The summer of 1993 was an eventful time: Prince changed his name to a symbol, “Jurassic Park” was released and Congress passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, requiring the inclusion of women in clinical research.

Most people aren’t aware of this law, which requires that women be included in research to develop drugs, therapies and treatments. For decades, women were underrepresented in or excluded from biomedical research studies because they could become pregnant or their hormones were deemed “too complicated.” This caused large gaps in our understanding of how sex and gender inform health and disease.

The Revitalization Act has just entered its fourth decade. As a biomedical scientist who studies the intersection of sex, gender and science, I know this for certain: We still have a long way to go.

For the first 20-plus years after the legislation was passed, the idea persisted that females were simply “too complicated” to study, leaving us with an often one-sided view of biology. In response, the NIH introduced a policy in 2016 requiring scientists to consider the sex of their subjects when designing experiments and reporting and analyzing their data.

Now scientists are more likely to include both sexes in their research studies, and women account for approximately 48% of NIH-supported clinical trial participants. That’s phenomenal progress, but there’s still one major problem: Scientists routinely fail to analyze their data by sex. When this happens, we have no way of knowing if males or females respond to treatments differently or if there are fundamental differences in the way they are affected by certain diseases.

Analyzing data by sex helps us understand why some conditions are more common in men than women (or vice versa) and enables us to develop more effective, personalized medicine. It could also shorten the amount of time it takes for a drug to be developed and introduced to patients, which currently takes 10 to 15 years. Some patients simply don’t have that kind of time.


Recent studies have found that female scientists are more likely to analyze their data by sex compared with men. We know that women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancers and are diligently working toward better treatments or cures.

Yet, because women are underrepresented in the biomedical workforce, too many of our research questions remain unasked and unanswered, and our work underfunded.

The lack of investment in women’s health research has economic consequences too. A recent report found that investing $350 million in women-specific research would generate more than $14 billion in returns to the U.S. economy through increases in life expectancy, disease progression and quality of life.

Thirty years from now, I will be 67 and hopefully nearing retirement as I take my grandkids to see the 12th “Jurassic Park” sequel. I do not want to spend the rest of my career advocating for women’s health.

We have the ability to transform women’s health in three years, not 30, by investing in women’s health and the female scientists who are just as impatient as I am for change.

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