Jonathan Eisen: From Aggie Hero to Time

Jonathan Eisen
First an Aggie Hero, now featured in Time magazine: Jonathan Eisen, pictured in his lab at the Genome Center.

Professor Jonathan Eisen, named the first Aggie Hero of 2019-20 for calling out science meeting organizers for gender and racial imbalance among presenters, last week landed on a Time magazine list of 16 people and groups “fighting for a more equal America.”

The evolutionary biologist “knows he’s an unlikely champion for female representation at scientific conferences,” Time says. “But he also knows someone needs to point out the dearth of women who are speakers at these events.”

Time posted its list and story online Feb. 20 as part of the magazine’s “(In)Equality Now” project, which will appear in print March 2 in a double issue with Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover.

Time lists Eisen with individuals and groups who are fighting for poor people and veterans and working moms, Native Americans and farmworkers, disabled people and children in foster care, and for criminal justice improvements, LGBT rights, school integration, equal pay and fairness to people of all faiths.

“Really amazed / thrilled to be included in this,” Eisen wrote on Twitter. “And for the record, I don’t frequently feel imposter syndrome symptoms. But I do here — these other people are amazing.”

People responded to his post with messages of congratulations and thanks for his efforts. “I greatly appreciate it, and it alleviated a tiny bit of the imposter syndrome,” he told Dateline UC Davis.

“The awareness I and others helped create has unquestionably had a big impact. I do not know any formal numbers, but anecdotally there has been significant change.

“Significant change, however, does not mean the system is ideal, fair or balanced. STEM fields and academia generally are still riddled with implicit and explicit biases, and we need to keep working on this.”

In fact, he said, being on the Time list “makes me want to up my game and spend more time and effort on solving problems relating to STEM diversity.”

Time references Eisen’s blog, The Tree of Life, where he includes advice on how to run a more diverse meeting that includes not just a better balance of men and women, but people of color and scientists at different stages of their careers as well.

“We can fix this,” Time quotes him as saying. “And no doubt things have been changing. But also without a doubt, it’s not enough.”

This story originally appeared at UC Davis News

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