At the same conference at which dangerous ideas were presented, I couldn't help but notice that 92.5% of the talks were given by men. During one of the rare talks by a female speaker, someone sitting behind me kept taking flash photographs. This was annoying because the flash temporarily blinded me, and whoever was taking the photos took a lot of them.
All of us sitting in the row in front of the photographer turned around in annoyance, but when we saw that the photographer was an older woman who was obviously the speaker's mother, we all kept our annoyance to ourselves. No one was going to criticize a proud mother, even if her pictures were certainly going to be awful (darkened room, speaker far away, lighted screen..).
Then the mom got up and started wandering around the room, taking photos from different angles. It was really distracting. I would have been mortified had I been the speaker, but the woman giving the talk stayed cool, completely ignored the photographing activity, and just kept talking about her research. The rest of us had trouble focusing on the talk because of the constant flashes going off.
Part of me was thinking that this mother was right to show her pride in her daughter, even if she didn't choose the best way to do so. It may well be this pride that helped support her daughter in her efforts to be a scientist in an overwhelmingly male dominated field.
But, aside from the annoying distraction issue, part of me didn't like the fact that the mom was making such a big public deal of the talk. I wondered whether people in the audience thought it made the woman speaker seem less professional. There was zero chance that any of the male speakers would have their mom running around the room taking flash pictures.
Parents who support their daughters in challenging careers are a wonderful thing, but in this situation, a happy medium would have been an unobtrusive video.
6 months ago