Throughout history, women have been notably under-represented in science, and often outshone by their male colleagues. When we think ‘scientists’, our mind wanders to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein – women who have made similarly striking scientific discoveries seldom achieve the same cut-through in the public conscience. But they are there. Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, Katherine Johnson and Rosalind Franklin are just some of the names that ought to trip more readily off the tongue when talking about science. Their breakthrough contributions in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics were fundamental for the understanding of those fields today.
Without these women and their achievements, we would not have the same understanding of scientific processes that we do today. In recognition of this, in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11th February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
With a similar goal in mind, in June 2020, 25 female scientists from across the globe in the field of autophagy came together and conceived of a network that would bring together female scientists in the field, help promote their careers and give them confidence in their future research. The network was inspired by the late Beth Levine, a remarkable woman and scientist, who dedicated herself to teaching, mentoring and training young scientists, and remains a role model to every female researcher in the field of autophagy and beyond. With this, the Women In Autophagy (WIA) network was born.
On 29th September 2020, the WIA General Organisation Meeting was held, counting 190 participants, laying out the network goals and setting up several committees, all run by volunteers. Shortly after, in November 2020, the first WIA Annual meeting was organised, with keynote talks given by Dr Sharon Tooze and Prof Daniel Klionsky, two inspiring researchers whose pioneering work in the field of autophagy has contributed to its constant expansion. A year later, the second WIA Annual meeting proved a similar success, drawing 437 attendees from 41 countries, with Prof Eileen White and Prof Noboru Mizushima as keynote speakers.
Today, the WIA network encompasses 752 participants from 47 different countries. Since its establishment, WIA has organised 24 events – two Annual Meetings, three Mentoring Office Hours, three Mentoring Workshops (with a fourth planned for 8th March 2022), one Scientific Advice Workshop (with a second planned for 24th February 2022), and 15 Journal Club seminars – and awarded 10 meeting fellowships.
WIA’s continuous growth comes down to the hard work put in by our volunteering female researchers, from young scientists just starting out, to established leaders in the field. WIA is open to all female scientists working in the field of autophagy. Every simple interaction helps the network grow, promoting the importance of gender equality in scientific fields.
If you’re interested in joining us, you can get in touch with us here. Andrea Gubas