FEBS statement on support for women in science
Recent comments on social media about the gender imbalance of speakers at an upcoming symposium for the 50th anniversary of FEBS Letters have focused attention on the reasons for continued gender disparity in the molecular life sciences at senior levels, and also on the steps being taken by FEBS to address this.
Two overt ways FEBS has been working to support female scientists in recent years are through the promotion of the annual FEBS│EMBO Women in Science Award (whose winners serve as inspiring role models for future generations of women in science) and the holding of a gender issues session at its annual Congress. Session subjects have included perspectives from European agencies working to advance women in science and consideration of unconscious bias. Striving towards an acceptable gender balance among speakers at scientific meetings has also long been a concern in FEBS Congress preparations and in FEBS Advanced Courses proposals. In addition, gender balance is considered in FEBS committee appointments, and approximately 40% of the FEBS Executive Committee of senior scientists are women.
The FEBS Letters symposium that has attracted recent attention was very different to usual FEBS events because, as an anniversary event, its speaker line up was selected by the organizers through the prism of the last 50 years, by looking at articles in the journal that were most cited and downloaded by its readers since its launch. The organizers acknowledge the problem, and are taking measures to address it. The FEBS Executive Committee is discussing policies to avoid similar issues in the future.
Václav Pačes, FEBS Secretary General