The iGEM competition is welcoming and fun for all students regardless of gender or orientation. This page is dedicated to exploring gender balance in iGEM. It presents the results of a study about gender balance in iGEM over the years, provides tips to improve diversity in iGEM teams and invites you to get involved in making the iGEM competition an example for gender equality for all scientists.
Gender balance in iGEM : the 2013 study
iGEM teams are encouraged to consider the social and human aspects of scientific research including issues of gender. Here we showcase a study conducted by the Paris Bettencourt 2013 team on the subject of women in synthetic biology and in iGEM. Their main conclusions are:
Gender balance correlates with success in iGEM! Prize-winning teams show gender ratios approaching 50%, while typical teams do not.
As of 2013 women are underrepresented in iGEM, particularly in mentor and advisory roles. Only 37% of the students participating in iGEM are women. This proportion has not changed throughout the years, and it is the same in Asia, Europe and America. For mentors and advisers, the number drops to 22%
In survey data, women express less interest than men in taking leadership roles on their iGEM team.
Encouraging more women to participate as iGEM leaders and advisers may improve team gender balance, and improve the overall quality of iGEM science.
If you want to know the details of the study, you can find it here . You can also find info-graphics about the main results here.
Want to make the study better ?
One of the key methods in tackling gender bias in iGEM is to raise awareness. One way to raise awareness is to improve our knowledge about gender in iGEM. It only takes two minute and will help a lot so please fill in this form
Tips to have a more gender balanced team
If you are convinced that a more gender balanced team will do better but have no idea how to improve the diversity in your team here are a few tips:
Take time to speak alone with students who seem interested in iGEM. Sometimes, it is only a question of making people understand that they have something valuable to contribute to iGEM!
Motivate women (or men if you have few men) to be advisers : they will serve as role models for students who will see living proof that they can do iGEM.
Avoid a sexist ambiance : sexist jokes, stigmatization or distasteful behaviors (like working days and nights without showering, yes it happens...)
Take time to understand the motivations of each student to be sure that they are met. Sometimes, it can be difficult for people to express their motivations in a group.
Communicate better : iGEM has many facets: gaining experience, working in a team, having fun, competing at an international level, exploring social and economic issues around synthetic biology, learning about scientific communication, and getting a chance to go to a scientific conference. All of these should be emphasized to potential students.
Reach out ! : iGEMers don't have to be undergrads studying molecular biology. Communciate about iGEM in other fields, in other circles, from informatics to design, from medicine to physics. Diversity will only make the team better.
Raise awareness : If team members are aware of the need for diversity and committed to building a diverse team, it will probably happen. Motivated team members means they can recruit their friends with the right words .
Of course, there is no magic recipe and improving mixity can be difficult but this gives a few ideas of what can be done.
Want to get involved ?
iGEM seeks to encourage leadership and scientific excellence in both men and women. The iGEM community can be an example to scientists everywhere of positive gender relations and camaraderie regardless of gender. Other actions are to come. You want to get involved ? Send your ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.