Drug Development

A scientist wages a war over women’s ‘second-rate’ status at the NIH

Bibiana Bielekova

Bibiana Bielekova

Over the past five years, the NIH’s attempt to achieve some sort of gender balance in its scientific ranks has largely failed to deliver anything that could be considered statistically significant. Twenty-two percent of research scientists are women now, up from 19% in 2011, according to a report in the Washington Post. And 38% of the scientists on a tenure track are women, compared to 36% five years ago.

NIH’s Bibiana Bielekova, though, isn’t buying the NIH’s defense that it’s doing the best it can under difficult circumstances. She filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint claiming that gender bias is endemic at the NIH, the country’s prestigious research center.

“It’s not negligence,” Bielekova told the Washington Post.Women are considered second-rate citizens. They are fully aware that this is happening, the leadership. It’s happening with their blessing.”

And she’s getting some help from the Washington Post on this, with a story that concludes that Bielekova is “supported by a body of research that leaves little doubt that bias is at least part of the problem.”

Gender bias has been a potent issue in drug development circles as well as academia for several years now. Women are paid less, earn fewer promotions and are far less likely to hold a top job in any institution, according to the National Academy of Science.

In biotech, a controversy erupted early this year after a number of women complained about the way they were treated at JP Morgan, where the party circuit included some high-profile events that relied on bringing in some leggy models as hostesses and several women complained about the frat boy environment. Women routinely note that gender balance is rarely seen in biopharma’s board rooms and executive suites.

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