What are the benefits of women-only initiatives? Answers from Paris-School of Economics PhD Students
One can worry that seminars are experienced differently by women than their colleagues, because women tend to display stronger behavioral responses to public speaking (Grosjean 2021), or because the audience treats female speakers differently (Dupas et al. 2022). This could result in lower participation of women in research seminars. We heard of a women-only informal meeting from PhD students, and wondered how it can be an introductory step to participation in regular seminars in such a context. Here are the participants answers.
Can you shortly describe the women-only initiative? How did it start?
“The idea originally came from two of us, who started to talk about their research to each other every Friday. They felt it was a good idea to extend it to other female PhD colleagues. As a result, we have been meeting every Friday since January 2022 for one hour. Sessions are dedicated to one particular project, and sometimes to questions that are specific to being a woman in academia. The format remains flexible, so this initiative has more to do with a group meeting than a seminar.”
What do you find in this informal seminar that is missing in others?
“We are a small group so we can interact easily, the allocation of the speaking time is well divided among us. We see this seminar as a way to share ideas about preliminary stages of our research agenda, in an informal and safe environment. We realized that we were feeling more comfortable doing so with female colleagues: in such a context, we feel more comfortable to present our research, ask questions and give feedback to one another. By contrast, in regular seminars, many of us are likely to censor themselves. Compared to other seminars, we can get feedback at an early-stage of our work, even when we do not have a clearly defined research question. We can also use this weekly time as a way to train ourselves before later presenting to a seminar or a conference.”
Which overall benefits did you notice since you started participating in this seminar?
“We observe several benefits to such a seminar. We feel more involved and more able to provide relevant advice, even in various economic fields. We also feel more supported during the phase in which we define a research question, an essential step that we usually go through on our own. Finally, this seminar is a good opportunity to fix some additional deadlines during the course of our work; it allows to stay motivated and to take a step back from our preliminary research by preparing a few slides to present. Moreover, we all benefit from having a space where we can talk about broader issues relating to the stress of the PhD, potential issues with co-authors, etc.”