The Q/A session can be a daunting prospect, not only for the presenter but also for the audience members. Many of us have been in the position of having a question after a talk, but not quite daring to voice it. In a blog post over at The Female Scientist, immunologist Viki Male, suggests 7 steps to overcoming the fear of the Q/A and instead learn to use it to engage with the community and further your career goals. The post has some really good points – my favourite being “Let go of the idea that you have to ask “clever” questions. The most successful questions are usually the genuine ones.” It is worth a read.
The gender gap in asking questions is problematic because doing so is good for your career. Here are some tips on how to overcome your nerves and to get involved in Q&A sessions!
The evidence suggests that women ask fewer questions than men at conferences. It’s possible – indeed likely – that some of this effect can be accounted for by women being called on less often by the chair. But at least part of the problem is lacking the confidence to ask questions in front of an audience, and this seems to affect women more than men.
The gender gap in asking questions is problematic because doing so is good for your career. If you ask questions in departmental seminars, you will be noticed as an engaged scientist and good departmental citizen. This will be mentioned to your potential future employers and collaborators. When going up for internal awards, your engagement – or lack of it – will be noted and does influence your chance of success.