Since the first meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) over twenty years ago in Paris, the Organization has evolved from a primarily European and North American organization, to an international organization that draws members from over 50 countries worldwide (Figure 1).
However, the European and North American leadership and educational roles within the organization have been slower to undergo a similar evolution. This is perhaps most noticeable in the geographic distribution of Council, of which apart from very sparse representation from Australia and Cuba, has consisted of primarily Europeans and North Americans (Figure 2).
The characteristics found in Council, are also seen in the chosen educational courses (Figure 3), while the symposia have slightly greater diversity (Figure 4).
The most striking omission from leadership and educational roles comes from our colleagues in Asia. The countries of China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan make up over 15% of attendees to the meetings and poster presentations (Figure 5) and similar rates (17%) within the OHBM membership; yet have to date no representation on Council*. The goal of the Diversity and Gender Committee (DGC) is to work with Council and the Nominations Committee to foster equity in representation both within the OHBM membership and meeting attendance.
*Note: there has been one member Council originally from China, however they are currently US-based, so was designated as representing the US. In addition, a former Council member also had a joint position in China, but was designated as representing Latin America.
How are we doing with Gender?
With three of the five most recent Council members being female, the gender distribution on council is 12 males and 3 females. While this tripled the gender distribution from one year earlier, it falls lower than the gender distribution within OHBM.
The gender distribution of attendees presenting posters is 50% male, 40% female, and 10% who provided no answer. Whether these 10% represent gender fluidity or allies for gender fluidity within OHBM is not known.
While the gender distribution for poster presentation is more balanced, there is a higher proportion of males for the educational courses and symposia.
Approaches to Foster Equity
There has been much productive discussion within the Diversity and Gender Committee regarding how to foster equitable representation within OHBM. There were a number of options that we discussed, including having ‘electoral votes’ for Council members to, in a sense, ‘force’ the leadership roles to match the membership demographics. However, we are a democracy, and the primary approach that we have adopted is to provide education (in the form of data) for our members and allow our members to vote. We therefore encourage all members to consider the above data and consider potential biases when voting for your OHBM leadership.
A member of the DGC also sits on the Nominations Committee, with the goal to keep diversity in mind during the decisions surrounding the nominations. Importantly, the Council, including the chairs and members of the Nominations Committee, are motivated to see equity in representation within leadership roles in OHBM. They have attended the DGC Meeting in Vancouver and echoed their support for the Committee’s work. This support is crucial!
Microaggressions and Bias
The DGC has been charged to address inequities in gender and geography, however, we have heard whispers of both macro- and micro-aggressions within the context of the OHBM meetings. OHBM is all about science and integrity in both science and behavior. Attendees should be able to attend the meetings free from any form of bias related to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or handicaps. If events occur, whether overt or covert, it should be reported to the DGC who will then work within the OHBM leadership to assess the situation and, if indicated, to intervene. The DGC is currently working on the specifics of best practices to intervene in cases where it is warranted.