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 . A related problem is that female students often lack role models  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  and another study found that women in audiences asked fewer questions than men . 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.
 Moss-Racusin (2012) PNAS
 CCA (2012)
 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
 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
Next deadline September 30, 2022
Support for activities that aim to improve equal opportunities or projects that will enhance our knowledge about unequal opportunities.
Deadline for support of your participation at EMPSEB28: tba
Deadline for support of your participation at ESEB2025: tba
The grants are aimed to increase the attendance of women at ESEB congresses and EMPSEB.
These awards are aimed to highlight the achievements of under-represented early-career researchers (ECRs) who have faced difficult circumstances while conducting their work.