Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S., says he will no longer participate in conferences that have all-male speaking panels, according to a statement on the NIH website.

The NIH is the primary U.S. government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research and employs more than 20,000 people. Dr. Collins previously led the Human Genome Project and has been the director of the NIH since August 2009.

“The National Institutes of Health is committed to changing the culture and climate of biomedical research to create an inclusive and diverse workforce,” Dr. Collins says in his June 12 statement.

“It is not enough to give lip service to equality; leaders must demonstrate their commitment through their actions.”

He cites a 2018 report titled Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequence in Academic Science, Engineering, and Medicine as the basis for forming his decision. The paper urges scientific leaders to create more inclusive spaces for all of the underrepresented groups they employ.

“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,” Dr. Collins writes.

“If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part. I challenge other scientific leaders across the biomedical enterprise to do the same.”

Read the full statement here.

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