Equal Opportunities Initiative

The representation of women in academia remains low in most fields in science and engineering, despite near equal gender ratios at graduation. The problem is often phrased as the “Leaky Pipeline” problem, which describes the attrition of women from science at various stages along the academic career trajectory. Among the many contributing factors are unconscious biases that we have about the ability of men and women to perform a given scientific task.
For example, a 2012 study showed that both men and women tend to undervalue women candidates for a research technician position, even when the applications are identical except for the candidate’s name [1]. A related problem is that female students often lack role models [2] that have succeeded with the type of work-life balance that the students themselves wish to have, leading many young women to conclude that they must leave academia to achieve their life goals. One recent study found that fewer women give invited talks at the ESEB congress than might be expected [3] and another study found that women in audiences asked fewer questions than men [4]. As a consequence, ESEB audiences are exposed to fewer top quality female speakers than are available, and potentially there is lower visibility of female scientists asking questions, which reinforces gender stereotypes. Furthermore, ESEB student members experience fewer female role models than they could; this may demotivate young women to pursue an academic career in our field.
Similar problems exist for other underrepresented groups (for example, ethnicities). The ESEB Equal Opportunities committee would like to target these problems expanding to also include underrepresented groups in general.


  • to ensure equal opportunities in all activities and facets of our society
  • to increase awareness for the problem of underrepresented groups
  • to produce “best practice guidelines” for both ESEB as a society, the congress, and the journal
  • to monitor status and progress of underrepresented groups in our society and field
[1] Moss-Racusin (2012) PNAS
[2] CCA (2012)
[3] Schroeder, J., Dugdale, H. L., et al (2013), Fewer invited talks by women in evolutionary biology symposia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26: 2063–2069. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12198
[4] Carter, AJ, Croft, A, Lukas, D, Sandstrom GM (2019) Women’s visibility in academic seminars: Women ask fewer questions than men. PLoS ONE 13(9) e0202743. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202743; See also the summary by the authors with tips for organisers and audiences: https://uploads.strikinglycdn.com/files/0b0103cd-e0e6-4819-94cb-61752735899a/promoting%20diversity%20in%20question%20asking.pdf

Your EO committee

Julia Schroeder, Chair (Imperial College London, UK)
Hannah Dugdale, Chair (University of Leeds, UK)

Equal Opportunities Initiative Fund

Next deadline March 31, 2020

Support for activities that aim to improve equal opportunities or projects that will enhance our knowledge about unequal opportunities.
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Congress Attendance Aid Grant

Deadline for EMPSEB26 attendants: February 3, 2020

The grants are aimed to increase the attendance of women at ESEB congresses and EMPSEB.
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