Society News

Support for women in BMB

Laurel Oldach
Sept. 1, 2019

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has launched the Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee, or WIBMB. The charge of this newest ASBMB committee is to advocate for women in these disciplines, both in academia and in industry.

Founding members Susan Baserga of Yale University, Kelly Ten Hagen of the National Institutes of Health and Karen Allen of Boston University said the inspiration for the committee arose from the widely reported dearth of women in senior roles in academia and from the community’s enthusiasm for the Women Scientists’ Mentoring and Networking event held at ASBMB annual meetings since 2008.

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Baserga said working on the ASBMB’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee was a further inspiration. The PAAC anti-harassment working group, chaired by Susan Forsburg of the University of Southern California, has been working for about a year to promote policies to address sexual harassment and gender discrimination in science.

Members organized a congressional briefing in December 2018 to share findings by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that such harassment is widespread, and they have continued to pursue solutions in conversation with science funding institutes and policymakers.

According to Baserga, the working group catalyzed a cadre of “mighty women” in the PAAC. “I was so motivated by their collective wisdom, their generosity and smarts, that I thought we could offer that to the wider ASBMB,” she said, adding that past ASBMB president Natalie Ahn was a key champion of the proposal.

The formation of the women’s committee was announced during this year’s Women Scientists’ Networking Dinner at the ASBMB annual meeting in Orlando. “I was so impressed with the energy in the room,” Baserga said.

The committee plans to come together with the community annually at that dinner during the ASBMB meeting. The event will include talks on issues that uniquely challenge women scientists and will continue to serve as a forum for sharing experiences, challenges and solutions.

Beginning in 2020, two new awards recognizing individuals with a strong commitment to advancing the careers of women in biochemistry and molecular biology will be presented at the dinner: one for early-career faculty and one for more established scientists. Nominations for these awards will open in the fall.

“I am delighted that the ASBMB Council approved the creation of the Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee … to highlight the many important roles that women in biochemistry and molecular biology play in advancing our field,” ASBMB president Gerald Hart said. “We hope that this committee will formally lead to increased involvement of women in the leadership of ASBMB as well as increase the numbers of outstanding women who are offered high-profile speaking opportunities at ASBMB-sponsored events.”

Want to join?

If you are interested in joining the WIBMB, send your CV/résumé and a short letter of interest to ASBMB Executive Director Barbara Gordon.

Laurel Oldach

Laurel Oldach is a science writer for the ASBMB.

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