Friday, October 28, 2016

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.  


  1. "That comes to 11% female speakers. Not a good ratio."
    What's a good ratio? What's the ratio in the genomics field?

  2. OK, following the method at I searched NIH reporter with the keyword "genomics". Counting the number of women on every 50th page (including duplicates), I got 44 out of 175 total = 25%. Is this the target we're going for?

  3. That can be a way of estimating the percentages for people with NIH funding. I don't think that is the right base line in most casss however since there is no reason I know of to restrict a conference (especially one like this Halloween symposium) to only funded PIs.

    1. Yes, it's an arbitrary method, but I'm just trying to get an idea of what the pool is to draw from. If a field is mostly male (leaving the causes of that for a different discussion) it seems like the speakers are going to skew that way, through no fault of the organizers. Though it could be argued that organizers should intentionally invite disproportionate numbers of women to encourage their participation in the field.

    2. Yes, I think this is very helpful in terms of background information. But I think to run a good meeting, one should use many criteria to try and pick possible speakers (if one is inviting them -- in some cases one reviews submissions). Criteria could include: covering specific topics, quality of work, career stage, quality of presentations, type if institutions they are from, region of the world represented, and also speaker diversity. (And other things too). A meeting to me serves many purposes and if the purpose of a meeting is just to invite the well known or well funded people, well, I really want nothing to do with that meeting.


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