Today’s YAMMM (Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting) Brought to You by CIFAR & NAS

Well, just got an invite to this meeting: Symbioses becoming permanent: The origins and evolutionary trajectories of organelles.  The topic seems of direct interest to what I work on.  And, it is relatively close (Irvine is a short hop away).  So this could be a way to go to a meeting without having to travel too far.  And maybe I could see my younger brother Matt who lives in LA and just graduated from UC Irvine’s Masters program in Sound Engineering. Then I looked at the schedule of speakers and organizers.  Many are friends.  Many others are colleagues.  Could be fun to see some people I have not seen in a while.  And then I realized, most – no nearly all of them – are men.  Below I list the people involved in the meeting, highlighting men in yellow and women in blue.

Organizers: W. Ford Doolittle, Patrick Keeling, and John McCutcheon

Distinctive Voices Public Lecture presented by Michael Gray, CIFAR Advisor, Dalhousie University

Session 1: Genomes (evolutionary rates, oddities, and reduction)

  • Introduction and welcome remarks – W. Ford Doolittle, CIFAR Advisor & Patrick Keeling, CIFAR Program Director and Senior Fellow
  • John McCutcheon, CIFAR Associate Fellow, University of Montana
  • John Archibald, CIFAR Senior Fellow, Dalhousie University, Nuclear organelles 
  • Andrew Roger, CIFAR Senior Fellow, Dalhousie University, Organelle reduction 
  • Siv Andersson, Uppsala University, Alphaproteobacterial genome evolution 
  • David Smith, University of Western Ontario, Roots of genomic architecture variation 
  • Daniel Sloan, Colorado State University, Cytonuclear co-evolution under extreme mitochondrial mutation rates
  • John Allen, University College London, Why keep genomes?

Session 2: Integration/Control (trafficking, signaling, transporters)

  • Debash Bhattacharya, Rutgers University, Transporters in organellogenesis 
  • Nancy Moran, University of Texas, Austin, Insect endosymbionts 
  • Geoff McFadden, University of Melbourne, Diversity of protein trafficking
  • Chris Howe, Cambridge University, Why integrate?
  • Steve Perlman, CIFAR Fellow, University of Victoria, Maternal transmission, sex ratio distortion, and mitochondria 
  • William Martin, Düsseldorf University, Endosymbiont and organelle, what’s the difference? 
  • Moriya Okhuma, Riken University, Metabolic integration across endosymbiotic communities

Session 3: Theories and Models

  • Eors Szathmary, Loránd University, A fresh look at cooperation in some major transitions, especially the origin of eukaryotes
  • Marc Ereshefsky, University of Calgary, Evolutionary individuality
  • Peter Godfrey-Smith, City University of New York, Individuality and the egalitarian transitions 
  • Maureen O’Malley, University of Sydney, Philosophical Reflections on Endosymbiosis: Implications for Evolutionary Theory
  • Toby Kiers, University Amsterdam, Bacterial cooperativity

Closing remarks J. McCutcheon

So – that appears to be a ratio of 18 male speakers and 4 female speakers for a whopping 18% female speakers.  No thanks CIFAR and NAS.  I will sign up for a different meeting.  And by the way – WTF?  There are so so many qualified women working on these topics – what let to this 18:4 ratio?  The organizers should really rethink their processes and the sponsors should pull funding from meetings like this.  It is the only way some people will pay attention to diversity.

UPDATE: 8/20

Wrote to the NAS via their Website

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my disappointment in the gender ratio of speakers at this meeting (18 males, 4 females).  Due to the skew I am unwilling to participate.  See for details.


Jonathan Eisen

Got this response

Dear Dr. Eisen,

The NAS Committee on Scientific Programs, which oversees the Sackler Colloquia most definitely considers gender diversity when approving these programs.  When organizers propose the programs they achieve a good balance on paper. Regrettably, in many fields, women scientists are at a premium and are sometimes overwhelmed with invitations and demands for their participation on programs and committees.  For a variety of reasons, including availability of speakers, the final program is not always as optimally balanced as originally intended.

I have conveyed your message to NAS Vice President and Chair of the Committee on Scientific Programs and will also share your concerns with the colloquium organizers and co-sponsor.

Best regards,

Susan Marty
Program Director
National Academy of Sciences
Sackler Colloquia

So I wrote back


Thank you very much for the response.  It is good to hear there is some emphasis on gender diversity when programs and developed.  However, in my experience and based on my readings of the literature on this topic, this is not usually sufficient to produce diverse conferences.  Do you know if the NAS has any additional policies relating to diversity at conferences.  For example, if someone does not accept an invitation, is the organizer of the meeting then free to select whomever they like or are there protocols to help guarantee that the selection of replacements is also diverse?  Also do you know if there are any policies relating to the meetings themselves such as child care that have been shown to impact the attendance of women more than men?   

Any additional information you have would be appreciated.  I think that NAS could and should do more than just review the proposed list of invitees. 

Jonathan Eisen 

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