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Women in the Biomedical Workforce

Over the past 30 years, the number and proportion of women obtaining science and engineering bachelor’s and doctoral degrees has increased dramatically, although their participation in leadership positions remains limited. In 2012, women earned half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees and a little less than half of all science and engineering doctoral degrees. However, in 2013, women constituted less than one fourth of all full professorships with science, engineering, and health doctorates at both research-intensive institutions and four-year institutions. Women similarly comprise almost half of all medical school graduates, but are underrepresented among physician-scientists and in chair and dean positions.

Women from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds in science and engineering fields face particular challenges at the graduate level and beyond. For example, African American women students often have complex academic profiles, more often including initial entrance into two-year colleges and earned master’s degrees before PhD completion.

Women comprise half of the employees in the pharmaceutical and medical industries, but available data suggest they represent about 17 percent of senior management positions. Reports suggest there may be greater representation of women in senior roles at smaller biotechnology companies than in large pharmaceutical firms.

The NIH’s Women in Biomedical Careers website is maintained by the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH).It promotes innovative strategies to enhance entry, recruitment, retention, and sustained advancement of women in biomedical and research careers. In addition, ORWH sponsors the Women of Color Research Network, which addresses the challenges faced by women and minorities entering and advancing in scientific careers. View a short video from the Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health.

Selected Reports

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