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 I will update when I get more answers but so far the two people who have responded have now withdrawn from the meeting.
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.
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
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.
I just got an email about this meeting: CSH Asia 2016 Conference on Microbial Communities in the Environment: Emerging Technologies and New Frontiers:
So the first thing I did was to look at the gender ratio of speakers. I dug into each person listed here as much as a I could and attempted to infer what their gender is. I realize this is fraught with problems and have written about this previously. So as much as possible I looked for what pronouns were used to describe these people before infer their possible gender. I was unable to get any clear gendered pronouns for one person but the others I think I got enough evidence to make a hypothesis. I colored those I inferred to be male in yellow and those I inferred to be female in green.
- Dusko Ehrlich, INRA, France
- Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA
- Nan Qin, Zhejiang University, China
- Ting Zhu, Tsinghua University, China
- Dusko Ehrlich, INRA, France
- Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA
- Christopher Carr , Massachusetts Institute of Technology , USA
- Yehuda Cohen , Nanyang Technological University , SINGAPORE
- Alana Firl , University of California, Davis , USA
- Andrew Holmes , University of Sydney , AUSTRALIA
- George Kowalchuk , Utrecht University , NETHERLANDS
- Shuangjiang Liu , Institute of Microbiology, CAS , CHINA
- Nan Qin , Zhejiang University , CHINA
- Jacques Ravel , University of Maryland , USA
- Peter Turnbaugh , University of California, San Francisco , USA
- George Weinstock , Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine , USA
- Paul Wilmes , University of Luxembourg , LUXEMBOURG
- Gary Wu , University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine , USA
- Ruifu Yang, Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, CHINA
- Yunsheng Yang , Chinese PLA General Hospital , CHINA
- Jun Yu , The Chinese University of Hong Kong , CHINA
- Yu-Zhong Zhang , Shandong University , CHINA
- Liping Zhao, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, CHINA
- Jizhong Zhou , University of Oklahoma, USA
- Ting Zhu , Tsinghua University , CHINA
Thus of the speakers (keynotes and invited) I infer a ratio of 18 men to 2 women (and one unknown). So that is 10% women. Not remotely representative of the gender in the general area of microbial communities.
I note – this whole thing saddens me even more because one of the invited female speakers is Alana Firl, who is a post doc at UC Davis jointly working in my lab and Sundar’s lab
. She is completely awesome and brilliant. But this meeting? Well, it is a manel (a panel of mostly men). A YAMMM (yet another mostly male meeting). And a disappointment.
So I decided to see if maybe it was just this meeting in the CSHL Asia series and if others were all OK. So I went to their list of past meetings
and looked at just the keynote speakers.
And I went to their list of future meetings and looked at a few (in fields I knew a bit about)
So in these meetings it is 29:3 male to female for the keynote talks. Less than 10% female. Great. CSH Asia meetings. Where men get to speak about all the stuff they know.
AUTHORSHIP AND THE PROMISES OF DIGITAL DISSEMINATION
Wednesday, March 9, 4:00- 5:45 pm
UC Davis School of Law, King Hall, Rm 2100A
A cross-disciplinary panel discussion on authorship in the digital age, with a focus on the specific goals and needs of academic authors. Authors who write to be read care about how their works are published and what that means for reader access. While traditional options and copyright arrangements still predominate in many fields, there are ever-increasing ways to share works of authorship. What works best to get textual and visual works out there and under what circumstances? Join us for this panel discussion with Authors Alliance, where we will explore the opportunities and challenges authors face in maximizing the reach of their work, both in and outside of academia.
Mario Biagioli (Law, STS)
Stephanie Boluk (English)
Jonathan Eisen (Biology)
Alexandra Lippman (STS)
Rick Prelinger (UCSC and director of the Prelinger Archive)
Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars Trilogy)
Pam Samuelson (Authors Alliance)
MacKenzie Smith (Library)
Madhavi Sunder (Law)
I helped organize this meeting that happened Dec 16-17 in Pacifica, CA. It was mainly organized by people from DOE-JGI and Global Viral. Officially titled “Exploring Diversity of Life.”
I guess this would go down in “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” or something like that. A few weeks ago, I posted an anonymous guest post about the lack of female speakers at the Programming for Biology workshop at Cold Spring Harbor Labs: Guest post on Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting (YAMMM) – Programming for Biology. This got a response from Cold Spring Harbor on Twitter claiming they do work to have diverse speakers at their meetings.
Then I got an email last week inviting me to Cold Spring Harbor meeting on the History of DNA Sequencing with a truly awful gender ratio. So I wrote a blog post about that: Cold Spring Harbor presents the men’s only view on the evolution of sequencing. And also started a discussion about this on Twitter.
And in response to some comments from some of the CSHL Meeting people I decided to look into the past meetings in the same history of science series and was saddened with the incredibly low # of female speakers at all the meetings in this series. So I posted about that …
And had more discussions on Twitter where CSHL made some claims about these History of Science meetings being a special case (not buying their argument, just reporting what they said).
And I thought I could have a relaxing Fourth of July weekend not spending my time dealing with Cold Spring Harbor Meetings. And then, well, I got an email from CSHL that I just looked at a few minutes ago. This email invited me to one of their “CSHL Asia Conferences”.
I clicked on the link and when to the meeting site: Biological Rhythms and sadly I got sucked into YAMMM (yet another mostly male meeting) land. Here are the details on the organizers and presenters as far as I could sort out. I have labelled people I infer to be likely male in yellow and likely female in green. (I note I accept that a binary male vs. female representation of gender is less than ideal but I think in general this is a useful thing to look and to make some hypotheses for to assess meetings).
- Carla Green, UT Southwestern, USA
- Michael Hastings, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK
- Joseph Takahashi, HHMI/UT Southwestern, USA
- Hiroki Ueda, University of Tokyo/RIKEN, Japan
- Han Wang, Soochow University, China
- Joseph Takahashi, HHMI/UT Southwestern Medical Center, USA
- Ravi Allada, Northwestern University, USA
- Joseph Bass, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, USA
- Deborah Bell-Pedersen, Texas A&M University, USA
- Nicolas Cermakian, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, CANADA
- Xinnian Dong, Duke University, USA
- Yoshitaka Fukada, University of Tokyo, JAPAN
- Carla Green, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA
- Jinhu Guo, Sun Yat-Sen University, China
- Fang Han, Peking University People’s Hospital of Beijing, CHINA
- Qun He, China Agricultural University, China
- John Hogenesch, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, USA
- Zhili Huang, Fudan University, China
- Takao Kondo, Nagoya University/Div. of Biological Science, JAPAN
- Katja Lamia, The Scripps Research Institute, USA
- Cheng Chi Lee, University of Texas Health Science Center Houston, USA
- Yi Liu, UT Southwestern Medical Center, USA
- Chang Liu, Nanjing Normal University, China
- Hugh Piggins, University of Manchester, UNITED KINGDOM
- Till Roenneberg, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, GERMANY
- Louis Ptacek, HHMI/University of California San Francisco, USA
- Hiroki Ueda, RIKEN Kobe Institute, JAPAN
- David Virshup, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, SINGAPORE
- Han Wang, Soochow University, China
- Charles Weitz, Harvard Medical School, USA
- David Whitmore, University College London, UNITED KINGDOM
- Ying Xu, Soochow University, China
- Xiaodong Xu, Hubei Normal University, China
- Erquan Zhang, National Institute of Biological Sciences, China
- Zhangwu Zhao, China Agricultural University, China
So that is 30 speakers. Only 29 of which could I find information on the web to make a hypothesis of gender. Of those 29, I inferred 6 – or 20% to be female. That is just really low for biological sciences. I am sorry Cold Spring Harbor but you are just not doing a good enough job with diversity. Scratch that, you are doing a bad job. Sad to see.
I have posted on Twitter and other places saying that I would be willing to share here anonymous postings about meetings with skewed gender ratios. I generally am not overly fond on anonymity on the web but realize it has some very important and powerful uses, including protecting people from retribution. So in the case of meetings with skewed gender ratios, I know from personal experience that posting about them can lead to serious vitriol, threats, and possible repercussions. I feel confident enough in my status and position to mostly ignore these responses but I know that not everyone is so blessed.
So – here is one such anonymous post I received.
Last year I was looking around for good workshops to learn programming for biology
about genome assembly and annotation. I came across the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
course called “Programming for Biology” and applied as they have a good reputation.
I was happy to get in and overall really enjoyed the course. I learnt how to program in
Perl (not Python what I regret a bit), a lot of background on downstream genome analysis
and had a mostly pleasant time. An interesting slogan of the meeting was
“It’s not only what you learn here, but also who you meet that makes this workshop so special”
(I am paraphrasing here a bit). Great! But wait are all big players in the field of bioinformatics
Out of the 10 Guest Lectures ALL were male.
- Scott Cain Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
- Brian Haas Broad Institute
- Winston Hide Harvard School of Public Health, South African National Bioinformatics Institute
- Tomas Marques Universitat Pompeu Fabra
- Barry Moore University of Utah
- William Pearson University of Virginia
- James Robinson Broad Institute
- Michael Schatz CSHL
- Jason Stajich University of California, Riverside
- Paul Thomas University of Southern California
Only 2 out of the 7 instructors and tutors were female
- Simon Prochnik DOE – Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA
- Sofia Robb University of California, Riverside
- Steven Ahrendt University of California, Riverside
- Dave Messina Cofactor Genomics
- Shawn Rynearson University of Utah
- Deborah Triant University of Virginia
- Ken Youens-Clark University of Arizona
This means only 2 out of 17 teachers were actual women. This together with the fact that
the meeting was also sold as ‘who you meet here is important’ was the most disappointing
fact. There are so many talented and great female bioinformatics out there it would be
great to see at least some of them present at this workshop in 2015.
P.S.: Don’t get me wrong Simon and Sofia are great and organize a lovely meeting. So this
goes under the category ‘even when it hurts’.