What is the Women in Biology Speakers List?

The Women in Biology Speakers List is a curated database of prominent female scientists who have been recognized as experts in their respective biological subfields. It was founded in 2017 through a collaborative effort between Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), as a resource for conference organizers, educators, journalists, and policymakers. Users can search the database by name, institution, country, contributing organization, and relevant research keywords to ensure that future conference programs, panel participants and award recipients are gender-balanced.

The Speakers List is maintained by CSHL’s Women in Science & Engineering (WiSE) organization, which aims to foster a more supportive, collaborative and equal scientific community for all. The overarching goal of this project is to create a comprehensive list of female researchers, by soliciting contributions from professional biological organizations across the world. If your organization is interested in becoming a contributing partner please contact us.



Why is it important?

Substantial data show that women remain underrepresented in professional leadership positions within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. In recent years, the gender imbalance in invited speakers at major scientific conferences has garnered international attention and motivated demand for policy change. Disproportionately, fewer women are selected as conference organizers, keynote speakers, panel participants, and award recipients. The exclusion of women from these opportunities not only hinders their career development but also impedes the scientific enterprise as a whole by disregarding the critical influence that diverse ideas have on innovation and productivity.

To address this issue, we urge scientific leaders to strive for gender parity wherever possible by using our database. The Speakers List is comprised of exemplary women whose achievements demonstrate that achieving gender parity and maintaining high scientific standards are not mutually exclusive goals. By placing more women behind the podium, we hope to facilitate a culture shift that will ultimately render this list unnecessary.


What makes our list unique?

Since 1933, CSHL’s Meetings and Courses Program has been a hub for biomedical research and education and is strongly committed to diversity in the recruitment and selection of their participants. Similarly, the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Committee of ASCB is an advocacy group within an international community of biologists who are dedicated to scientific discovery, professional development, and increasing diversity within the scientific community. Together, these organizations, in collaboration with CSHL WiSE, are well-positioned to create a growing database of outstanding female speakers, across biological disciplines.

The Women in Biology Speakers List stands out from other referral databases by the fact that it is curated and comprehensive. In other words, our scientists are not self-nominated, but rather have been selected for their exemplary achievements to share their expertise at internationally renowned meetings. For example, CSHL’s list contains speakers that have passed the selection criteria of course and conference organizers, while ASCB’s list is hand-curated by a WICB committee member.

Once again, our goal is to create a central archive of female biological and biomedical researchers who have won awards, presented their research, or organized a meeting within each collaborating professional biological organization. Each contributing organization’s selection criteria must be approved by the founding organizations (CSHL and ASCB) before integration with the full database. If your institution is interested in becoming a contributing partner please contact us.