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At Major Engineering Conferences, Women Are Still Hard to Find

March 13, 2019 / Ramin Skibba

More than 15,000 attendees and 700 exhibitors descended upon downtown San Diego last week for the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC), presenting and talking about the latest developments in the field, such as new kinds of integrated circuits for mobile phones and quantum computing technologies. As with many conferences, there was much to see and discuss, but one topic, in particular, became something of a sore spot with engineers in the field: Nearly all of the high-profile speakers were men.
We are very concerned. There are few women here, said Alba Vela, a postdoctoral researcher at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. She joked that a conference photographer seemed to be following her around, given that there were relatively few women to highlight with photos on the conference website.