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

Black Lives Matter

Black lives mat­ter. After many years of fights and protests, how sad it is that we still have to be reminded of this simple fact. We are deeply moved by the hor­ror of racist crimes, and we share the frus­tra­tion and anger that they justly trig­ger. As evol­u­tion­ary bio­lo­gists and mem­bers of the European Soci­ety of Evol­u­tion­ary Bio­logy (ESEB), we wish to express solid­ar­ity with and sup­port for vic­tims of racism, in the US and all over the world.

While the his­tory of racism has dis­tinct fea­tures in the US, much of it has European roots, and we should not over­look the sad fact that European his­tory itself is soaked with the blood of the vic­tims of racism – and that so many of our cit­izens and immig­rants to Europe endure ongo­ing hard­ship, pre­ju­dice, viol­ence, and uphill battles to suc­ceed and devel­op as human beings only because of their skin col­our or origin.

Evol­u­tion­ary bio­logy has con­trib­uted in a com­plex way to debates about race, some of which have unfor­tu­nately been used to jus­ti­fy racist atti­tudes. None of the know­ledge that we pro­duce can jus­ti­fy dis­crim­in­at­ing between people accord­ing to their ori­gin or skin col­our. It seems to us that anti­racism is fun­da­ment­ally a mor­al stand­point, not a sci­entif­ic per­spect­ive. The out­rage that so many of us feel over ongo­ing racial viol­ence and dis­crim­in­a­tion in our world may nev­er­the­less prompt us, as mem­bers of ESEB, an inter­na­tion­al learned soci­ety that brings diverse people togeth­er, to ask what we can do to com­bat these blights.

How can we make our sci­entif­ic com­munity more diverse and wel­com­ing? Des­pite its inter­na­tion­al pro­file, ESEB mem­ber­ship remains unrep­res­ent­at­ive of human diversity, glob­ally or in Europe. Since its incep­tion in 1987, ESEB has seen a steady increase in the con­tri­bu­tion made by women to evol­u­tion­ary bio­logy and to the life of the soci­ety. How­ever, non-Caucasi­ans are severely under­rep­res­en­ted in our research com­munity and in ESEB. We clearly need to main­tain efforts to be more inclus­ive in our reach and activ­it­ies as a Soci­ety, to be alert to the poten­tial influ­ences of uncon­scious bias to which we are all prone, to adopt and act on policies that increase diversity in many dimen­sions, and to com­bat all forms of racism. The ESEB Equal Oppor­tun­ity com­mit­tee wel­comes sug­ges­tions from our mem­bers on what more we can do.

ESEB Exec­ut­ive Com­mit­tee*: Ophélie Ronce (Pres­id­ent), John Pan­nell (Sec­ret­ary), Koen Ver­ho­even (Exec­ut­ive Vice-Pres­id­ent), Wolf Blanken­horn (Edit­or in Chief, JEB), Mike Ritch­ie (Evol­u­tion Let­ters Officer)
*at the time of the publication

For fur­ther inform­a­tion, ESEB’s sis­ter organ­isa­tion, the Soci­ety for the Study of Evol­u­tion (SSE), has com­piled a webpage of anti-racism resources.

[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

Anne Char­manti­er, Chair, CEFE, CNRS, FR
Michael Jen­nions, Aus­trali­an Nation­al Uni­ver­sity, AU
Bil­jana Sto­jković, Uni­ver­sity of Bel­grade, RS

Equal Opportunities Initiative Fund

Next dead­line March 31, 2022

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 sup­port of your par­ti­cip­a­tion at EMPSEB27: Feb 1st, 2022

Dead­line for sup­port of your par­ti­cip­a­tion at ESEB2022: Apr 15th, 2022

The grants are aimed to increase the attend­ance of women at ESEB con­gresses and EMPSEB.
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ESEB under-represented ECR achievement award

Dead­line 31 Janu­ary 2022

These awards are aimed to high­light the achieve­ments of under-rep­res­en­ted early-career research­ers (ECRs) who have faced dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances while con­duct­ing their work.
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