The Women in Cell Biology (WICB) will present their annual Career Recognition Awards at the 6th International Congress on Cell Biology & 36th American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in 1996. These awards have been presented each year for the last ten years—with the exception of 1988—to outstanding cell biologists whose scientific achievements and mentoring activities are deserving of peer recognition by all members of the Society (see end of article).The Career Recognition Awards were established by the WICB in 1986. The original idea for the awards came from Kathryn Vogel and Pat Calarco, then WICB Chair and Vice-chair, respectively. In presenting the Career Recognition Awards, the WICB took an active role in focusing national attention on outstanding women scientists. As recalled by Pat Calarco, “we wanted to bestow some much-needed recognition on highly talented, effective, and deserving women. In those days—even in ASCB—women were rarely recognized. They were not major players on the Program Committee or Council; they did not comprise a significant population of the invited speakers, but they were ever more in evidence as contributing scientists in this arena.”Both a Junior and Senior Award were conceived in order to promote and recognize women cell biologists on two levels. The Junior Award, as described by Kathryn Vogel, was designed to “give a boost to the career of a promising young woman scientist” with the added intent of “raising the visibility of that woman within the Society”. The Senior Award, Vogel continues, was designed as a “thank you” for what the recipient has done for woman scientists —”recognition of a history of being supportive of women scientists.”
The first Junior Award was given to Mary Beckerle in 1986. Beckerle was contacted recently and asked how receiving the award has affected her career. She related that the award was a “vote of confidence in my abilities as a scientist.” Having just moved to the University of Utah as an Assistant Professor in 1986, Beckerle reflected with amusement that receipt of the Junior Award gave her hope that she would “ultimately unpack all of those boxes and do experiments again!” Beckerle’s scientific career has continued to flourish since she was recognized by the WICB in 1986. A profile of her career appeared in the June, 1994 ASCB Newsletter. She has assumed a leadership role in the ASCB, serving as Co-Chair of the Committee on Scientific Meetings in 1994, as an Associate Editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell, on the Nominating Committee in 1996, and as a newly elected member of the ASCB Council.
The first Senior Award was bestowed upon Mary Clutter, who was involved in the formation of the WICB in the 1970’s and who has continued to support women in science through her leadership role at the National Science Foundation. When asked for reflections on her award, she recalled how pleased she was to receive it in 1986 and assured us that she still has the plaque!
Every year, selecting one person to receive each award from among the many qualified nominees is difficult. For this reason, the group periodically considers the possible repercussions of the award competition on the careers of young women who are nominated for—but do not receive—the Junior Award. For those not selected, is there a negative impact on their advancement? While this is difficult to determine, the WICB Committee believes that the nomination process itself may be beneficial to a woman’s career by solidifying in the mind of a supervisor or a department chair the overall contributions made by the nominee to the field of cell biology.
Although only two women are recognized each year, the attention focused on these two women by articles appearing in the ASCB Newsletter, their campus papers, and other media publicizes the contributions of women to the scientific endeavor. Recognition by the scientific community, and the nation as a whole, of the contribution of women to science continues to be an important goal of the WICB Committee.
Since 1986, we have witnessed a growth of representation by women in all facets of the ASCB. The WICB believe that their annual awards program, as well as their other activities, have played a crucial part in these advances. Over the years, the awards have continued essentially unchanged. The WICB views the awards as a valuable tradition that should be continued.
The call for nominations and eligibility guidelines for this year’s WICB Career Recognition Awards appears in this issue of the ASCB newsletter (see below). The WICB urges you to submit nominations by the August 1, 1996 deadline. We are looking forward to bestowing the tenth anniversary Career Recognition Awards upon highly deserving cell biologists at the 1996 Congress & Meeting.