Washington, DC - Diverse perspectives are essential to advancing science, especially in the global health arena where regional, gender and cultural experiences can be quite different. I applaud NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins on his recent announcement that he is committed to inclusiveness and believes it is time to end the tradition of all-male speaking panels at scientific meetings. I and the Fogarty International Center staff enthusiastically join him in this effort.
As Dr. Collins pledged, “Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences. Starting now, when I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities. If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part.”
We at Fogarty echo his concerns and will make these criteria part of our own consideration process regarding speaking engagements, for it is critical that we ensure the full participation of a diversity of voices in discussions intended to advance global health research.
A recent study by the World Health Organization examined the unique barriers females face in global health and found that while care is largely delivered by women, the field is led by men. The gender gap is exacerbated in academic medicine, where the report indicated only about one-third of the deans are women and men author about 70% of all publications.
We’ve seen progress in that women are entering the career pipeline in greater numbers than ever and women investigators and research leaders are making significant contributions to academia and public health. In addition to assuring that they have an equal opportunity to highlight their expertise, voice their opinion, and influence research direction, we must also work harder to ensure they have the opportunities needed for career advancement so they can play a more equitable role in global health leadership. I will continue to endorse the initiative begun by our former Fogarty board member, Dr. Michele Barry, to advance this important agenda through the Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH) organization and annual conference.
For us at Fogarty, we also greatly value inclusion of geographic, economic and cultural diversity of presenters when conferences or consultations are convened. We will continue to make diversity at all levels a priority as we plan our own meetings and will include it in the decision-making criteria we use to consider speaking invitations from others.
We all benefit when global health conversations include diverse voices, representing different points of view. I hope you will join me in working to support this worthy goal.
Roger I. Glass, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Fogarty International Center
Associate Director, Global Health Research, National Institutes of Health