NIH Diversity Resources & Career Flexibility Initiatives


NIH Commitment to Diversity

NIH is deeply committed to advancing diversity and inclusion and ensuring that the experiences and contributions of all members of our community are valued while also protecting their civil rights. At NIH, the critical work of developing and implementing diversity programs for the extramural community is conducted by dedicated staff within the Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs).

Organized by the Office of Extramural Research (OER), the ICOs developed webpages outlining their commitments to diversity and inclusion. You can find links to these statements on the OER Diversity in Extramural Programs page.

Other NIH initiatives, programs, and policies that aim to transform institutional culture and biomedical training are as follows:

  • NIH has long recognized that achieving diversity in the biomedical research workforce is critical for ensuring that the most creative minds can contribute to realizing our national research and health goals, and the Diversity Program Consortium is a trans-NIH program funded by the NIH Common Fund and managed by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
  • The updated version of the Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity (NOT-OD-20-031), released on November 22, 2019, reflects a formal category recognizing women as an underrepresented population in the U.S. biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences research enterprise.
  • Check with your ICO about the funding opportunity announcement titled “Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research” (PA-23-189).
  • Many offices across NIH focus on some aspect of scientific workforce diversity. An overview of these offices and a summary of their roles as they relate to scientific workforce diversity can be found here.
  • The Scientific Workforce Diversity (SWD) Office leads NIH’s efforts to diversify the national scientific workforce and expand recruitment and retention.


Women of Color in Science

NIH is committed not only to the advancement of women of color in science but also to examining this understudied group and the barriers hindering these women from reaching their full potential within the scientific community. While women make up over 50% of the current STEMM workforce, women of color constitute only 11% of faculty positions at degree-granting postsecondary institutions (National Center for Education Statistics). The intersectionality of gender and race creates unique challenges for women of color, in that these categories inform, to some extent, the experiences and conditions faced in the workplace. Reports have shown that women of color experience discrimination, compounded by biased attitudes and perceived stereotypes at far greater rates than women or people men of color alone.

Studies have also shown that a well-prepared and diverse team of scientists facilitate critical advances in science, are more reflective of the population’s concerns, publish at higher rates, and are cited more than average (Nature, June 2018). Thus, increasing the diversity of the scientific pool would make good business sense and put the scientific workforce in a better position to address the needs in science and technology. 

NIH is hopeful that the programs we have and will be developing will aid these underrepresented populations and that more research can be directed to garnering a greater understanding of the challenges faced by women of color in science. As an example, in collaboration with the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers, the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is working to develop programs aimed at addressing the recommendations put forth by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in its report titled Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors (2020).

ORWH is also continuing its efforts to support and promote the Women of Color Research Network (WOCRN). The WOCRN LinkedIn group is a valuable resource for connecting with colleagues, getting career advice, and learning from the experiences of others. NIH is committed to hearing from women of color in the sciences to help further their careers.

ORWH and the OER Division of Biomedical Research Workforce have also recently issued two administrative supplement programs (NOT-OD-23-031 and NOT-OD-23-032) to enhance retention of women and continuity of their NIH-funded research. These programs focus on the mechanisms used by investigators at career stages that are particularly vulnerable for women.


Photo of a teamGender Diversity at NIH

  • NIH Gender Inequality Task Force Report: The task force believes strongly that preventing gender inequality and mitigating its consequences starts at the top and requires leadership action and accountability. Institutional change is essential for sustainability as leadership positions change over time.
  • Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office: SGMRO coordinates sexual and gender minority (SGM)–related research and activities by working directly with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices.



Doctor in a labCareer Flexibility for Postdocs

For predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers at their home institutions

Being able to balance work and family life is important for everyone, including biomedical and biobehavioral researchers. Here are some of the ways in which NIH helps our grantee institutions foster family-friendly environments for the NIH-supported workforce, specifically for predoctoral and/or postdoctoral workers at their home institutions:

  • Recipients of National Research Service Award (NRSA) support are currently permitted 8 weeks of paid parental leave for the adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible for parental leave. In addition, if an extramural institution permits longer periods of parental leave from the principal investigator’s grant than currently permitted for individuals funded through the NRSAs, typically that period is also permissible for NRSA trainees and fellows. Currently, if the extramural institution does not permit 8 weeks leave for postdocs and students funded on other sources of support than the NRSA, the NRSA recipient is still allowed to take the 8 weeks of paid leave. The NRSA trainee or fellow is required to provide advance notice to their grantee institution and their supervisor according to their institution’s policy, and the use of parental leave must be approved by the training program director. For more information, see policy notices NOT-OD-18-154 and NOT-OD-16-105.
  • Awardees may request adjustments to their appointment status or percent effort for a personal or family reason such as parental leave, child care, elder care, a medical condition, or a disability. For example, awardees may request to reduce their appointment to less than full-time (but not less than three-quarter-time) for a period not to exceed 12 continuous months during the award project period. For more information, see policy notice NOT-OD-18-156 and the applicable leave policies in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
  • The 4-year postdoc eligibility window for K99 applicants will be extended by 1 year for those who apply for an extension for childbirth. NIH considers requests for extension of the K99 eligibility window for various reasons, including medical concerns, disability, family care, extended periods of clinical training, natural disasters, and active-duty military service. See NOT-OD-20-011 for details on how to request an extension.
  • Postdocs and faculty members who have taken time off to care for children or attend to other responsibilities and who want to bring their research skills and knowledge up to date are eligible to apply for these supplements. The commitment could be full- or part-time, and at completion, it is anticipated that the individual would be competitive for a career development award, a research award, or some other form of independent research support. For more information, see the funding opportunity announcement (NOT-OD-23-170).
  • The new NINDS postdoctoral fellowship program (PAR-20-021) highly discourages the inclusion of preliminary data in the application, accepts applications up to 12 months prior to starting in the specified lab or research environment, and allows for a 6-month paid extension of the fellowship for childbirth upon prior request and approval.

UnitedOther Career Flexibility Initiatives
of the Working Group
on Women in Biomedical Careers


  • Back-up Care Program: NIH has contracted with Bright Horizons to offer NIH Federal employees access to back-up care when they need to be at work and their regular child or adult/elder care is unavailable.
  • Keep the Thread Program: This program offers current NIH Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) and Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) postdoctoral fellows several options for increasing flexibility and temporarily reducing effort while remaining connected to their research and the NIH community during times of intense family needs. 
  • Voluntary Leave Bank: Medical conditions can happen at any time, without any notice, and can require hundreds of hours of leave. The NIH Leave Bank offers income protection to eligible NIH members who are affected by a personal or family medical emergency or condition.
  • Women Scientists Advisors (WSA) Committee: Members of the WSA committee are the elected representatives of women from each NIH Institute and Center (IC), and their function is to represent the interests of women scientists in the intramural program at NIH. The committee’s aim is to raise awareness of issues facing women scientists and to work toward improving women’s representation in NIH faculty at all levels.

The Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers’ programs, policies, and initiatives

The Office of Extramural Research’s programs, policies, and initiatives

  • Doubled the allowed period of family leave for Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA trainees: Recipients of NRSA support (trainees and fellows) are currently permitted 8 weeks of paid parental leave for the adoption or birth of a child, regardless of whether the grantee organization offers similar parental leave for those in comparable positions. If the grantee organization permits a longer period of parental leave from the mentor’s grant than currently permitted for individuals funded through the NRSAs, that period is also typically permissible for NRSA trainees and fellows (NOT-OD-18-154 and NOT-OD-16-105).
  • Extension of early-stage investigator (ESI) status: ESIs who have experienced a lapse in their research or research training during the 10-year ESI period can request an extension of the ESI eligibility (NOT-OD-09-034). Effective September 24, 2018, NIH approves an ESI extension of 1 year for childbirth within the ESI period (NOT-OD-18-235).
  • Extension of eligibility window for Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00): The 4-year eligibility window for K99 applicants will be extended by 1 year for those who apply for an extension for childbirth (NOT-OD-20-011).

Page last updated on

Back to Top