Gender diversity in bioinformatics

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What: Gender Diversity: while(f != m) {f++;} A HUB for International Women's Day

When: 18:30-20:30 Wednesday 8th March 2017 (#IWD2017)

Where: Grabengasse 3-5, Building 2170, Groundfloor, Hörsaal 12

Who: A team of people working at several different life-science organisations within Heidelberg are organising HUB, with your help (just get in touch or add your comments to this page).


While planning this HUB, we asked ourselves who it might appeal to, and what their perceptions about issues related to gender diversity might be.

To get some idea of the answer to these, and other questions, after the event, we've prepared a voluntary questionnaire for participants to fill out, with some questions to be answers at the start, others at the end of the event. You can see the questionnaire below in some different formats,, together with the text describing how we plan to make the responses to the questionnaire public and open to everyone after the event.

Thanks to Stephanie Vasko, Rebecca Linnett, and Dominik Reske for advice putting this together - any problems with the the structure of, or how we process, this questionnaire, are our responsibility, however, not theirs!

You can download the primary data we collected from this questionnaire here: File:SurveyFromHUB26AllAnswersSameIDOneRow.txt

Some initial analysis of the data, counting the two questionnaires that were without identifiers as from different people:

  • responses from 20 different people
  • 6 gender "female", 7 "male", one '"OTHER": AGENDER (NONBINARY), AMAB, MAYBE (DEMI-)TRANS WOMAN', 6 chose not to indicate gender
  • most responses given at the start of the meeting, agreed with the statements about negative impact of gender discrimination in different contexts (34 of 49), 15 of the people we have responses for agreed with one or more of these statements
  • 36 responses changed to increase their agreement with statements after the meeting, compared with at the beginning; 52 showed no change, 5 agreed less
  • the biggest changes (taking the sum of the size of the changes in opinion for each set of compared questions were for:
    • "Gender based discrimination has a negative impact on society in Germany in general" (10)
    • "Gender discrimination has had an impact on my own career development" (12)

Suggested conclusions are:

  • most people who participated in the unseminar came to the event with the perception that gender discrimination had a negative impact in some way or another
  • people

Things I'd change if doing a similar questionnaire again:

  • make it more obvious which order the sheets should be filled out in - I suspect that some people may have filled in the "START" form at the end, and the "END" form at the start
  • provide definitions of some key terms (in this case "discrimination"
  • remember that asking everyone to silently fill something out at the beginning of an unseminar tends to dampen the interactive mood somewhat!


A HUB to examine the barriers to progression in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that impact underrepresented groups with a particular focus on gender. Our aims are to look at how HUB is doing and how we can make our meetings more welcoming and diverse. We hope to use a World Cafe format to establish some simple rules for HUB re diversity.

While we will focus on gender issues we hope that any decisions we make at this HUB will be helpful for increasing the participation of other minority groups and we are very open to more HUBs in this area. (see Intersectionality document in #Links and materials for more on this.)

18.30-18.40 Welcome Laura
18.40-19.00 Icebreaker - Higher or Lower Laura and Agnes
19:00-19:20 Barbara di Ventura and Gordana Apic Talk(s)Experiences in bioinformatics
19:20-19:30 World cafe: How can we make sure HUB is diverse? Choosing table topics
19:30-19:50 World cafe: How can we make sure HUB is diverse? First session
19:50-20:00 BREAK Loo break, swap tables
20:00-20:20 World cafe: How can we make sure HUB is diverse? Second session
20:20-20:30 World cafe: How can we make sure HUB is diverse? Share discussions
20:30-20:40 Wrap up Laura
20.40-........ Off to a bar for a drink and a chat All


  • Laura Howes
  • Matthew Betts
  • Bronaugh Carey
  • Agnes Holz-Wagenblatt
  • Aidan Budd

World Cafe

Notes from several of the tables can be HUB26WorldCafeNotes found here

Task List

A list of tasks that need to be done on or before the meeting day. Just sign your name to say that you'll do a task, and the same again when the task is done.

To arrange before evening Person responsible Done
Book Room Aidan Done
Create wordpress page Matt Done
Create the poster Matt Done
Speak to EMBL legal about whether we can do anon Qs about participants perceptions before and after event Laura/Aidan? Done
Organise guess the stats icebreaker Laura and Agnes to assemble stats by end of Feb? Done
Organise 5 World Cafe Facilitators Please sign up here by end Feb
OWC Facilitators meet to agree how to avoid derailment Laura to organise
Drinking Water and Cups? Agnes
Print & bring HUB poster
A4 signs in plastic envelopes to help people find the room
Print and display poster where relevant
  • BioQuant:
  • EMBL: Laura
  • DKFZ: Agnes
  • ZMBH: Agnes
  • Zentralmensa:
Advertise on linkedin Agnes
Beamer (Is there one in the room that we can use?) Done
Send initial announcement email to HUB All Adian
Send same-day-as event announcement email to HUB All

To do on the evening Person responsible Done
Open the room
Arrange tables/chairs All
Hang up signs to the room
Setup and welcome attendees
Tidy and close room All


At a previous HUB we noticed that all of the speakers were male. In addition, some of the female HUB participants have experienced harassment at conferences and feel that HUB should have a policy on discrimination and harassment. For example, one based on the Geek Feminism policy.

Out of these discussions came the idea for a HUB meeting on gender diversity in bioinformatics that would look at some of the issues, discuss the data, and decide some ways we can make our corner of bioinformatics welcoming and supportive for everyone.

We had our first planning meeting on March 23rd 2016 and a second planning meeting on the 8th February 2017.

Links and materials

- (Icebreaker)

- (Icebreaker)