Highlights of ASCB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion town hall


In late September, ASCB held an online town hall to present and discuss its developing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan, which was started by Council in June. The town hall featured ASCB President Eva Nogales of the University of California, Berkeley; MariaElena Zavala, a member of ASCB’s Minorities Affairs Committee from California State University, Northridge; and ASCB CEO Erika Shugart.

The initial short-term actions and how they were developed during the Council meeting can be reviewed at www.ascb.org/society-news/ascb-to-take-action-on-diversity-equity-and-inclusion. The online event, which can be viewed at www.ascb.org/ascb-meetings/ascb-town-hall-on-diversity-equity-inclusion, gave ASCB leadership the opportunity to not only outline the work being done on diversity, equity, and inclusion but obtain feedback from participants and viewers about future plans. Following the event, ASCB is asking for additional feedback through an online survey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/JHJWW2J), which can be filled out anonymously. The request for feedback is ongoing and will feed into the process of developing a longer-term diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan.

During the town hall, Zavala presented an overview of some of ASCB’s historical milestones regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the formation of the Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC), the Women in Cell Biology (WICB) Committee, and the LGBTQ+ Committee. These committees have attracted extramural funding, which, in turn, has been funneled into programs and awards that support the Society’s mission to improve diversity and inclusivity in the biomedical workforce and within the Society. Zavala noted how various awards and programs such as the E.E. Just Award and Lecture and the Faculty Research Education Development (FRED) Mentoring Program have supported the Society’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Furthermore, she mentioned that ASCB activities have resulted in hundreds of people participating in diversity, equity, and inclusion sessions at the annual meeting as well as published research on the outcomes of the Society’s efforts.

“I don’t think that diversity, equity, and inclusion is the sole responsibility of WICB, MAC, or the LGBTQ+ committees,” Zavala concluded. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to encourage people who might not look like us to become scientists.”

She also advised ASCB members to reflect upon how their own behaviors impact inclusivity and to take stock of the people working in their labs, departments, and institutions and to analyze any processes (for hiring, etc.) in place that may affect diversity, equity, and inclusion.

During the second half of the town hall, Shugart outlined the current action plan and highlighted some activities from the plan that have already rolled out as of September. She cited, for example, the town hall itself, the new selection process for speakers in Minisymposia at the annual meeting, inclusivity grants to pay for the registration and abstract fees of virtual meeting attendees (www.ascb.org/grants-awards/inclusivity-and-childcare-grants-2), and the Voices series in the Society’s basic research journal Molecular Biology of the Cell. Shugart also explained the goals of two recently formed task forces: one to examine the overall portfolio and nomination processes of the Society’s honorific awards and another to develop a more long-term diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan that aligns with the Society’s strategic plan and is realized over the next three to five years.

The town hall concluded with a question and answer session. ASCB welcomes questions and comments regarding the action plan, the town hall, or any of ASCB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion activities to ascbinfo@ascb.org.

“As long as inequality exists as it relates to race, gender, ethnicity, this is something that has to be confronted, it cannot be ignored…ASCB will work with that endeavor in mind,” Nogales added at the conclusion of the town hall. “Also it is very important that we do this as a group and that everybody gets involved, not just those who are being discriminated against.”

About the Author:

Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.