A gloomy day at the #UCDavis Genome Center Halloween Symposium – a model for a #manel #yammm

It is a gloomy day, at least for me, at #UCDavis today.

Yes it is raining and cloudy.  But that is not the gloomy part. I like rain and clouds and we don’t get enough of either around here. The issue for me is the Symposium happening today in my building.  Run by the UC Davis Genome Center, which I am a part of.  What is the problem?

Well here is the flier

That is nine presenters.  Eight of which are men. 

  • S. Dinesh-Kumar
  • Brett Phinney
  • Anthony Herren
  • Jessica Franco
  • Jack Cuniff
  • John Yates
  • John Muchena
  • Ilias Tagkopoulos
  • Nuno Bandeira
That comes to 11% female speakers.  Not a good ratio.  But you know this is just one sample right?  It could be a random anomaly, or something else.

So – lets look at last years Halloween symposium.

That is five speakers, all men.

  • Mingcheng Luo UC Davis
  • Chris Streck 10X
  • Marco Blanchette Dovetail
  • Matthew Seetin PacBio
  • Matthew Settles, UC Davis
Four speakers. All male.

  • Bruce Draper UC Davis, Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Bruce Conklin, Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, UCSF
  • David Segal, UC Davis, Genome Center
  • Dana Carroll, University of Utah, Department of Biochemistry
So over the last three years we have 94% male presenters. It is a better if you go back further. 2013 was 50-50.  2012 was  ~ 70-% male.  2011 was  55:45 or so.  But over the last three years something has devolved.  And no, I will not be attending.  And yes, I have made comments about this, but maybe too few.  
It is so frustrating to keep seeing this happening over and over in academia and science.  And to see it so close to home, well, it is really extraordinarily disappointing. 
I sent the organizers which I think has some great examples of how to run a diverse meeting.
Below are some articles worth looking at on the topic. 

I certainly feel partially responsible for this, because it is in my building and run by my Center.   Now I had nothing to do with this even, but still …  I will do my best to make sure this does not happen ever again at the UC Davis Genome Center.  But I will not be attending this year’s meeting.  

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: http://joinias.com. 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 http://joinias.com/faculty 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.id=id; e.src=p + “://app.genderavenger.com/js/lib/embed.js”;f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f);}}(document,”script”,”genderavenger-embed”);

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

A mini rant about diversity at meetings #STEMDiversity #YAMMM #manel

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.

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 sitehttp://www.dbs.ucdavis.edu/seminars_and_events/storer_lecture_list.htmlfrom 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





A #YAMMMY #manel brought to you by #UCSF #QB3 "Medical Devices Reimagined"

And in today’s #YAMMY #manel we have “Medical Devices Reimagined”: the Third Annual Rosenman Symposium Tickets, Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 1:00 PM | Eventbrite

With the following very diverse array of speakers. Good times.  If you are on of the right kind.

  • Adam Gazzaley Adam Gazzaley
  • Hanson Gifford Hanson Gifford
  • Darrell Johnson Darrell Johnson
  • Bryan LarsonBryan Larson
  • Ron Leuty Ron Leuty
  • Brian Otis Brian Otis
  • Firat Yazicioglu Firat Yazicioglu
  • Reza Zadno Reza Zadno

If you want to go to a #manel or a #YAMMM check out Cold Spring Harbor Asia meetings – where men get to speak about stuff

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

Keynote Speakers:

  • Dusko Ehrlich, INRA, France
  • Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA

Invited Speakers:

  • 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.  
And sadly this is not the first time I have seen such skewed ratios in meetings from Cold Spring Harbor.  See for example: Yet another mostly male meeting (YAMMM) from Cold Spring Harbor and 
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. 
Precision Cancer Biology and Medicine: 3 keynotes.  All male. 
Francis Crick Symposium: Advances in Neuroscience. 2 keynotes. One male. One female. 
Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy. 2 keynotes. Both male. 
And I went to their list of future meetings and looked at a few (in fields I knew a bit about)
Frontiers in Single Cell Genomics: three keynotes – all male
Telomere and Telomerase: one keynote – male 
Synthetic Biology: one keynote – male
DNA Metabolism, Genomic Stability and Diseases: two keynotes – one male and one female
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.