Women in Biomedical Careers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is committed to furthering the careers of both women and men in biomedical science and bioengineering research fields. A major part of the mandate of the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH), part of the NIH Office of the Director, is to develop opportunities and programs to support recruitment, retention, re-entry, and advancement of girls and women in biomedical careers (PL 103-43, Section 486e). Soon after the Office was established in 1990, the ORWH sponsored public hearings and a workshop on women in biomedical careers to identify barriers to women’s professional advancement in the biomedical community. The resulting report, Women in Biomedical Careers: Dynamics of Change, Strategies for the 21st Century, which inspired the development of a wide variety of programs and strategies at the NIH to support women’s careers, is still relevant today.

More recently, the ORWH provided the initial funding to the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy and the National Research Council standing committee, Committee on Women in Science and Engineering, to address issues relevant to women in academic science and engineering; later funding was provided by Eli Lilly and Co., the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Academies. With this funding, the National Academies created the ad-hoc Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, chaired by Donna Shalala, Ph.D., President of the University of Miami and former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to hold a workshop and release a report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

The Beyond Bias report called for an urgent, broad, national effort to maximize the potential of women scientists and engineering in academia, eliciting much attention in both the public media and the scientific community, and offering a broad range of recommendations for universities, government agencies, and Congress. In response, the NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni created the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers to examine the issues raised in the National Academies report and to respond to the challenges issued to government funding agencies to maximize the potential of women scientists and engineers.

Dr. Zerhouni and Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health and Director of the ORWH are co-chairing the Working Group, which is carefully considering the recommendations in the National Academies report and developing innovative strategies and tangible actions that can be implemented to promote the advancement of women in research careers both within the NIH intramural community and throughout the extramural research community.

Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering
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This page last updated: June 12, 2008