STATEMENT BY THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CELL BIOLOGY ON WORKPLACE DIVERSITY
The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), founded in 1960, is a professional society of basic biomedical researchers who study the cell, the fundamental unit of life. The society has members in all 50 states and 57 other nations around the world. Its annual scientific conference is the largest of its kind in the world. In its mission statement, the ASCB identifies itself as an “inclusive” community dedicated to “promoting professional development and increasing diversity within the scientific workforce.”
The ASCB has a long and proud history of work in support of a diverse scientific workforce and professional development. In the 1970’s, the ASCB became aware of the under-representation of women in science and academia. Newsletters were circulated and ad-hoc meetings were held at each ASCB Annual Meeting. In 1992, the ASCB Council formalized its focus on women in science by creating the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Committee. Along with sponsoring mentoring and educational events at each Annual Meeting, WICB directs efforts that provide career support and advice and runs a speaker referral service to help scientific meeting organizers identify women speakers for their meetings.
In 1980, in an effort to increase minority membership within the ASCB, the Society launched an effort that resulted, five years later, in the formal establishment of the Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC). The MAC has as its major objectives increasing opportunities for underrepresented minorities in science and career development for minorities in science.
Each year, MAC manages a wide range of programs that provide students and faculty from minority and teaching institutions with opportunities to participate in leading summer research programs, develop research collaborations with ASCB members, and participate in career development activities at the ASCB Annual Meeting.
In 2002, the ASCB Education Committee created a subcommittee on postdoctoral training. The subcommittee was focused on developing mentoring and training opportunities along with providing networking opportunities. In 2012, the ASCB Council elevated the subcommittee to a full committee. The new Committee for Students and Postdocs (COMPASS) is focused on career development, communication within the postdoc community, outreach to the wider community, and networking.
The next step for the ASCB as a champion of a diverse scientific community is to ensure that the scientific enterprise is open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Science by nature depends on data and should be free of arbitrary judgment. Human nature, however, can often lead to an unconscious bias that can have a significant impact on employment opportunities, the ability to publish, and career advancement of others.
For the ASCB, an inclusive community and a diverse workforce mean that employment in science should be free of discrimination based on race, gender, age, religious affiliation, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender identity.
In that regard, through the creation of a subcommittee of the ASCB’s governing council, the ASCB will serve as a forum for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer , and any other minority gender identity or sexual orientation, such as questioning, two-spirited, intersex, and asexual (collectively referred to as LGBTQ+). The ASCB will provide members of the LGBTQ+ community with the opportunity to develop mentorship opportunities, network with other members of the LGBTQ+ community, learn from other ASCB members who may serve as successful role models, and advance their scientific careers, free of any social bias.
In addition, the ASCB hopes to raise awareness within the rest of the scientific community in ways that will break down the walls of bias that stand in the way of a truly inclusive scientific community.