Hundreds of Mass. female scientists have joined global database of experts to change face of industry

The countries represented in the database are shown in blue. Darker blue indicates greater representation.
The countries represented in the database are shown in blue. Darker blue indicates greater representation.McCullagh et al

Hundreds of female scientists from Massachusetts have joined a global online registry of female scientists that was established in January 2018.

In about a year, the database “Request a Woman Scientist” has grown to more than 7,500 women from 174 scientific disciplines and 133 countries, according to an article describing the project published Wednesday in the journal PLOS Biology.

The database includes more than 300 women from Massachusetts. The biological sciences and female scientists from the United States were best represented in the database, Elizabeth McCullagh and colleagues from the grass-roots organization 500 Women Scientists, which founded the database, wrote.


McCullagh, a neuroscientist, told STAT News, “I think a lot of women recognize that we need to be advocates for ourselves [and] that one of the only ways to really fight this is to put ourselves out there and be available.”

“In particular in areas where there’s a lot of underrepresentation of women in the public sphere, not just in science, it’s really important that women and girls can see that there are women represented and that it is an attainable field for them,” she said.

The positions held by the women in the database.
The positions held by the women in the database.McCullagh et al

The idea was to “provide an easy to use tool to increase representation of women scientists in the scientific community and public sphere,” the article said.

The article said, “The idea came from repeated experiences of seeing all men panels (‘manels’) and women’s scientific expertise often excluded in the public realm. A 2017 study analyzing colloquium speakers at 50 prestigious universities found that men were invited to give twice as many talks about their research as women.”

The lack of visibility of women experts doesn’t reflect the diversity of people doing science and “reinforces the idea that science can only be accessed and informed by people who conform to the white male scientist stereotype,” the article argued.


The database has been looked more than 100,000 times by journalists, conference organizers, school teachers, and other scientists.

It’s built on a voluntary questionnaire that includes questions on career stage, degree, scientific discipline, and geographic location. Members of the 500 Women Scientists group vet the entries.

The group has launched a 500 Women in Medicine subgroup, and it has plans to revamp the platform to improve functionality and “include more women scientists from around the world,” the article said.

How the database has grown.
How the database has grown.McCullagh et al