also made room in the schedule for a talk by R Ladies on improving conditions for women in conferences. They promised to be proactive in encouraging women to submit papers this year.
The organizers did take strong proactive measures to improve things this year, and the results were highly impressive. There were 12 women presenters by my count out of 50-something, including an excellent keynote by Prof. Genevera Allen of Rice University. In addition, there were two women on the Program Committee.
We all know that finance is a male-dominated field. Thus it is not too surprising that the conference received no submissions by women last year (though, as noted, they had had women speakers in the past). But they are to be highly commended for turning things around, and indeed should serve as a model.