In 2007, in response to the National Academies Report, "Beyond Bias and Barriers, Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering," NIH established the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers. Co-chaired by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and the Director of the Office of Research on Women's Health, Dr. Janine Clayton, the focus of the working group is to assess successful strategies and develop programs and policies that aid the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in biomedical faculty and leadership positions. In 2008, the group issued a trans-NIH request for applications (RFA), "Research on Causal Factors and Interventions that Promote and Support the Careers of Women in Biomedical and Behavioral Science and Engineering". The RFA supported the funding of 14 research grants that investigated a range of obstacles facing women at all stages of the scientific career pipeline, and assessed interventions that begin to address these obstacles. The grants totaled $16.8 million over four years with support from 11 NIH Institutes and Centers and four Offices within the NIH Office of the Director1.

Five years later, that research investment is paying dividends  (PDF - 69.6KB), with significant findings contributing to our understanding of how individuals make career choices and how workplaces may inadvertently get in the way of advancement. For example, research found that when workplaces offer flexibility policies, they can provide assistance in work-life integration, but these programs are still under-used by employees. In June 2014, the working group assembled a group of deans and other high-level administrators at medical and graduate schools to develop potential intervention strategies regarding leadership support, academic culture, psychological and social influences, and training and education. These integrated set of interventions should be embraced and implemented by institutional leaders to foster a vibrant and scholarly academic culture for both men and women.

Learn more about the research and recommendations that stem from this initiative below: