No – #FFS – no – I will not speak at your meeting given the lack of diversity of speakers

So a few days ago I got asked to do a paid speaking engagement for a meeting

Dear Dr. Eisen,

I hope this email finds you well!

We have a client that’s interested in you speaking at their Autoimmune Conference in New York on March 24, 2017

Do you have a standard speaking fee/range that I can report back to my client?  If you’re able to confirm your availability as well, that would be great!

The audience would be primarily physicians. 

Your consideration is very much appreciated!


Sounded nice – getting paid to go to New York.  What could go wrong right?. Then I did some Googling to find out about the meeting.  Found it – the Interdisciplinary Autoimmune Summit: And, as I do for all meeting invites these days, I looked at their speaker line up.  For this years and previous years.  And well, I was not impressed.

A lot of men.  Men men men and men. So I wrote back

Apologies for the delay.  Was on the traveling science roadshow for a while.  

My speaker fee depends on whether this is a for profit or non profit event, so I would need more details.  In addition, I usually ask that all speaker fees get donated to my lab rather than paid to me.  

However, I have another requirement for speaking at a meeting.  The meeting has to have a good representation of diversity for other speakers.  Unfortunately, in looking at the 2016 faculty for this conference I am distinctly unimpressed.  In a quick glance I count 16 male and 3 female speakers for a ~ 15% female speaker level.  In order to accept speaking at the 2017 meeting I would need to know more about the other speakers.


Jonathan Eisen

I got a rapid response

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you so much for the email, I commend your notions on gender equity!

The summit seems to bring together a lot of knowledgeable and influential people — I will speak with my client and get some additional details for you.


And then a more detailed one

Hello Jonathan,

They are a for-profit company, HMP Communications Holdings (HMP). HMP is a global hub for healthcare – helping to educate, inform and connect the practitioner community. They do this through the delivery of:
·         High-quality, clinically relevant continuing medical education
·         Credible, cutting-edge content that informs and inspires
·         Live events and online networks that provide practical training and allow professionals to connect with one another

In regards to gender equality, their team are in the early stages of finalizing topics and reaching out to potential speakers for the IAS 2017 meeting, but can assure you that they’re always seeking to secure the best possible speakers and educators for their events, including folks from all demographics.
That being said, they would also be interested in any speaker recommendations you may have since they’re so early in the process and always looking to bring new speakers into the fold each year.
They are happy to address any other details or concerns you have.

Thanks so much!

So I wrote back again

Given the track record of this meeting, I am not sold with statements like “ but can assure you that they’re always seeking to secure the best possible speakers and educators for their events, including folks from all demographics.”  They certainly failed in this “all demographics” regard last year and as far as I can tell in previous years.  

I would only do this if there was evidence of results in increasing the diversity of speakers.

And now the person who invited me is looking into it

Hi Jonathan,

Understood — I will see what we can do.


So that is where we stand now.  I note.  I am writing this up in part to encourage everyone out there to ask about the diversity of speakers for meetings for which you have been invited to speak or that you would like to attend or sponsor.  Don’t just say “Yes’ without examining the meeting and the track record of the organizers.  We need to take action to stop the underrepresentation of diversity of speakers at meetings.

For other posts on STEM Diversity see here.  See the end of the post for links to articles about how it is possible and why it is important to have reasonable diversity of speakers at meetings.

The White Men’s Microbiome Congress #YAMMM #Manel #Boycott

So I got this email this morning inviting me to attend a conference: the Second Annual Human Microbiome Congress in San Diego. (also called the North American Microbiome Congress).

And it struck me that all the featured speakers were men.

 Great.  So I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping that maybe if I looked at the rest of the speakers it would be better.

So I had to register on some web site to download the full agenda for the meeting.  And there were the featured speakers, rippling with diversity

So then I went to scroll through the document looking for the other speakers.

OMFG – what a joke.

27 speakers featured.  25 of them male.  That comes to a whopping 93% male lineup.  In a field where there are a massive number of well known, well regarded female researchers.  What a f$&(#()@ joke.  This meeting should be boycotted.  I am going to write to all the speakers I know and ask them to cancel participating.

Update 10/6 1 PM

Got an email from a meeting representative asking me what I thought about the program.  I guess I got this because of my signing up to get the program.

And I wrote back

I guess we will see where this goes.

Update 10/6 1:10 PM

I also have begin writing to people I know who are speaking at the meeting.

I am hoping many of them cancel participating.  I will update when I get more answers but so far the two people who have responded have now withdrawn from the meeting.

UPDATE 10/11

The meeting organizers have responded and appear committed to improving / fixing their diversity issue.  See comments here and also the meeting web site.

That’s the good news.

Now the bad news.  A commenter pointed me to the same Group’s European Microbiome Congress.  It is a bit better than the US one but not much.

I think this group needs to make a broader statement about diversity than just focusing on one meeting.

For other posts on STEM Diversity see here.

Yet another biased meeting from Oxford Global – their meetings should be shunned #YAMMM #GenderBias

Well, Oxford Global has done it again.  They have found a way to be one of the most extremely gender biased conferences around.  Their 2016 Genome Editing Congress Speakers. Their web site lists 20 speakers, 19 of which are men.  (One of the men is listed twice – I am not sure if that is due to giving two talks or a mistake.  So this may be 19 speakers~ 95, 18 of which are men).  Regardless that comes to ~ 95% male speakers.

  • Andre Choulika, CEO Cellectis
  • Guna Rajagopal, VP – Global Head, Computational Sciences, Discovery Sciences Janssen
  • Lorenz Mayr, VP & Global Head, Reagents & Assay Development Astrazeneca
  • Zheng-Yi Chen, Associate Professor Harvard Medical School
  • Daniel Anderson, Associate Professor MIT
  • Marcello Maresca, Associate Principal Scientist Astrazeneca
  • John Doench, Director; Associate Director, Genetic Perturbation Platform Broad Institute
  • Chad Cowan, Associate Professor  Harvard
  • Pablo Perez Pinera, Associate Professor University of Illinois
  • Jim Collins, Professor MIT
  • Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, Director, Transgenic Core Facility University of Nebraska Medical School
  • Danilo Maddalo, Senior Scientist and Lab Head Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research
  • Rodolphe Barrangou, Associate Professor North Carolina State University
  • Stephanie Mohr, DRSC Director Harvard Medical School
  • Robert Howes, Associate Director MedImmune
  • Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, Director, Transgenic Core Facility University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • James Carothers, Assistant Professor University of Washington
  • William Theodorus Hendriks, Instructor in Neurology Harvard Medical School
  • Mark Osborn, Assistant Professor University of Minnesota
  • Jeff Chamberlain, Professor University of Washington
1 and 19 were counted at Genome Editing USA Congress #OxfordGlobal. Learn more at GenderAvenger Tally

Sponsors of the meeting should be contacted about this:

Sadly this is a consistent pattern for Oxford Global. See for example Oxford Global Sequencing Meetings: Where MEN Tell You About Sequencing #YAMMM and also Time to boycott Oxford Global meetings due to blatant sexism

Really – we need as a community to stand up to these types of meetings.  Oxford Global meetings should be boycotted.  And the companies that sponsor their meetings are complicit in their gender bias.

UPDATE  10/2 12:56 PM – decided to look at another one of their meetings that is linked from this one

2nd Annual Next Generation Sequencing USA Congress
3-4 October 2016, Boston, USA

83 % male speakers.  Grand.

  • James Knight, Director of Bioinformatics Yale University
  • John Quackenbush, Professor Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Shanrong Zhao, Director Pfizer Inc.
  • Nazneen Aziz, Research Professor Arizona State University
  • George Weinstock, Director and Professor Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine
  • Alexander Wait Zaranek, Director Informatics Harvard Medical School
  • Rong Mao, Medical Director, Molecular Genetics and Genomics, ARUP Laboratories; Associate Professor, Pathology University of Utah School of Medicine
  • Mark Gerstein, Albert L Williams Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, and Computer Science Co-Director of the Yale Program in Computational Biology & Bioinformatics
  • James Willey, Professor of Medicine and Pathology University of Toledo
  • Neil R. Smalheiser, Associate Professor in Psychiatry University of Illinois College of Medicine
  • Mark Borodovsky, Regents’ Professor Georgia Tech
  • Scott J. Tebbutt, Associate Professor & Chief Scientific Officer University of British Columbia & PROOF Centre of Excellence
  • Michael Fraser, Program Director, Cancer Genomics, Radiation Medicine Program Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Justin Johnson, Associate Director and Principal Scientist AstraZeneca
  • Leonora Balaj, Instructor in Neurology Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School
  • Aleksandra Markovets, Senior Scientist AstraZeneca
  • Baohong Zhang, Director of Clinical Bioinformatics Pfizer, Inc.
  • Steven Hart, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics Mayo Clinic
  • Manolis Kellis, Professor and Head, MIT Computational Biology Group MIT
  • John Methot, Head of Scientific Computing Biogen
  • Andrew Hollinger, Associate Director: Scientific Communications Broad Institute
  • Yingtao Bi, Senior Manager in Statistics Abbvie Bioresearch Center
  • Paul Blainey, Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT and Core Faculty Member Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard

4 and 19 were counted at #oxfordglobal. Learn more at GenderAvenger Tally!function(d,s,id){var e,f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’http’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){e=d.createElement(s);; e.src=p + “://”;f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f);}}(document,”script”,”genderavenger-embed”);

For other posts on STEM Diversity see here.

Wrap up from Gender Bias Under the Microscope Symposium #RFUSymposium #GenderBias

Had an amazing time at Rosalind Franklin University for their Gender Bias Under the Microscope Symposium. I made a Storify about it here:

For other posts on STEM Diversity see here.

No thanks Precision Medicine #PMWC2017 – I don’t want to go to your $&*@(#@( #manel #yammm #biased meeting

Today I got this email, ostensibly from Keith Yamamoto, who I have interacted with a bit over the years, including in the writing of the NAS “New Biology” report.

So I decided to check out the meeting site.  Precision Medicine World Conference. Hosted by Stanford and UCSF and Duke and Others.  And also a “manel”. Also known as a YAMMM (yet another mostly male meeting).  A festival in fact of men.  So so so many men listed as speakers. Here is my round up.

Just so sick of meetings like this.  Apparently Keith Yamamoto and UCSF and Duke and Stanford and all the Sponsors endorse having a meeting where about 1 in 6 of the speakers are women.  No thanks. Not interested.  I am sure they can all make a litany of excuses.  But I am so tired of hearing them.  In the end the only way to get some of these groups to change their practices is to boycott their meetings.  And to publicly discuss, with the sponsors and speakers and organizers, why their meeting is not OK.

UPDATE 1 – Some responses and discussion on Twitter

Congratulations SynbioBeta #SBBSF16 – you are having a #YAMMMy #manel

Well this is disappointing.

Someone sent me an announcement for SynBioBeta SF 2016 – SynBioBeta possibly thinking I would go to it.  Since it was local I decided to check it out.  And, well, the 1st thing I did was to look at the gender balance of the speakers (as much as I could infer from a quick skim).  And it did not look good.  So I dug into it in more detail.

They have a speaker page and I went through most of them to make sure my inference of gender was correct (based on looking at the pronouns used to describe them in their speaker bio and also in other web sites).  I know this is imperfect but seems potentially a decent estimator.  And low an behold when you sum it all up you get 79% male speakers vs. 21% female speakers.  They could definitely do better.

Agilent – where men are thought leaders

Well this is disappointing.  Was googling for a person and found this Agilent “Thought Leaders Program“.  It is described as

This invitational program promotes fundamental scientific advancements by contributing financial support, products and expertise to the research of influential thought leaders in the life sciences, diagnostics, and chemical analysis.

Alas it might be described better as “Agilent Male Thought Leaders Program”. In my estimation (based on the pronouns used in the descriptions of the people and in Googling around for more information), of the 31 “thought leaders” 28 are male.  That comes to a bit more than 90%.  It seems like there is some sort of bias here.   Agilent should and could do better.

UC Davis Storer Lecture series – since 1963 87% of speakers are male

I wrote this blog post a while ago but never published it partly out of fear for upsetting some of my colleagues.  I try to be brave about such things, but I guess I just did not quite get up the poxy.  Well, today something came up that stimulated me to write the post.

I got an email announcement for a talk that seems potentially quite interesting. The problem is not the talk.  The problem is with the endowed Lectureship that this talk is connected to.  So here is the post I have worked on on and off over the last year or more.

UC Davis has an endowed lecture series- the Storer Lectureship in the Life Sciences.  It has been running since the 1960s and is a relatively big deal on campus here.  The speakers come in, usually give one or two talks (one for the public and one for researchers).  They usually have a big dinner (I have gone to a few of these) and the speakers get a decent honorarium (a few thousand dollars) and some sort of gift.

Most years I have been here, I have received a request from the organizers for suggested speakers and every once in a while I have made suggestions, some of which have even led to invitations.  Recently, I had suggested a famous colleague who is also a UC Davis alum.  Alas, she could not come.  The organizers asked if I had any other suggestions and I sent them a list of a few candidates who are both very good, well known and do something related to microbes.  The organizers really liked one of the suggestions and asked if I would be willing to invite this person.

So I started drafting a letter.  And as part of drafting a letter I wanted to give examples of past speakers to show how great a set of speakers we had for this series.  So I Googled “Storer” and
UC Davis” or something like that and got to the page:

Storer Lectureship in the Life Sciences

And that is when I got a bit heartbroken.  The speakers have been, well, very male.   I note I spent a while looking at descriptions of each speaker that I did not know to try and determine their gender, looking at their web sites if available, or how they were described (e.g., what pronouns were used).  I am pretty confident in the assignments though I realize this is an error prone approach.  Here is the full list as far as I have put together with the males labelled in yellow and females in green.

Oct 5-16, 1963 Ernest W. Caspari University of Rochester
Oct 17-31, 1966 Vincent G. Derhicr Univesity of Pennsylvania
May 7-20, 1967 Ernst Mayr Harvard University
Nov 3-15, 1968 Elizabeth C. Crosby Univesity of Michigan
Jan 3-15, 1969 W.D. Billings Duke University
Apr 13-23, 1969 Frank Fenner Australian National University,
Apr 5-19, 1970 A. Frey-Wyssling Eidgenossiche Tcchnische Hochschule
Nov 11-23, 1970 Carl L. Hubbs Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Feb 1-12, 1971 H.L. KornBerg University of Leicester, England
Nov 22-Dec 3, 1971 Hilary Koprowski University of Pennsylvania
Jan 17-28, 1972 George Beadle University of Chicago
Jan 17-28, 1972 Muriel Beadle University of Chicago
May 1-12, 1972 Sterling Hendricks Agriculture Research Service, U.S.D.A
Oct 16-27, 1972 George Gaylord Simpson The Simroe Foundation
Feb 23-Mar 9, 1973 Sir Alan S. Parkes The Galton Foundation
Apr 9-20, 1973 Peter R. Marler The Rockefeller University
May 7-18, 1973 George C. Cotzias, M.D. Brookhaven National Laboratory
Nov 6-13, 1973 Eugene E. Odum University of Georgia
Nov 12-16, 1973 Peter Alexander Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital
Mar 4-15, 1974 Davis A. Hamburg, MD. Stanford University School of Medicine
Apr 1-15, 1974 Kent V. Flannery University of Michigan
Nov 4-15, 1974 Garrett Hardin University of California, Santa Barbara
Mar 30-Apr 9, 1975 Kenneth J. Carpenter University of Cambridge
Apr 20-May 2, 1975 Murray S. Blum University of Georgia
Oct 20-31, 1975 Bert W. O’Malley, M.D. Baylor College of Medicine,
Apr 12-23, 1976 Sydney Brenner Division of Cell Biology of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England
May 17-28, 1976 Peter S. Carlson Michigan State University,
Nov 22-Dec 3, 1976 Roger Y. Stanier Pasteur Institute,
Jan 24-Feb 4, 1977 Peter Albersheim University of Colorado
Feb 22-Mar 4, 1977 *Jere Mead, M.D. Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Harvard University
Apr 11-12, 1977 S. J. Singer University of California, San Diego
Nov 20-30, 1977 James D. Ebert Marine Biological Laboratory
Feb 8-15, 1978 Sir Kenneth Blaxtcr Rowen Research Institute
Apr 5-12, 1978 Eric H. Davidson California Institute of Technology
Oct 9-20, 1978 Jutgen Aschoff Max-Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology
Feb 20-22, 1979 *Burt L. Vallee, Paul C. Cabot Harvard Medical School
Apr 24-26, 1979 Carl R. Woese University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
Nov 5-16, 1979 Daphne J. Osborne Oxford University
Februarv 4-15, 1980 John F. Eisenberg Smithsonian Institution.
Apr 16-18, 1980 George E. Palade, M.D. Yale Medical School
May 5-16, 1980 Jerre Levy University of Chicago
Oct 27-30, 1980 Colin Blakemore Oxford University
Jan 21-27, 1980 Pierre Dejours CNRS
Feb 26-Mar 5, 1981 Richard Alexander  University of Michigan
Oct 20-27, 1981 Alfred F. Harper  University of Wisconsin Madison
May 11-19, 1982 Glenn W. Burton USDA-SEA
Oct 11-18, 1982 Richard F. Leakey National Museums of Kenya
Jan 6-11, 1983 Eric R. Kandel, M.D. Columbia University,
Oct 12-18, 1983 Donald S. Farner University of Washington
Feb 13-15, 1984 Daniel Branton Harvard University
Apr 24-26, 1984 J. Michael Bishop University of California, San Francisco
Dec 3-6, 1984 Maurice Fried National Research Council
Apr 3-8, 1985 John Krebs Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology
May 8-14, 1985 Geoffrey M. Ole Maloiy University of Nairobi
Oct 8-10, 1985 Michael P. Hassell Imperial College, London
Apr 21-24, 1986 John Maynard Smith University of Sussex.
Dec 1-4, 1986 Aldo Carl Leopold Boyce Thompson Institute
Mar 2A, 1987 Gerald Edelman The Rockefeller University
Nov 10-12, 1987 Jean-Claude Chcrrnann Pasteur Institute, Paris France
Jan 15-20, 1988 Jean-Pierre Changeux Pasteur Institute, Paris France
Apr 11-15, 1988 John I. Harpcr University College of North Wales
Oct 17-21, 1988 Rudiger Wehner University of Zurich
Oct 23-26, 1989 John C. Torrey Harvard University
Feb 26-Mar 2, 1990 Heinz Saedler Max-Planck-Institute
Nov 5-7, 1990 Francis Crick The Salk Institute
Jan 28-31, 1991 Thomas A. McMahon Harvard University
May 28-30, 1991 Lynn Margulis University of Massachusetts
Nov 18-21, 1991 Richard C. Lewontin Harvard University
Feb 4-6, 1992 Philip Leder Harvard Medical School
Apr 13-16, 1992 Patrick Bateson University of Cambridge
Nov 16-19, 1992 Melvin I. Simon California Institute of Technology
Feb 1-5, 1993 Anne McLaren Wellcome/CRC Institute
Apr 13-16, 1993 Judah Folkman Harvard Medical School
Jan 24 -27, 1994 Philippa Marrack National Jewish Center
Feb 28-Mar 3, 1994 Stephen O’Brien National Cancer Institute
Apr 18-21, 1994 Roy M. Anderson University of Oxford
Oct 31-Nov 2, 1994 Michael J. Berridge The Babraham Institute
Feb 6-10, 1995 Hal Hatch CSIRO Division of Plant Industry
May 1-5, 1995 Elaine Fuchs The University of Chicago
Oct 16-19, 1995 Peter Ellison Harvard University
Mar 4-8, 1996 Gottfried Schatz University of Basel, Switzerland
Apr 8-10, 1996 Daniel Hillel University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Feb 3-6, 1997 Peter R. Grant Princeton University
Apr 14-17, 1997 William J. Lennarz State University of New York
May 5-7, 1997 Carolyn W. Slayman Yale University School of Medicine
Apr 20-22, 1998 Floyd Bloom The Scripps Research 1nstitute
May 18-20, 1998 Ian Wilmut Roslin Institute
Jan 11-13, 1999 Leroy E. Hood University of Washington
Apr 26-28, 1999 Patricia Goldman-Rakic Yale University School of Medicine
Jan 30-31, 2001 Charles Arntzen Arizona State University

University of Oxford
Mar 4-6, 2002 Jan H. Hoeijmakcrs  Erasmus University
Apr 11-12, 2002 Fred H. Gage The Salk Institute
May 6-7, 2002 Phillip A. Sharp Center for Cancer Research, MIT
Jan 13-15, 2003 George M. Martin, M.D. University of Washington
Mar 10-11, 2003 Kim A. Nasmyth Vienna Biocenter
Apr 28-29, 2003 Tim Flannery Director of the South Australian Museum
Dec 1-2, 2003 William Greenough University of Illinois
Feb 18-19, 2004 Bruce Ames Children’s Hospital, Oakland Research Institute
Nov 29-30, 2004 Hans Herren International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
Apr 26-27, 2005 H. Robert Horvitz Massachusetts Institute of Technology
May 9-10, 2005 Steven Chu Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Jan 24-25, 2006 Cynthia Kenyon University of California, San Francisco
Mar 14-15, 2006 Thomas D. Pollard Yale University
Oct 23-24, 2006 Mimi Koehl University of California, Berkeley
Dec 4-5, 2006 Simon A. Levin Princeton University
Apr 5-6, 2007 Sir Peter Crane, FRS University of Chicago
Apr 23-24, 2007 Stephen Quake Stanford University
May 14-15, 2007 Pasko Rakic Yale University
Mar 23-24, 2009 Sean Carroll University of Wisconsin
Apr 20-21, 2009 H. Allen Orr University of Rochester
May 19-20, 2009 John Doebley University of Wisconsin
Mar 11-12, 2010 Elliot Meyerowitz California Institute of Technology
May 17-18, 2010 Robert Langer Massachusetts Institute of Technology
May 11-12, 2011 Nina Federoff Pennsylvania State University
Jan 11-12, 2012 Jane Lubchenco NOAA
Apr 24-25, 2012 Ilkka Hanski University of Helsinki
May 30-31, 2012 Loren Rieseberg University of British Columbia
Oct 2-3, 2012 Ed Delong MIT
Nov 15, 2012 Jordi Bascompte Estación Biológica de Doñana
Nov 19, 2012 Simon Boulton London Research Institute
Jan 16, 2013 Ary Hoffman University of Melbourne
Jan 31, 2013 Jonathan Losos Harvard
Mar 18, 2013 Gloria Coruzzi NYU
Apr 10-11 2013 Peter Agre Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute
May 6, 2013 Richard Wrangham Harvard
May 16, 2013 Sue Carter RTI International
May 28, 2013 Larry Gold CU Boulder
June 4, 2013 Eric Schadt Mount Sinai
June 05, 2013 Nancy Moran Yale
Oct 28-29, 2013 Walter Bodmer University of Oxford
Dec 4-5, 2013 Ronald Kaback UCLA
Feb 24, 2014 Patricia Wright Stony Brook
Mar 5-6, 2014 Steve Carpenter University of Wisconsin
Apr 9-10, 2014 Jerry Coyne University of Chicago
May 20-21, 2014 May Berenbaum University of Illinois
May 28-29, 2014 Joel Cohen Rockefeller University
Oct 28-29, 2014 Charles Rice The Rockefeller University
Nov 19-20, 2014 Rolf Zinkernagel University of Zurich
Apr 15-16, 2015 Tim Clutton Block University of Cambridge
Oct 7-8, 2015 Richard Lenski Michigan State
April 22, 2016 Steve Nowicki Duke University

The total numbers come to 19 females out of 142 speakers or ~13% female and 87% male.  Ugh.

And the person I had suggested to invite was male.  So I wrote back to the organizers and I wrote:

From: Jonathan Eisen 

Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2015 11:34 AM 


Subject: Abyssmal gender ratio of speakers in the Storer Lectureship series 


With sincere apologies but … 

In preparing a letter of invitation for XXX I decided to include some examples of previous Storer Lecturers. And therein lies the problem On the web site my count, there are 121 past speakers listed. Of these, 15 appear to be female (from my estimate). That comes to 12%. That is embarassaingly low. I hope my calculations here are wrong. 

Can you tell me if the Storer Lectureship has any policies regarding diversity of speakers? If yes, can you provide me with those details.

If no, I recommend you implement one as soon as possible. Either way, I refuse to have my name affiliated with this series, and will not invite anyone to talk in it, without further information and without some serious attempt to figure out how to do a better job representing the diversity of biologists who could give such talks. 


They wrote back with a very detailed response and were very supportive of the concept of increasing diversity of speakers.  And they explained some of the efforts they had made in this regard.  And they really seem to be trying in some ways.  But in the end, their main justification for the lack of diversity was that they were trying to invite already recognized, in essence famous, biologists.  People who had won a Nobel or were in the National Academy of Sciences or were HHMI investigators.  And this pool, that they had chosen, was skewed in gender balance.

So I wrote back to them June 18:

Thanks very much for the response.

I understand you have some constraints and greatly appreciate that you are committed to trying to improve the diversity of speakers.  However, the end result is truly not acceptible in my mind and therefore I believe more needs to be done, urgently, to improve the situation.

What are some possible ways to improve the situation?

Well, the number one recommendation I would make would be to not constrain the pool to honorific groups that themselves have severe skews.  No we cannot solve those skews and there are many causes for them.  But I believe it is a major mistake to use the diversity of those groups (NAS, Nobel, HHMI) as a target.  Either invite people to represent diversity well even from a constrained pool, or, open up to a broader pool (there are plenty of incredible scientists who have not gotten HHMI, NAS, or Nobels).

In addition to opening up the pool and not aiming at such a low bar, there are many things one can do to improve the diversity of speakers.  I have written about this extensively as have many others.  I can point the committee to some of these articles if interested.

In the end, whatever the reasons are, the Storer series has ended up with extremely biased gender ratio of speakers.  I think it is up to the committee to fix this with a combination of actions.  But the first thing I would recommend is to not use the diversity of a set of pools you have chosen as an excuse.  We can and should do better and if the pools are the reason, the pools from which you sample need to be changed.


They wrote back, saying they were really committed to achieving better gender balance in the future writing “we are totally committed to the same goals as you in terms of gender balance now and in the future.” And they also wrote that they expected “the final lineup to reflect at least 30 percent or more female” as long as one additional woman (the person I had originally recommended) would come (though I had told them she said she could not).  And then they asked if I would reconsider inviting the man who I had been about to invite that had started this whole discussion.

So I wrote back again July 14:

Thanks again for the response. And though I do not want to continue beating a dead horse, I am not convinced we are doing enough in this area. For example, what explains the “at least 30 percent” and how close to 30% will that be. This is important as, for example, the National Science Foundation will not support their people attending meetings if female speakers are at < 33%. I think 30% is, to be honest, just not acceptable in biology. So beofre contributing any more to this series I need to know exactly what is meant by "we are totally committed to the same goals as you in terms of gender balance now and in the future.”

For example, here are some questions I would like to know the answers to:

  • Are you committed to achieving gender balance in the speaker series or just saying you are being more even than before?
  • Are you committed to researching and using diverse options to ensure diversity of speakers beyond just focusing on who is invited?
  • Are you interested in understanding why the series has been so undiverse in the past and addressing this directly or just moving forward?
  • Are you willing to address the lack of diversity in the past publicly and also discuss efforts to improve the diversity? 

I would very much like to know more detail about how serious you are to having a diverse series and what you plan to do to achieve this. 

With apologies, but in regard to inviting XXX or XXX. I am sorry but given the past record of this series, which as I said is among the worst I have seen anywhere, I am just not willing to be involved in any way until I see a stronger and more public committment to diversity. 

I am happy to help with the series and to help improve the diversity of speakers. But this should be done openly and publicly and forcefully. And without evidence of this, I am unable and unwilling to be involved.

And, well, I have not heard from them again.  So, I am writing this.  For many reasons.  But a key one is, I think we need to be more public about such issues.  And we just need to fix things that are broken.

So today I decided to make the post live.  I wish I had done this earlier.

Some responses




American Academy of Arts and Sciences – where men choose men to be cheered

So – I saw multiple posts by colleagues on Facebook and Twitter about gender skew in the newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. So I decided to take a look at the list. And it is indeed really skewed. Here is my analysis of gender ratio for mathematical and physical sciences and biological sciences.

Field Male Female
Math and Physical Sciences Totals 32 10
Math 5 1
Physics 6 1
Chemistry 7 1
Astronomy 3 4
Engineering 5 1
CS 5 2
Intersection 1 0
Biology Totals 31 8
Biochemistry 4 2
Cell and Development 7 1
Neuroscience 6 2
Ecovo 7 1
Medical 5 1
Intersection 2 1
More detail below:

CLASS I — Mathematical and Physical Sciences (41)

SECTION 1 — Mathematics (6)
Pavel Etingof
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Leslie Greengard
New York University/Simons Foundation
Janos Kollar
Princeton University
Bryna R. Kra
Northwestern University
Andrei Okounkov
Columbia University
Vladimir Rokhlin
Yale University
SECTION 2 — Physics (7)
Barbara V. Jacak
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Jarzynski
University of Maryland
Hirosi Ooguri
California Institute of Technology
Roberto D. Peccei
University of California, Los Angeles
Robert J. Schoelkopf
Yale University
Steven R. White
University of California, Irvine
Foreign Honorary Member — Physics
Thibault Damour
Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques
SECTION 3 — Chemistry (8)
Donald Hilvert
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
Jeffery W. Kelly
Scripps Research Institute
Scott J. Miller
Yale University
Melanie S. Sanford
University of Michigan
Isiah M. Warner
Louisiana State University
Michael R. Wasielewski
Northwestern University
Foreign Honorary Members — Chemistry (2)
Hans-Joachim Freund
Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
R. Benny Gerber
Hebrew University of Jerusalem/University of California, Irvine
SECTION 4 — Astronomy and Earth Sciences (7)
Andreas J. Albrecht
University of California, Davis
Joshua A. Frieman
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory/University of Chicago
Jacqueline Hewitt
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chryssa Kouveliotou
George Washington University
Terry A. Plank
Columbia University
Lisa Tauxe
University of California, San Diego
Foreign Honorary Member — Astronomy and Earth Sciences
Thomas F. Stocker
University of Bern
SECTION 5 — Engineering Sciences and Technologies (6)
Donna Gail Blackmond
Scripps Research Institute
Gerald G. Fuller
Stanford University
Steve Granick
Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Ulsan, Republic of Korea
Donald E. Ingber
Harvard University/ Boston Children’s Hospital
Robert B. Phillips
California Institute of Technology
Peter W. Voorhees
Northwestern University
SECTION 6 — Computer Sciences (6)
Jeffrey A. Dean
Sanjay Ghemawat
Google Incorporated
Anna R. Karlin
University of Washington
Tom M. Mitchell
Carnegie Mellon University
Tal D. Rabin
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Scott J. Shenker
University of California, Berkeley
Timothy P. Lodge
University of Minnesota

CLASS II — Biological Sciences (38)

SECTION 1 — Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology (6)
Richard H. Ebright
Rutgers University
Lila M. Gierasch
University of Massachusetts
Robert M. Glaeser
University of California, Berkeley/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Adrian R. Krainer
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Lawrence A. Loeb
University of Washington
Eva Nogales
University of California, Berkeley
SECTION 2 — Cellular & Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Immunology (8)
Keith W.T. Burridge
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark W. Hochstrasser
Yale University
Michael J. Lichten
National Cancer Institute
Joachim Messing
Rutgers University
Carl F. Nathan
Weill Cornell Medical College
Anne M. Villeneuve
Stanford University
Foreign Honorary Members — Cellular & Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Immunology (2)
Carl-Henrik Heldin
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research/Uppsala University
Christof Niehrs
Institute of Molecular Biology
SECTION 3 — Neurosciences, Cognitive Sciences, and Behavioral Biology (8)
Michael S. Brainard
University of California, San Francisco
John Gabrieli
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alex L. Kolodkin
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Kelsey C. Martin
University of California, Los Angeles
Bruce R. Rosen
Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital
John L. R. Rubenstein
University of California, San Francisco
Foreign Honorary Members — Neurosciences, Cognitive Sciences, and Behavioral Biology(2)
Tamar Flash
Weizmann Institute of Science
Nancy Y. Ip
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
SECTION 4 — Evolutionary and Population Biology, and Ecology (7)
Farooq Azam
University of California, San Diego
Andrew G. Clark
Cornell University
Douglas J. Emlen
University of Montana
Joel Grant Kingsolver
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark Alan McPeek
Dartmouth College
Sarah P. Otto
University of British Columbia
Foreign Honorary Member — Evolutionary and Population Biology, and Ecology
Ary A. Hoffmann
University of Melbourne
SECTION 5 — Medical Sciences, Clinical Medicine, and Public Health (6)
John Michael Carethers
University of Michigan Medical School
James R. Downing
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Gary Gilliland
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Beatrice H. Hahn
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Warren J. Leonard
National Institutes of Health
Ralph Weissleder
Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital
Steven E. Jacobsen
University of California, Los Angeles
Yang Shi
Harvard Medical School/ Boston Children’s Hospital
Foreign Honorary Member — Intersection
Karen H. Vousden
Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow, U.K.

Also these cross-field areas are not doing so well (not included in chart or table above).

TOTAL: 213



Benjamin F. Cravatt
The Scripps Research Institute
Robert L. Goldstone
Indiana University
Larry L. Jacoby
Washington University in St. Louis
Jay D. Keasling
University of California, Berkeley/LBNL
Gordon D. Logan
Vanderbilt University
Foreign Honorary Members (5)
Edwin Cameron
Constitutional Court of South Africa
Fergus I.M. Craik
Rotman Research Institute/University of Toronto
Menachem Magidor
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky
State Hermitage Museum/St. Petersburg State University
Shimon Ullman
Weizmann Institute of Science


Robert J. Full
University of California, Berkeley

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