One of the keystone bits of education every child in Texas, Georgia, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else in the U.S. receives is that the government has three branches – Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Regardless of which branch you work in, the laws covering employment rights are the same. Ideally, those laws make fighting to protect employees against discrimination unnecessary. In reality, such fights are common.
The National Institutes of Health may represent an agency that stands more apart from the norm than others. It’s focus on medical research in the context of an academic construct includes the possibility of achieving tenure. That’s the special mantle that acknowledges a scientist’s importance to his or her area of specialty and awards job security.
The problem, according to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, is that a general culture of gender bias exists at NIH and it gives men the advantage when it comes to receiving tenure awards. The filer of the complaint is a 47-year-old woman working to find a cure for multiple sclerosis.
Having authored more than 50 papers in some of the most prestigious peer-reviewed journals and acknowledged by outside experts as a solid tenure candidate, she’s been passed over twice. According to one of those experts, it reflects a system set up by men for men. Women are said to be knowingly treated like “second-rate citizens.”
To be fair, the tenure process is something of a beast apart. Merit is supposed to be important, but senior officials exercise a good deal of subjective power over who gets put forward. And many experts say women are suffering as a result.
It takes courage to stand up against entrenched institutional practice, but it’s not something a government employee needs to do alone. Contact an experienced attorney to learn more.