ELSO’s new database raises the visibility of Europe’s women life scientists

Publiceret Oktober 2005

ELSO’s Database of Expert Women in the Molecular Life Sciences is now online and ready to accept applications as well as to provide information about the work of hundreds of European women scientists.

Dresden, Germany (27 October 2005) – At the opening session of ELSO’s international life science congress in Dresden last month, ELSO President Kai Simons unveiled the organisation’s new Database of Expert Women in the Molecular Life Sciences, a new device to improve the visibility of European women researchers in this field. ELSO’s Career Development Committee came up with the idea, which has been implemented by Committee member Karla Neugebauer, a Group Leader at the Dresden Max Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics. She says, ”Our objective is to promote gender equality in Europe, by improving the visibility of women accomplished in their fields, from senior postdocs to senior independent scientists.”

Although women make up around half of students and postdocs in the life sciences, when it comes to the higher positions women are chronically under-represented. The same is true at conferences – the number of women speakers rarely matches the 35% target ELSO’s Career Development Committee would like to see as the norm.

“There are a few truly remarkable women who are now routinely on the radar screen, but many women doing good science still remain invisible compared to their male peer group,” commented US biologist Susan Forsburg in an online article for Women In Cell Biology. “This matters, because the exposure on the podium can significantly affect careers by exposing the speaker to potential postdocs, collaborators, job opportunities, or prizes – and, of course, further speaking opportunities.”

ELSO hopes the database will help organisations identify appropriately qualified women scientists not only to speak at conferences and in seminar programmes, but also as candidates for professorships and other positions; to participate in advisory groups, on monitoring panels, committees and commissions; to review manuscripts, to write commissioned reviews and to serve on the editorial boards of journals.

” Some senior women have told me they are reluctant to join the database, because they already get a lot of invitations and feel over-burdened,” Neugebauer comments. “This reflects the fact that women who are already visible are asked over and over again. Paradoxically, senior women may actually receive fewer but more appropriate invitations as a result of this database, and these women can also use the database to help suggest alternatives when they cannot themselves accept an invitation. Meanwhile, junior women will be happy to receive some of the attention they deserve.”

The database is open online for applications from qualified women and it already has over 280 of Europe’s top female molecular cell biologists listed. ELSO wants more senior postdocs in the database, since these women may benefit most when the database is used to solicit applications for faculty positions.

“From my point of view, it is extremely useful for identifying women from outside my field as speakers and to serve on committees,” comments Susan Gasser, Director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel (Switzerland), about the new database, “It’s going to open the eyes of young women to just how many women are active in research, and it will help us to build a community spirit among women researchers who are often too few and far between,” she adds.

ELSO hopes that with its new database the usual excuses for gender bias-- “There aren’t any women in this field!” and, “We asked a woman, and she couldn’t come!” -- will be a thing of the past.

Further information

ELSO was established in 1999 by a group of prominent European scientists and based on the example of American scientific societies, especially the American Society for Cell Biology. ELSO was created to organise a large annual international congress in Europe and also to promote the molecular life sciences in Europe and to defend the interests of scientists in this discipline.

ELSO’s Career Development Committee is working to improve the career opportunities for life scientists in Europe both through activities at the annual ELSO congress and through various projects running throughout the year. You can read about its activities on the ELSO CDC web site.


ELSO: www.elso.org

ELSO Career Development Committee: www.elso-cdc.org

ELSO Database of Expert Women in the Molecular Life Sciences: http://www.rnk-it.de/cdc-db/members_meet.php


Ingeborg Fatscher, ELSO Secretary
ELSO e. V.
Postfach 1151
69199 Sandhausen, Germany
Tel: +49 6224 925613
Fax: +49 6224 925610
e-mail: i.fatscher@elso.org

Dr. Karla Neugebauer
Group leader
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
Pfotenhauerstrasse 108
01307 Dresden, Germany
Tel: +49-351-210-2589
e-mail: women@elso.org