In 2006, the pre-publication of the National Academies report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, found women in the biomedical sciences face institutional and environmental barriers to advancement at all career stages. The report called for broad, innovative action from universities, professional societies, and government funding agencies to overcome institutional and environmental barriers to advancement at all career stages for women.
As a response to the report, then-NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., established the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers in January 2007. He and others at NIH recognized that as one of the leaders in the biomedical community, NIH has an important role to play in removing barriers to success. Dr. Zerhouni and Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, then Director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health, served as the group’s first co-chairs. Initial efforts included national workshops on mentoring and the 2008 publication of Best Practices for Sustaining Career Success.
Visit the Women in Science website to learn more about the WgWBC and its members, and watch the Pearls of Wisdom.
Today, the Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers (WgWBC) continues to be chaired by the current NIH Director and Director of ORWH. Over the years the working group has developed many innovative strategies and approaches to promote the entry, recruitment, retention, and sustained advancement of women in biomedical and research careers at NIH and beyond. More information about the working group and its efforts can be found at the Women in Biomedical Careers Website, Women in Science, one of the many achievements of the Working Group. The website celebrates the successes of women in science and serves as an inspiration to both women and men. The site also features the Pearls of Wisdom, a collection of video interviews with many women scientists as well as allies. The profiles that are featured on this website highlight each scientists’ contributions to research, what they learned along the way, and advice they have for other women in science. Information, tools, and resources that support and promote the entry, recruitment, retention, and sustained advancement of women in biomedical research careers can also be found on the website.
Under the leadership of Dr. Rena D’Souza (NIDCR), Dr. Reiko Toyama (NICHD), Dr. Mia Rochelle Lowden (NINR), and Ms. Rosalina Bray, MSc, CEP (OD), the WoCC is charged with addressing the unique challenges facing women scientists of color as they enter and advance their careers. To promote the visibility and recognition of women scientists of color, the WoCC has successfully nominated over a dozen exceptional women researchers for the prestigious NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series (WALS). The WoCC created the Women of Color Research Network (WoCRN) to provide support and information about the NIH grants process, advice on career development, and a venue for networking and sharing information. The WOCRN LinkedIn group has over 1,300 members. In addition, in 2022, the WoCC launched a forum within NIH to discuss “Navigating the Path to Success for Women Scientists.”
The Partnership Committee, chaired by Dr. Holly Moore (NIDA), hosted a successful summit on Reimagining Women in the Bioengineering, Technology, and Data Science Ecosystem: A Partnership-Building Initiative, held in May of 2022. Follow-up activities include disseminating an executive summary of the Summit to stakeholders/recipients and conducting a survey of the partnership landscape. Further, the Partnership Committee plans to:
- Hold a public workshop focused on the takeaways from the Summit,
- Design, create and/or promote cross-sector initiatives to promote career advancement/mobility for women and people from underrepresented communities (e.g., externship concept with the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), and
- Start on the design of a connector system/tool for cross-sector workforce development programs.
To support a diverse scientific workforce and provide clear opportunities for career development, the Intramural Program Committee, chaired by Dr. Nina Schor (OD), proposes to broaden recruitment, better communicate the resources available at NIH, and develop a more supportive environment for early- and mid-career scientists in the NIH intramural community, including Investigators (tenure track), Assistant Clinical Investigators (ACI), Independent Research Scholars (IRS), and Staff Scientists and Staff Clinicians.
Led by Dr. Ericka Boone (OER), the Extramural Program Committee was formed to identify promising practices for addressing the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM). The committee hopes to advance women in STEM through initiatives and programs that address barriers to advancement as well as empower women. To support these efforts, the committee is conducting analyses and developing initiatives to address and prevent harassment, hostility, and/or discrimination in the workplace in consultation with the Civil Program and EDI. In addition, the committee will recommend grant mechanisms to facilitate the continuous training and career mobility of women in STEM. Finally, the committee will work with the Director of the Biomedical Research Workforce Division on a landscape analysis. This will inform the development of future initiatives to support research on institutional causal factors and interventions to promote the advancement of women scientists. This committee also supports the development of programs that promote research continuity and retention in academia. These programs include career grant extensions due to the pandemic impact, caregiving and childcare support programs, and departures due to critical life events and pay equity.