LMS Advice on Diversity of Speakers at Conferences and Seminars

Philosophy. Diversity has many forms. These include characteristics protected under UK law as well as other characteristics such as geographic location, economic class, career stage, and mathematical school. The health of mathematics relies on meetings allowing mathematicians with different characteristics and mathematical perspectives to mingle. This advice aims to aid organisers to ensure an appropriate list of speakers that represents all of the mathematical community.

Many groups are underrepresented in mathematics, including women and nonbinary people, black and minority ethnic people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and disabled mathematicians. Best practice involves ensuring a good mix across all characteristics.

After creating a list of speakers, ensure that everyone feels welcome in your conference. See, for example, our advice on creating a positive research environment at a conference or seminar. Organisers should also be aware that LMS offers top-up funds for researchers who need additional financial support (e.g., caring / disability support) to participate in mathematical activities.

Specific suggestions

  • The too long long list. Come up with a list in the usual way, whatever that means in the context of your event. Then ask each member of the organising committee to come up with some additional mathematicians from underrepresented groups. The result will be a long and diverse list of suitable invitees. Choose your short list from this long list. You may find this process results in an "over-representation" of mathematicians from underrepresented groups. That is okay.
  • Broaden your base. Think more broadly about the field from which you're recruiting: are there mathematicians working in other fields with overlapping interests? Also, inviting young mathematicians can help create a diverse group of speakers (with a caveat; see next bullet point).
  • Do not always invite the same senior people from underrepresented groups. Conversely, don't have a list of sixteen senior men and four young people from underrepresented groups.
  • Question reasonable-sounding assumptions. This can over-determine the situation. For example, if you say "we had a pure speaker last year, so they must be applied, and they were from the US last year, so they must be European" then you've cut your pool to a quarter of its original size, which may be less representative.
  • Look at the big picture. Look at data for the last N years, or look at conferences your target audience has been to recently, for a one-off event. If the speaker lists were dominated by particular areas of mathematics or institutions, look towards creating a complementary portfolio of talks for your event.
  • Explicitly reject the "no good women in this field" claim. If you find yourself stuck, consider asking a wider array of people for speaker recommendations that would provide a more diverse slate of speakers. There may be many people not currently in your research network that should be.
  • Think intersectionally. People from multiple underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability) are more likely to be overlooked. Keep this in mind when expanding your too long long list.
  • Consider the entire mathematical community. Mathematics is not restricted to a handful of research-intensive universities. Make sure that there is participation from smaller universities or industry is integrated into your event.
  • Do not give up. Perhaps the first few people of the invitation list decline your offer. Continue inviting mathematicians in a way so that your list of speakers represents the entire mathematical community. See the bullet points above for ways of generating lists of suitable people from all underrepresented groups. If the specific suggestions in this document have not been helpful, there are many other resources available, and it is worth searching online for further guidelines and suggestions.