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WSA Initiatives

In addition to being involved in WSA activities within their Institute or Center (IC), WSA representatives participate in a number of NIH-wide initiatives. These include:

Anita B. Roberts Lectures

Highlights accomplishments of distinguished NIH women scientists.

NIH/WSA Scholars

Highlights accomplishments of intramural female postdoctoral fellows. Winners give a talk during a WSA/ORWH sponsored seminar.

Mentoring

In 2012, Susan Buchanan and Joan Schwartz, together with the WSA, created an NIH small discussion group program to provide mentoring for tenure track investigators that is separate from scientific mentoring committees. Groups of 6-8 Investigators were formed based on scientific discipline and/or location and led by two or more Senior Investigators. In 2016, Peggy Hsieh took over leadership of this program.

The Tenure-Track Investigator (TTI) discussion groups meet with senior investigators(tenured) roughly 3-6 times a year to discuss issues of interest to TTIs. Examples of recent topics include – the tenure process at the Institute or Center (IC) and Central Tenure Committee (CTC) levels, obtaining letters of recommendation, work-life balance, managing collaborations, personnel issues, questions & answers (Q&A) from recently tenured NIH PIs, and, of course, research both basic and clinical. The organizational subject areas are meant to be very broad in nature. The primary focus is to provide an informal setting where participants can engage in candid discussions and develop contacts across NIH. Contact Susan Buchanan or Peggy Hsieh to learn more or if you would like to start a new TTI group.

Current groups, leaders, and contact information:
• NIDA/NIA Baltimore – Amy Newman, NIDA; Myriam Gorospe, NIA
• Structural Biology and Friends – Susan Buchanan, NIDDK; Wei Yang, NIDDK; Pat Becerra, NEI
• Neuroscience* – Peng Loh, NICHD; Betsy Murray, NIMH; Vijay Ramchandani, NIAAA

Postdoctoral Fellow Survey to Addressing the Leaky Pipeline

Although approximately 50% of biological/health-related post-doctoral fellows at NIH are women, the percentage of women who pursue independent research positions is much lower. For example, the number of women applicants for the Stadtman search was 29% and 25.4% for years 2014 and 2015, respectively. Although this percentage has increased somewhat in recent years, a 15-year tracking of men and women post-docs at NIEHS, run by Dr. Tammy Collins (Director, Office of Fellow’s Career Development, NIEHS), also revealed a loss of women in independent research positions. This has been referred to as the ‘leaky pipeline’ and has been observed in academics also. However, the reason for a discrepancy in career choices for men and women has not been established. Not understanding these reasons has certainly contributed to the fact that there has been only a small increase in the percentage of women in PI positions at NIH in the past 25 years.

At the urging of Dr. Michael Gottesman (DDIR), the WSA developed a post-doc exit survey to uncover the reasons for these gender differences in career choices. The objective of the survey is to determine the career tracks for post-docs, why a post-doc chose a particular track, and how these tracks differ among men and women and other underrepresented groups.

This post-doc exit survey is administered by the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES). When a post-doctoral fellow is leaving NIH, they are given the opportunity to take the survey at https://faes.formstack.com/forms/wsa_exit_survey. To encourage participation, FAES generously offers a $5 gift card, which can be used at the coffee shop just down the hall from the FAES office, or a $5 Amazon gift card. The survey became operational in the summer of 2017.

Results can be viewed at:
https://photon.niehs.nih.gov/

Note that you must be on the NIH network to access this site.

Anti-Harassment Efforts

The WSA was directly involved in the initiation and implementation of the NIH-wide anti-harassment efforts. WSA members currently serve on the NIH Anti-Harassment Steering committee, which was responsible for the development of policies and procedures for combatting harassment, including a centralized reporting and investigation system (to Civil) and mechanisms for anonymous reporting. For more information on these resources, please see the links below or contact your IC’s WSA representative.

https://hr.nih.gov/working-nih/civil/nih-anti-harassment-policy-and-guid...
https://hr.nih.gov/working-nih/civil

Representation on NIH-wide Committees

  • • NIH Anti-Harassment Steering Committee
    • Intramural committee of NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers
    • The NIH Equity Committee
    • Women of Color in Biomedical Careers Committee
    • The UNITE Initiative to End Structural Racism

Increasing the Visibility of NIH Women Scientists and Promote the NIH Mission

  • WSA nominated WALS speakers
  • WSA nominated NIH research symposium
  • Nominate NIH women scientists for National Awards

Addressing the Impact of the Pandemic on the Careers of NIH Women Scientists

The WSA is working with NIH leadership on strategies to understand and remediate the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women scientists at the NIH.

Other Topics Related to Gender Equity in Science

Examples include periodic salary evaluations and active involvement in anti-harassment policy development at the NIH. If you have concerns regarding gender equity in science, please contact your IC’s WSA representative.


This page was last updated on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 - 11:15am