No Ceiling in Science: Equal Opportunity for Women Researchers Promotes Healthier Lives for Everyone

June 17, 2019

Women’s Health Research at Yale is dedicated to correcting historical and ongoing shortcomings in medical science and clinical practice to boost the study of women and fully understand the health effects of sex and gender.

From its founding in 1998, the center has also focused on advancing diversity and inclusiveness in research settings. Because, as Yale Medical School has shown in celebrating 100 Years of Women, equality of opportunity and career growth helps advance science to benefit everyone.

As shown in a new study published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, progress toward equality is promising, but we aren’t there just yet.

A team of researchers from Northwestern University examined almost 54,000 grants of all types awarded by the National Institutes of Health to first-time Principal Investigators from 2006 to 2017. They found women received an average of $39,000 less than men. At some universities among the top 50 NIH-funded institutions, the award disparity between genders grew to more than $100,000.

Unfortunately, these findings echo others to establish a clear trend in how women experience greater obstacles in entering and advancing in science, including biased hiring decisions, lower pay, and fewer speaking invitations.

In a statement to the New York Times, a spokesperson for the NIH said, “We have and continue to support efforts to understand the barriers and factors faced by women scientists and to implement interventions to overcome them.”

We must all do our part.

At WHRY, Director Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D., works closely with Yale School of Medicine’s Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine (SWIM) and the Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion (MORE). These groups advocate for diversity and inclusion while fostering an environment at YSM that is welcoming to all.

This work is important because when women are not fully welcomed or must work harder to make up for a gap in funding or to overcome other gender-based career hurdles, the entire scientific enterprise suffers.

More opportunities for women and minorities — at every level of education and career advancement — will add important, diverse perspectives to bolster research and clinical environments. We need smart, dedicated scientists of all backgrounds to stretch the boundaries of scientific inquiry and deliver the prevention strategies and treatments we need to live healthier, happier, and more productive lives.

Submitted by Rick Harrison on May 24, 2019