Working Paper Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

All Male Panels and Gender Diversity of Issue Panels and Plenary Sessions at ISPOR Europe

Version 1 : Received: 24 March 2019 / Approved: 26 March 2019 / Online: 26 March 2019 (10:40:24 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Bouvy, J.C. & Mujoomdar, M. PharmacoEconomics Open (2019). Bouvy, J.C. & Mujoomdar, M. PharmacoEconomics Open (2019).


Objective: ISPOR is the leading professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) globally. Recently, it launched its Women in HEOR Initiative, that aims to serve as a catalyst for women’s leadership in the field. Therefore, we were interested to find out how well ISPOR itself is doing in terms of gender diversity at their biggest conference. Methods: We used the conference programmes of ISPOR Europe conferences in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to assess the gender distribution of speakers that participated in issue panels and plenary sessions in these years. Results: 70% of all speakers (N=346) at 85 issue panels and plenary sessions during 2016, 2017, and 2018 were male. Almost one in three panels was all-male (a ‘manel’) and 64% of all panels had mostly male speakers (>50%). In contrast, only 11% of panels had <50% female speakers. Conclusion: Despite laudable effort to support the growth, development and contribution of women in HEOR through its Women in HEOR Initiative, females appear to be severely underrepresented at ISPOR’s biggest conference. ISPOR should make gender diversity a formal requirement for issue panel abstract submissions if it wants to advance women’s leadership in HEOR.


health economics, manels


Social Sciences, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 26 March 2019
Commenter: Koonal Shah
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: I am a man
Comment: Well-argued article on an important topic. I support the authors’ recommendation. It is a shame that this was considered out of scope by the official journal of ISPOR. I have a few comments for the authors’ consideration.

“In our own personal experience, the health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) field is not particularly male-dominated.” This reflects my personal experience too. I wonder if there are any statistics available to support this claim – e.g. proportion of male/female ISPOR members, proportion of male/female ISPOR Congress attendees, proportion of male/female graduates from major HEOR university courses.

Even if the entire HEOR field is not male-dominated, it may be that issue panel reviewers and conference organisers are looking for expertise, and they (rightly or wrongly) view seniority as a proxy for expertise. And there may be fewer senior female HEOR professionals than senior male HEOR professionals. This is conjecture on my part, and I acknowledge that the representation of women on the ISPOR Board of Directors suggests that this isn’t the case. It is worth noting that age/seniority bias is another problematic diversity issue, and age/seniority bias and gender bias are not mutually exclusive – e.g. women are dissuaded from staying in their careers long enough to progress to senior levels because of lack of opportunities and (avoidable and unavoidable) obstacles hindering their development. An interesting opportunity for extending this research could be to add a variable related to seniority.

Figure 1: I suggest ordering these bars by the % of female panellists (to make the graphs more easily comparable) and note the total numbers of panels.
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