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Where Are the Women?

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Where Are the Women?

Female scientists allege discrimination and neglect of research on women at NIH’s child health institute


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Scientists claim NICHD’s former director discriminated against women, and neglected female health studies.

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Former scientists at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development claim its recent director, Dr. Constantine Stratakis, discriminated against women and neglected female reproductive studies. Science reporter Meredith Wadman notes in this provocative article that although some staffers dispute his critics, statistics clearly show a shrinking number of women assigned to important positions, a lack of funding for woman-led research projects, workplace harassment and an inadequate recruitment program for female scientists. Dr. Stratkis’s 2020 departure could signal a new era of female acceptance, but tenure wheels turn slowly, so only time will tell whether that happens.


Critics claim Dr. Constantine Stratakis, former Scientific Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), employed discriminatory practices against women.

In 2014, nine scientists at the NICHD complained that Stratakis didn’t sufficiently recruit and retain women leaders and tenured scientists. In that year, one of four lab runners was female; today the number is lower. At other children’s research hospitals, percentages are 30 to 47%.

At least eight equal employment opportunity (EEO) sex discrimination complaints were filed against Dr. Stratakis from 2013 to 2019. Other accusations claim that under his leadership, important reproductive disease research was underfunded or canceled.

Dr. Stratakis denies these accusations, and retains support from some NICHD staffers.

Dr. Stratakis, who planned to leave NICHD in May 2020, recently staffed a gynecological disease program with female doctors. He points out that under his leadership, eight of 10 clinical investigators were women and eight of 14 members of his Board of Scientific Counselors were female. He also claims ...

About the Author

Before joining Science, Meredith Wadman reported on medical research for Nature, and has written about biotech and biomedical policy issues for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Fortune.

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