Mary Ann Holmes and Suzanne O'Connell comment on the lack of women in the academic ranks in your Recruiters article “Leaks in the pipeline” (Nature 446, 346; 2007). In the same issue, advertisements for two Nature conferences illustrate part of the problem — the poor representation of women speakers at scientific meetings.

The Nature conference “Oncogenes and human cancer: the next 25 years” features 36 speakers, of whom four are women. The “Days of molecular medicine: emerging technologies and cancer biology” conference, co-sponsored by Nature Medicine, features 19 speakers, of whom two are women. There are many accomplished women scientists in the areas covered by these meetings. There is no obvious reason why the number of women speakers should be so low.

The representation of women speakers at many meetings remains dismally poor and thus may contribute to the lack of success of women in academia.

However, this is a problem that could be easily remedied, if more attention were paid by organizers and the agencies that provide funding for meetings to the issue of whether qualified female speakers have been missed.