Sustaining Women in Science:
Lessons from the American Society
for Cell Biology
American Society for Cell Biology
ABRF Annual Meeting Presentation
February 8, 2009
Why Women’s Groups, Programs
Needed at Scientific Societies?
Remember the early 1970s?
– Most positions weren’t advertised.
– Female role models were few and far between.
– Sexist comments were common.
Before the ASCB Annual Meeting in 1971
– A small group of cell biology students, postdocs, and faculty met.
– They discussed:
Paucity of women speakers at cell biology meetings
Low number of tenured women among cell biology faculty
Their interest in meeting for support, networking,
collaboration, and discussion, at the ASCB Annual Meeting
Title IX Creates Receptive
In 1972, U.S. Congress passed Title IX of the
Education Amendment Act.
It banned sexual discrimination in education
programs receiving federal funding…not just
At that time:
– 1 in 5 faculty members were female.
– 1% of those in master’s programs in
science/engineering were female.
– 40% of undergrads were female.
From Small Acorns…
The Women in Cell Biology (WICB) began as a grassroots
A founding WICB member served on the ASCB Council 1972-4.
Nevertheless, WICB was not initially supported by the ASCB.
WICB started its own publication, which:
– Advertised jobs
– Publicized studies, court cases related to women’s issues
– Provided news about women in powerful positions
– Called attention to sexist comments by speakers and in the
Participants at ASCB Annual Meeting WICB meetings grew from 30
in 1971 to nearly 200 in 1973 and 900 in 1991…men included.
WICB created publications including How to Get a Postdoc, How to
Get a Job, and How to Keep a Job.
WICB Newsletter editor served as informal WICB leader.
WICB Becomes Mainstream: How?
1. Get Funding: WICB published and sold books to
raise funds for meetings in the 1970s.
2. Get Angry: The 1980 ASCB Annual Meeting