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Sadly and somewhat incredibly sexual discrimination stalks even the hallowed halls of academia..equal pay for equal worth regardless!!!

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Yesterday a group of white, male academics disinvited me from their conference after I asked for equitable treatment as the other invited keynote speakers, who also happened to be white and male.

A thread on sexism and discrimination in academia: /1

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Some background:

I’m a mom and family physician who works in a fee-for-service practice, which means that if I’m not seeing patients in clinic, I don’t get paid.

I’ve been the primary wage earner, and at times the only wage earner, in my family for over a decade. /2

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Though I hold a clinical faculty appointment, I don’t have the luxury of an academic position where I get paid a guaranteed salary, or have my conference travel or other expenses covered through institutional or grant funding. /3

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Outside of my day job as a doctor, I do heaps of mostly pro bono work for climate and nature causes with amazing organizations I love.

Because I’m inundated with requests, I have to carefully consider what I say yes to if it affects our family’s finances or time together. /4

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

So when the scientific co-chairs of an international conference happening in Canada next year reached out requesting that I deliver a keynote on nature and health (on the recommendation of some well-respected clinical and academic MDs), I was honoured.

And asked for more details. /5

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

As we met virtually and e-mailed back and forth, I was excited about the chance to connect with and inspire a new, scientific, global audience with our work, and decided it would be worth the carbon and lost income to attend in person. /6

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

To make a long story short, they offered to cover my registration fees only, but extended my international (white, male) fellow keynote speakers the same, plus travel and accommodation expenses—which I only discovered when I reached out to the others directly. /7

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

When I asked for equal compensation, the scientific co-chair (who had formally invited me and the other “distinguished” speakers to the conference over a month ago, cc’ing many “friends”) replied saying they had now decided my academic credentials were in fact substandard. /8

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Less than 24 hours after my request for equity, they uninvited me from being a keynote speaker on the basis of my CV being subpar.

This despite the fact that my headshot and profile were already displayed front and centre on the conference website—and remain there today. /9

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

I was both surprised and not, because this follows a pattern of pervasive bias that crosses disciplines.

It’s a fact that women, and racialized women in academia in particular, experience a significant pay gap compared to their white male counterparts.

Considering the gender-based pay gap in academia with the UTFA president
Looking back on the UTFA’s fight against pay inequity over the past few years


Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Lessons learned:

Do your due diligence when someone requests your time and expertise.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to colleagues to double-check that you’re being offered equal compensation for equal service. /11

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Be wary of being the “token” anything—because you stand a real chance of angering the patriarchy once you start asking for the equitable treatment you deserve. /12

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Thankfully this will have little impact on my career or income, because neither depends on giving talks.

But I can’t help but think that if I were trying to climb the academic ladder and wanted to appease these powerful men, I might’ve just put my head down and done it. /13

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

I realize the immense privilege I have as a physician—and the fact that they felt they could treat a professional colleague with such disdain makes me furious for women who are less privileged, and encounter sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination every day. /14

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Women deserve better and must demand better.

Men in positions of power must be better allies.

Because when women win, all of society wins too.

Thank you to every single one of the men in my life who understands + champions that, and the women who keep fighting the good fight. /15

Dr. Melissa Lem@Melissa_Lem

Believe it or not, my last e-mail to the person who fired me from this “prestigious” conference read:

Thank you for informing me about your decision.

All the best with the conference in...,


- Because no matter how things roll, you should always try to be kind. /end

Dr. Melissa Lem (@Melissa_Lem)
Yesterday a group of white, male academics disinvited me from their conference after I asked for equitable treatment as the other invited keynote speakers, who also happened to be white and male.A 🧵 on sexism and discrimination in academia:/1

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