Workshop "Women in Evolutionary Biology" Advances Diversity and Equality in Science

May 28, 2024

From 14-16 May 2024, the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology hosted the workshop "Women in Evolutionary Biology". The goal of the workshop was to enhance diversity and equality in the research community by bringing together female scientists from various backgrounds for three days of scientific presentations, discussions, and networking. 

The workshop featured keynote addresses from leading female scientists in evolutionary biology and provided participants with a platform to showcase their research through scientific talks and poster presentations. While the event highlighted the achievements of women in the field, men were welcome to participate in the workshop, which fostered an inclusive atmosphere for scientific exchange.

"The event’s main focus was science," said Maria Alejandra Ramirez, one of the event organizers and doctoral student at the institute. "We wanted to create a space where female scientists could present their work, engage in meaningful discussions, and build networks that support their professional growth."

In addition to scientific sessions, the workshop dedicated time to addressing the unique challenges faced by women in academia. Special discussion sessions explored topics such as disparity in work-life balance and strategies to overcome gender bias in the scientific community. These sessions provided an open forum for attendees to share experiences and offer support, empowering female scientists at various stages of their careers.

"We believe that addressing these issues is crucial for fostering a more equitable scientific community," stated Prof. Dr. Deepa Agashe, a keynote speaker at the event. "By discussing the barriers women face and sharing our experiences, we can work towards creating a more inclusive environment for future generations."

Diversity and inclusiveness were central to the workshop. The participants came from 17 different countries from all over the world and ranged from young master’s students to a professor emerita. The keynote speakers were selected to represent different research areas, nationalities, and ages.

Among them was the renowned evolutionary biologist Professor Emerita Rosemary Grant. Together with her husband Professor Emeritus Peter Grant, who accompanied her to the workshop, she conducted long-term field studies on the evolution of Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands. Their groundbreaking research demonstrated rapid evolutionary changes of finch populations, providing fundamental insights into species adaptation to changing environments and the process of speciation. Professor Rosemary Grant’s participation in the workshop not only underscores her commitment to supporting the next generation of scientists but also highlights the significance of the event.

The list of keynote speakers also included Prof. Dr. Bibiana Rojas, Prof. Dr. Katarína Bodová, Prof. Dr. Deepa Agashe, Prof. Dr. Ayari Fuentes-Hernández, and Prof. Dr. Miriam Liedvogel.

The talks by these outstanding scientists covered a wide range of topics from the ecology and evolution of natural populations of frogs and birds, to the mechanisms of evolution studied in bacteria in the laboratory, to theoretical models for the recognition of self and others.

Several of the female group leaders from the host institute also participated as invited speakers, Dr. Anja Guenther, Dr. Hildegard Uecker, Dr. Jenna Gallie, Dr. Linda Odenthal-Hesse, and Max Planck Fellow Professor Eva Stukenbrock. They captivated the workshop participants with insightful discussions about their research in Plön and showcased their groups’ diverse interests.

The "Women in Evolutionary Biology" workshop was organized by a team of young female researchers who work at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. The institute supported the initiative by the PhD students and Postdocs and is strongly committed to continuing support of women in science.

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