Resources/Diversity Committee

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Gender Diversity in iGEM

iGEM is committed to being fully inclusive to all members of its community. Over the last several years, iGEM has recommended that teams should be gender-balanced, having approximately as many women as men on a team. As the picture of 2016 Stanford-Brown Team shows on the right, many teams have taken this recommendation seriously and have helped to increase our gender diversity throughout the competition.

While this was a great step forward, we at iGEM HQ realized that promoting gender-balanced teams was only one step towards gender diversity and inclusion in iGEM. With the help of our community, we formed the Diversity Committee to help inform and advise us on ways we could improve diversity in our community.

Gender Statistics for iGEM 2018

Figure 1: The gender statistics for iGEM 2013, compiled by the Paris-Bettencourt 2013 team. Figure provided by Aude Bernheim.
Figure 2: The gender statistics for iGEM 2017. The “male” and “female” groups include both cisgender and transgender individuals. In 2017, individuals were only able to select one response; we’ve since realized that this was a flaw in our survey. In the future, we will allow respondents to select multiple responses for increased accuracy.

The iGEM Diversity Committee would love for iGEM to be a place where people of all genders are equally represented. The Paris Bettencourt iGEM team of 2013 performed an extensive study of gender diversity within the iGEM competition. This study found that women were under-represented at all levels of iGEM, with lower levels of representation for more senior categories of participants.

In 2018, gender data was collected from iGEM participants. We are pleased to see that gender balance has improved greatly since 2013!

iGEM students have increased their gender diversity, and now 42% of iGEM students are female or non-binary. Students, we challenge you to be even more diverse for 2019! We will also need your help to continue to improve gender diversity among iGEM PIs, instructors, and advisors as you advance in your careers.

Improving gender diversity among iGEM judges has been a major focus over the past few years, and in 2018 for the first time we approached 50% female/non-binary judges. Gender diversity also dramatically improved among PIs, instructors, and advisors in 2018: 44% female/non-binary in 2018 - up from 25% in 2017. Well done! We will continue to work to maintain the gender balance in judging in future years.

We encourage the iGEM community to continue to work for increased gender diversity within iGEM, and we will report back on the progress again next year!

Take Action!

What can iGEMers do RIGHT NOW to improve gender diversity within iGEM?

You can do a lot to work on gender balance in iGEM, both for this year and for future years. Ask your team instructors to add female and non-binary instructors/PIs to the team. Encourage female/non-binary team instructors to apply to be iGEM judges. Make sure that female/non-binary students know to sign up for next year's team.

Within student teams, make sure that team roles are filled by a diverse group of team members. We recommend that team members should choose their roles based on what they are interested to learn during the summer, rather than their current skill level. Try to make sure that team roles are equitably assigned to team members in a gender-diverse manner.

With your help, we can continue to see iGEM gender diversity increase in the coming years!

Committee Role

The iGEM Diversity Committee is responsible for promoting and improving the accessibility to iGEM for women, members of the LGBTQ community, and other members that represent our diverse community.

Some of our efforts include:
- Working with iGEM teams to help improve gender-sensitive issues in their projects
- Designating gender-neutral restrooms at the iGEM Giant Jamboree
- Increasing the percentage of female and LGBTQ iGEM judges
- Providing lactation rooms at the iGEM Giant Jamboree

Do you have any ideas about how we can make iGEM even more inclusive? Do you have any concerns about diversity at iGEM? Please contact us at: diversity AT igem DOT org.


Committee Members

The Diversity Committee works closely with the iGEM Foundation to provide guidance on gender issues and other areas of diversity. Our members are a diverse group of people who are interested in diversity in synthetic biology and beyond.

Anne S. Meyer

Committee Chair

University of Rochester

Anne is a synthetic biologist who uses bacteria to create advanced materials, sometimes with our home-built 3D bacteria printer. She has been an iGEM advisor and judge since 2011.

Alyssa Henning

Committee Co-Chair

Arizona State University

Alyssa is a graduate student at Arizona State University who is working on an interdisciplinary dissertation in the Biological Design Ph.D. program and ASU's science and technology policy certificate program. She is also involved in the student government as the Director of Advocacy for the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association.

Christina Agapakis

Creative Director, Ginkgo Bioworks

Christina is a synthetic biologist, artist, writer, and feminist interested in the design and communication of new biotechnologies.

Louise Horsfall

Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology, University of Edinburgh

Louise and her group research the use of synthetic biology to valorise wastes. She teaches synthetic biology to postgraduate students and has integrated iGEM participation into the taught MSc programme at Edinburgh.

Divya Israni

PhD Candidate, Boston University

Divya is a Biomedical Engineering PhD Candidate at Boston University. She has participated in iGEM since 2012 as a team member, instructor, and judge. Divya is actively involved in Graduate Women in Science & Engineering organizations to support and promote women in STEM. She seeks to identify innovative ways to increase representation and build inclusive communities.

David Lloyd

FREDsense Technologies

David has been an iGEM student, advisor and judge and is now the CEO of an iGEM-based startup. His specialty is in entrepreneurship, user-focused design, and safety and ethics through the lens of product development. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, David looks to bring diversity and inclusion into the various companies and organizations that he represents.

Darren Nesbeth

University College London

Darren Nesbeth is a synthetic biologist in the Department of Biochemical Engineering at University College London (UCL). Darren has been Chair of the 'Athena Scientific Women's Academic Network' (AthenaSWAN) committee for UCL Biochemical Engineering from 2012-2019. As Chair he coordinated a broad range of events and practical steps to foster a culture that supports students and staff of all genders, ethnicities, beliefs, sexual orientation, levels of disability, and intersections thereof, to realise their full potential, irrespective of marital status, age or parenthood status.

V. Anne Smith

University of St Andrews

Anne is a computational biologist, who concentrates on studying biological networks across multiple levels of organisation, from genes, to brains, to ecosystems. She is heavily involved in undergraduate teaching and curriculum development. She supervised St Andrews first iGEM teams in 2010-2012, and has been involved in a recent revival of iGEM at St Andrews.

iGEM HQ Liaisons

Abigail Sison

iGEM Foundation

Suzie McLellan Soloviev

iGEM Foundation