VP&S faculty converse at a meeting

VP&S Recognized by NIH for Advancing Gender Diversity

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons an NIH Prize for Enhancing Faculty Gender Diversity in Biomedical and Behavioral Science. VP&S was one of 10 organizations recognized by the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH).

The award honors organizations whose actions have led to systemic change to improve gender diversity and equity among faculty members within their biomedical and behavioral science departments, centers, or divisions. This is the first time the NIH and ORWH have granted the award, which aims to promote the broad adoption of replicable, evidence-based institutional approaches to promoting gender diversity. NIH and ORWH recognized VP&S for its submission highlighting the college’s ongoing efforts to bolster gender diversity among faculty members.

In the United States, women make up 41% of faculty at medical institutions. At VP&S, 49% of approximately 2,150 full-time faculty are women. The success of VP&S in recruiting, promoting, and mentoring women is largely a result of the Office of Academic Affairs in VP&S, which uses faculty-driven, multidimensional approaches to support overall faculty well-being, vitality, and satisfaction, with emphasis on the unique challenges faced by women and faculty from under-represented groups. 

Actions to address gender inequity at VP&S have included changes to governance and policies, particularly those that might inadvertently negatively impact women, with increased transparency of academic advancement, recruitment, and mentorship. Academic Affairs also has focused on salary equity, enhanced work life support, faculty recognition, and regular review and reporting on gender and diversity metrics. Additionally, the office has developed a robust portfolio of programs to support faculty advancement, networking, and peer support.

“My team in Academic Affairs and I are enormously proud to be one of the recipients of this prize,” says Anne Taylor, MD, vice dean for academic affairs at VP&S and senior vice president for faculty affairs and career development for Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “The work summarized in our prize submission is the result of over a decade of efforts by my team, supported by both Dean Emeritus Lee Goldman, MD, and Interim Dean Anil Rustgi, MD, as well as embraced by the faculty and leadership of VP&S. We are energized by this success to continue to find new ways to support a more broadly inclusive faculty, one that is reflective of those whom we will serve in the 21st century.”

The winning submission from VP&S noted that national disparities in leadership roles and tenured faculty positions account for the greatest gap between men and women, with men making up more than 75% of tenured medical faculty. Women are much less likely to achieve senior leadership roles, such as division or center/institute director, department chair, or dean. Gender-based salary inequities persist at all levels. The report attributes the disparities to workplace policies that put women at a disadvantage, organizational climates that tolerate harassment and disrespectful behavior targeted to  women, a knowledge gap in strategies for academic advancement and unequal access to mentorship and sponsorship opportunities.

At VP&S, Academic Affairs tracks numbers of women and men employed in various categories and the inclusion of women in organizational leadership, honors, awards, key decision-making committees, and academic advancement as evidence of progress made toward gender equity. Efforts to encourage professionalism and a positive organizational climate are targeted for work this academic year, with the expectation that all faculty, staff and students will benefit. The highlights of the report will be shared in a lecture after the re-opening of the campus in early fall.

Other recipients of the NIH Gender Diversity Prize were the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Minnesota Medical School, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Florida International University, the University of Houston, and Boston University Medical Campus.

“Through the prize competition aimed at increasing gender diversity among faculty members at colleges and universities, NIH fosters supportive, inclusive, and equitable environments in which women faculty members can further their careers in the biomedical and biobehavioral sciences,” says Janine Austin Clayton, MD, director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health and NIH associate director for research on women’s health. “Diversity in the scientific workplace generates more innovative solutions; diverse teams are more productive and produce more impactful research.”