Mentorship, sponsorship, and inclusivity were the themes of the 2019 ASPB Women in Plant Biology lunch with Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung (@yggdrasil13751 on Twitter). Dr. Jamison-McClung is the Coordinator for the UC Davis ADVANCE Program, Director of the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, and Director of the BioTech SYSTEM at UC Davis. In addition to these many roles, Dr. Jamison-McClung is also a plant biologist – she received her PhD from UC Davis studying parasitic plant interactions. You can find her presentation at this link.
Both her personal and professional lives have led Dr. Jamison-McClung to advocate and work for advancing minorities in science. She has had #MeToo and gender bias experiences as a woman in science, but keeps a positive attitude because of the progress she’s seen towards inclusivity and change. She shared statistics and trends on the participation of women and minorities in science, and although there is much improvement, there are still ways to go.
There are many barriers that women and minorities confront in their careers, including implicit bias, unwritten cultural norms, and imposter syndrome, to name a few. In her work at UC Davis, Dr. Jamison-McClung has worked to change the institutional climates, policies, and practices that may be holding women back. With the ADVANCE program, an NSF-funded project, all faculty at UC Davis serving on a hiring committee were required to take an implicit bias training. Through ADVANCE, LAUNCH committees provide mentorship and sponsorship to new faculty members to ensure they are supported and provided with expectations and how to traverse them. Through the Capital Resource Network, she and her colleagues are working to resolve the 2-body problem, in which partners cannot find jobs in the same city, by connecting with other resources and academic institutions place partners into job opportunities and increase recruitment.
For advice to individuals on how to support and be supported in your career, Dr. Jamison-McClung described sponsors versus mentors. A mentor is someone who gives you advice, while a sponsor is a person who nominates you for awards and puts in leg work to help advance your career. While women have been good at finding mentors and advice, she said, they are less efficient at finding sponsors. In addition to institutional policies providing women with sponsors, in addition to mentors, she identified three pillars to get and keep women in science: a sense of belonging, a scientific identity, and a voice.
I left Dr. Jamison-McClung’s talk with a sense of hope – despite the barriers, the numbers of women in science are increasing, as agents of change like Dr. Jamison-McClung work to change their institution from the inside to recruit and support women and minorities. The room was filled with women and men across career stages, eager to support each other and change policies to make plant biology more welcoming for all. As a UC Davis student and member of the Biotechnology program directed by Dr. Jamison-McClung, I’ve seen first hand the positive impact these policy changes have made on campus.
The Women in Plant Biology is a committee within ASPB dedicated to promoting gender equality, diversity, career development, and leadership in the plant sciences. You can learn more about the committee here and their other activities and resources here on Plantae, and join the network to join in discussions and activities dedicated to promoting women in plant biology.