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The role of academic conferences in the [re]production of gender inequality in business disciplines: not just a STEM problem

Trudie Walters (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Najmeh Hassanli (University of Technology Sydney, Haymarket, Australia)
Wiebke Finkler (University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 28 December 2021

Issue publication date: 10 January 2022




In this paper the authors seek to understand how academic conferences [re]produce deeply embedded gendered patterns of interaction and informal norms within the business disciplines.


Drawing on Acker's (2012) established and updated theory of gendered organisations, the authors focus on the role of academic conferences in the reproduction of gendered practices in the business disciplines. The authors surveyed academics at top universities in Australia and New Zealand who had attended international conferences in their discipline area.


Academic conferences in the business disciplines communicate organisational logic and act as gendered substructures that [re]produce gendered practices, through the hierarchy of conference participation. Even in disciplinary conferences with a significant proportion of women delegates, the entrenched organisational logic is manifest in the bodies that perform keynote and visible expert roles, perpetuating the notion of the “ideal academic” as male.

Practical implications

The authors call for disciplinary associations to formulate an equality policy, which covers all facets of conference delivery, to which institutions must then respond in their bid to host the conference and which then forms part of the selection criteria; explicitly communicate why equality is important and what decisions the association and hosts took to address it; and develop databases of women experts to remove the most common excuse for the lack of women keynote speakers. Men, question conference hosts when asked to be a keynote speaker or panelist: Are half of the speakers women and is there diversity in the line-up? If not, provide the names of women to take your place.


The contribution of this study is twofold. First is the focus on revealing the underlying processes that contribute to the [re]production of gender inequality at academic conferences: the “how” rather than the “what”. Second, the authors believe it to be the first study to investigate academic conferences across the spectrum of business disciplines.



Data collection for this project was supported by a University of Otago Commerce Research Grant.


Walters, T., Hassanli, N. and Finkler, W. (2022), "The role of academic conferences in the [re]production of gender inequality in business disciplines: not just a STEM problem", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 107-123.



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