The Women in Cell Biology Committee: An Effective Advocacy Group

Under its new chair, Diane Barber of the University of California, San Francisco, the Women in Cell Biology Committee (WICB) will continue to be an effective advocacy group promoting gender equality and diversity as well as career development in the field of cell biology through year-long programs and Annual Meeting events.

Our monthly WICB columns in the ASCB Newsletter include advice on career challenges for both women and men. We recruit authors to write about current career issues and evolving strategies to address continuing concerns. This year the columns will include using the “cloud,” career coaching, and examples of some of the best programs that support career development and work–life management.

WICB Members

WICB members at the Annual Meeting

WICB’s Speaker Referral List ( of names and research interests of outstanding women cell biologists is a great resource for organizers of scientific meetings, scientific review panels, and university symposia/lecture series. Keystone Symposia uses the list, and we provide a referral process by which a WICB member assists meeting organizers in finding speakers. In 2015 the Speaker Referral List was featured by then WICB chair Sandra Masur in an article entitled “Invisible Woman?” in Trends in Cell Biology and in the December ASCB Newsletter, which also included links to other, similar resources. We welcome suggestions for topics and authors.

To stay connected all year we invite people to join the WICB Network, an alliance of ASCB members who wish to learn about, support, and perhaps participate in various WICB activities and initiatives—and to decrease feelings of isolation that can occur in our home institutions. WICB Network members receive articles and resources related to career/life issues. Additionally the WICB Reception at the Annual Meeting is helpful to connect with others. In the last two years, this inclusive event has been co-sponsored with the International Affairs Committee and a panel of international scientists provided advice and answered questions about “how you make your career come together.” Many of the issues raised by the panel are related to early-career challenges and how people have successfully navigated them. Hence in 2016 we will expand co-sponsorship of this event to include the Committee for Postdocs and Students as well.

WICB hosts several other events at the ASCB Annual Meeting. The Career Mentoring Roundtables allow participants to meet informally for discussions on issues of importance to cell biologists in various stages of their careers. This includes learning about jobs in biotech and pharma as well as how to negotiate, how to get funded, and where and how long to postdoc. The Mentoring Theater uses satire and humor to highlight practical solutions to problems that scientists face. In 2015, the topic was “Who Me? I’m Not Biased. Embracing Diversity to Improve Creativity.”

The WICB Childcare Awards provide support to scientists with dependent children to attend the ASCB Annual Meeting. The program has received rave reviews from grantees for how easy the process is and the crucial impact of the financial support. Nature Publishing Group has been generously funding these awards, and we are submitting an application for continued support.

WICB looks forward to continuing its work on career development programs, mentoring, speaker lists, achievement awards, child-care grants, and Web-based resources.

About the Author:

Sandra K. Masur is a professor of Ophthalmology and Pharmacological Sciences and director of the Office of Women's Careers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.