more men attended the work-life balance session than women attended the social networking session

I am not an expert on the status of men and women in OR/MS, but I have two observations to offer.

1.  I was surprised to see that no women attended the social networking session at INFORMS (three women were on the panel).

2.  I was surprised to see that several men attended the work-life balance session at INFORMS.  Better yet, they even asked questions.

One step backward and one step forward. Certainly, there are gender disparities in blog readership (more men read blogs, particularly technical blogs), blog commenting (I’d wager than men are more likely to leave comments), twitter participation (more women tweet).  This might translate into disparities of who feels comfortable attending a social networking panel. (Note: by disparities, I literally mean differences, with no judgment attached).  I wonder about disparities because quite a few women asked me about the session during the conference (I received more inquiries from women than men) so I know that they were interested but didn’t show up. I don’t have a way to draw conclusions from my small sample of observations.

I’ll stop there before I put my foot in my mouth.  What do you think?

Related posts:

External links:

The social networking panelists at INFORMS

The social networking panelists at INFORMS courtesy of Anna Nagurney

6 responses to “more men attended the work-life balance session than women attended the social networking session

  • Paul Rubin

    The lack of women in the audience might relate to two other questions: how many women (other than the three of you on the panel) have OR blogs; and how many people in the audience did not have blogs and were not intending to start blogs? (I’m wondering to what extent the audience was people looking to start blogs or find strategies for improving their blogs, as opposed to just people curious about social media in general.)

  • Cameron Phillips

    According to recent research from the Work and Family Institute, more men than women are actually suffering from a work life imbalance. So the big question is why weren’t there more men than women at the WLB forum?

    The problem is complex, but the short version is that “work life balance” is still largely code for “mommy overload.” Not only does workplace culture still suggest that men should just “suck it up”, but men have spent 40 years watching women on the “mommy track” fighting harder to get ahead. Men still feel overwhelming pressure to be, first and foremost a breadwinner. As a result, they don’t want to speak out when they are stressed or be seen as “that guy who is always leaving to take care of his kids” for fear that they will inhibit their own career and potentially threaten the well being of their family. Until we frame WLB as something other than a women’s issue, men will continue to burn out at a higher rate, women will be left to carry the lions share at home and business will suffer in retention, recruitment and productivity.

    I run a business called “Bettermen Solutions” ( I help companies improve retention, recruitment and over-all productivity with my work life audits, workshops and keynotes. I’d love to hear from you.

  • Laura

    Cameron, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. These are all good points. Based on the many WLB discussions I’ve had with my husband, I could say much, much more about this. I agree that men have many challenges these days and should be included in the WLB discussion (to reflect this, two of the panelists were men). I was thrilled to see a few men comfortable to be at the WLB panel and ask questions–it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

  • anonymous

    What about conditional probabilities here? I couldn’t find the INFORMS 2010 attendees M/F ratio online, but I’m sure someone that’s been to a few can make a good estimate.

  • Laura

    Good point! I think I’ve heard that OR/MS is about 30% women, and I would estimate the conference attendance to be 20-30% women. Someone at INFORMS can probably make a better estimate.

  • guzinb

    Interesting observations. For the social networking session, I wanted to come but was presenting at a different session. Thanks for organizing it, by the way!

    I also agree that now with more women working, men also have work-life balance issues. I am actually very happy to hear that men came and participated!

    Cameron mentions that men typically don’t want to talk about their work-life balance issues for fear of consequences to their “job image”. I think the same can be said of women: I think women in male-dominated fields sometimes try to mask their problems so as to be seen as ‘strong’. So, it is possible that attending a work-life balance session might create the fear to be seen as ‘weak’ by some colleagues.

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