Aligned Blog: Honoring Women's History

A group of black girls in science class circa 1942

Washington, D.C., science class, 1942. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Image credit: Marjory Collins 

By Shauna Clark, Ph.D., Associate Director, Office of Equity & Inclusion

March is Women’s History Month; it’s our chance to recognize and celebrate the many contributions of women to American history and culture. Commemorating the significant roles of women to our society first began in the early eighties as Women’s History Week and in 1987 March was officially designated Women’s History Month. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I would like to call attention to some of the wonderful work being done at NIH in support of the inclusion of women in research and clinical trials as both researchers and participants.  


Women have long strived to be treated with dignity and respect and recognized for their contributions throughout history in all aspects of society and biomedical research is no exception. The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) was established in 1990 in response to the dearth of knowledge about women’s health and research that was inclusive of women at the time. In existence for over thirty years, the ORWH has made strides in the inclusion of women in clinical research as well as bringing areas of research on women’s health to the forefront. In addition to a strong focus on women’s health and research, ORWH also works to motivate and inspire women in research careers. ORWH produced a series of short videos highlighting women leaders in science and their words of wisdom for other women scientists called “Pearls of Wisdom” which I encourage you to check out! The ORWH also maintains the Women of Color Research Network (WOCRN) which was created to “provide women of color and supporters of their advancement in the biomedical sciences information about the NIH grants process, advice on career development, and a forum for networking and sharing information”. The WOCRN provides career development tools and resources as well as networking opportunities.  


Another ground-breaking effort focusing on women’s health was the 1991 launch of the Women’s Health Initiative  by NIH’s first female NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy. The Women’s Health Initiative was a set of clinical trials enrolling more than 150,00 women. The program included trials regarding heart disease and breast and colorectal cancer among other illnesses, as well as medications, diet, and hormone therapy. The original study concluded in 2005 and continued as Extension Studies with ongoing follow up to this day.  


We are so happy to celebrate the strides made toward the equitable inclusion of women in biomedical research and recognize the achievements of so many women while acknowledging there is still work to be done.  

Aligned is a blog written by the Center for Cancer Research's Office of Equity and Inclusion discussing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility and highlighting various ways we can all be more involved in creating a more diverse scientific workforce.

Posted on Fri, 03/29/2024