A recent post by Gerrit Kentner, who noticed that this year's annual conference of the DGfS (German Linguistics Society) features an all-male line-up of keynote speakers, sparked a lot of discussion on facebook regarding gender equality in linguistics (in Germany). This post intends to provide some data about gender ratios at the last 21 DGfS annual conferences; just to have a better understanding of the situation. I draw all information from the archived DGfS announcements.

Invited Speakers

While the DGfS annual conferences mainly consist of around 12 thematic workshops that are held in parallel, they feature (usually 4, but sometimes fewer) keynote talks by invited speakers. The question about the gender balance of the invited speakers is what got the current discussion going and what inspired this post. So let us have a look at the data from 1997–2007.

Female and male keynote speakers by year

Except for this year's all-male line-up of keynote speakers, the numbers were pretty balanced between 2008 and 2016, almost approaching a 1:1 ratio. To be precise: there were 51,4% female speakers from 2008–2016. However, 2007 had an all-male panel as well and in general, the situation from 1997–2007 was rather unbalanced in general: only a fourth (24,4%) of the keynote talks were given by women. Taking the entire time span from 1997–2017, this brings the percentage of women at keynote talks to just a bit more than a third (35%).

Main Organizers

The keynote speakers are the linguists that are get the most prominent spot during the annual conference,, not only because they get the attention of the majority of the participants and because they are listed in the program overview, but also because they are usually also featured prominently on the conference website and poster. Another prominent spot though is the one of the main organizer(s) of the entire conference, who are also listed in the announcement and who usually open the DGfS conference. So let us have a look at the numbers for female and male organizers as well.

Main Organizers

First note that there is a bit more variance when it comes to the numbers of main organizers than it was the case for keynote speakers. The annual conference had mostly just one (61,9%) or two (23,8%) main listed organizers.

When looking at the gender ratios, we get a very similar picture to the one for keynote speakers. Between 1997 and 2017, just a bit more than a third (36,6%) of main organizers were female. And even looking at 2008-2016, when we observed the “good run” for balanced panels of keynote speakers, the number of female main organizers is only 40%.

As an interesting data point, note that from the four years that the annual conference had only male keynote speakers (in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2017), the main organizer(s) were all-male in 2004, 2007, and 2017. Only in 2003, there was (also) a women listed as one of the main organizers.

Workshop Organizers

While keynote speakers get the most prominent spot and main organizers are responsible for the logistics of the conference, the actual linguistic work is done in the workshops, which are usually organized by two or three linguists. So let us now have a look at the numbers for the workshop organizers.

Workshop Organizers

On contrast to the numbers for keynote speakers and main organizers, the numbers for workshop organizers looks rather balanced. For the entire timespan from 1997–2017, there are 50,8% female organizers and even in 1997–2007, the percentage of female workshop organizers still was 46,8%. The lowest percentage was 30,8% in 2004 while, interestingly, the highest percentage will be this year (70,4%).


To summarize the numbers, let us have a look at the percentage of the female keynote speakers, main organizers, and workshop organizers together.

Percentages of women in each category

Percentages for 1997–2017: 35% female keynote speakers; 36.6% female main organizers; 49.8% female workshop organizers

What we can take away from this is that when it comes to keynote speakers and main organizers are rather unbalanced: women only constitute a bit more than a third of the keynote speakers and main organizers. When it comes to workshop organizers, we get a almost even split (49.8%). That is, while in this area, the situation seems pretty good, a lot could be done to improve the numbers for the more “prestigious” categories of keynote speakers and main organizers.

Two things I haven't done and which would also be interesting to have a look at:

  • The gender ratios of workshop speakers.
  • The gender ratios of invited speakers in workshops (if applicable and recoverable)
  • Statistics: I haven't done any statistic analysis of the date. It could be interesting to look for correlations or significant trends.

So if anyone would like to provide data for these aspects, I would be happy to incorporate them, and if anyone may want to have a statistically informed look at the date, I would be happy to provide the raw data.