Jonathan Eisen, professor at the genome center at University of California, Davis, knows he’s an unlikely champion for female representation at scientific conferences. But he also knows someone needs to point out the dearth of women who are speakers at these events. Since Eisen, 51, first vented his frustration with the problem in a 2012 blog post, his social-media feed has called out scientific gatherings that disproportionately feature male scientists.
His posts make him the target of criticism from colleagues, and conference organizers have threatened to bar him from their future meetings. But he willingly bears the brunt of that backlash, and has received grateful feedback from men and women who appreciate his serving as the lightning rod for any fallout. Now, Eisen says that around a third of his posts highlighting gender bias at conferences come from other scientists.
On his blog, he also includes advice for how to run a more diverse meeting that includes not just a better balance of men and women, but people of color and scientists at different stages of their careers as well. “We can fix this,” he says. “And no doubt things have been changing. But also without a doubt, it’s not enough.” —Alice Park