Woman files complaint with EEOC about gender bias at NIH

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In a move that could follow her for the rest of career, Bibiana Bielekova, MD, publicly discussed with The Washington Post her struggle to earn tenure at the National Institutes of Health, a struggle which she says many women face at the institution.

Dr. Bielekova, who has an international reputation as a neuro-immunologist and has published 52 papers in peer-reviewed journals, has been passed up as a candidate for tenure twice, according to the report. This is even after a panel of experts in her field that reviewed her concluded she was an excellent physician scientist, well-deserving of her reputation, a productive mentor and said her work "strongly supports consideration for tenure," according to the report.

Dr. Bielekova filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March alleging retaliation and gender discrimination after her mentor retired. She claims male colleagues were given advantages during a "power struggle" following her mentor's retirement, according to the report.

Dr. Bielekova works for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of NIH with three tenured women and 34 tenured men, according to the report. NINDS Director Walter Koroshetz, MD, claims he has not noticed gender bias within the organization but acknowledges women find NIH to be a more difficult work atmosphere than men, he told The Washington Post. He also told Dr. Bielekova she needs up to two more years to consider nominating her for tenure, according to the report.  

Gender disparity among tenured academic medical professionals is an industrywide problem. NIH pointed to numbers from the Association of American Medical Colleges that found 22 percent of tenured positions at academic medical centers in 2013-14 were held by women, the same proportion of tenured positions women hold within NIH, according to the report.

Read the full report here.


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