Diversity in Awards: A Letter From the ESA President

August 30, 2019

To ESA members and the entomology profession at large:

This week’s announcement of the 2019 class of Fellows of the Entomological Society of America has been met with disappointment for its lack of gender diversity. To members of the Society and the scientific community who have expressed their concerns and criticisms, please know that my colleagues and I on the ESA Governing Board are deeply grateful for your perspectives, which will have a direct impact on ESA’s Awards and Honors program in the future.

For many years now, ESA has been working hard to align all of its programs and operations with our stated ideals on diversity and inclusion. In many ways, we have made great progress, while in other areas we still have much work to be done. Clearly, a lack of women in our Fellows honorees fails to reflect the diversity of the entomological community and the many incredible achievements of women in our profession. ESA must strive to do better.

In 2017, ESA formed an Awards Task Force that was charged with making recommendations to increase the overall diversity of the candidate pools for our Awards and Honors program. As a result of that task force’s work, ESA adjusted its awards marketing and outreach practices, and for many of our awards categories we have seen positive results. But this year’s Fellows nominations revealed that we have not done enough. ESA received zero nominations of women for the 2019 Fellows.

This was a clear signal that we must redouble our efforts; accordingly, in June the ESA Governing Board voted to form a Canvassing Committee, which will be charged with directly recruiting awards nominees to ensure that our candidate pools reflect the diversity of the entomological community. The specific structure of this committee will be decided when the Governing Board convenes in November at the ESA Annual Meeting so it can begin its work for the 2020 awards cycle.

We regret that this Fellows class has symbolized the inequities and barriers that too many women in our field continue to face. However, ESA remains committed to actively promoting inclusion, recruitment, and retention in every aspect of the Society. I hope that, as you weigh the role of ESA in your professional life, you will continue to hold us accountable to these goals while also considering the positive steps ESA has made in pursuit of them:

Category Awards Women Percentage
Student 15 9 60%
Early-Career 5 4 80%
Professional 4 1 25%
Fellows 10 0 0%
Founders' Memorial 1 0 0%
Science Policy Fellows 5 4 80%
Certification 1 0 0%
Total 41 18 44%

Again, thank you for expressing your concerns. ESA is your professional society, and it is made stronger by having members who care so deeply about it. We hope you will continue to engage with us on this critical subject now and in the future. If you have additional comments or questions, please email me at president@entsoc.org or ESA Executive Director David Gammel at dgammel@entsoc.org.


Robert K. D. Peterson, Ph.D.
President, Entomological Society of America
Professor of Entomology, Montana State University
Email: president@entsoc.org