With the release of a study that found gender bias in federal agencies that fund Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) research, Congresswomen Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are demanding immediate action to ensure gender equality in publicly funded research. 

The year-long study, which the congresswomen requested in 2013 from the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO), led to the calls to immediately address the shortcomings found by the study, including improving data collection and performing compliance reviews that are legally required under Title IX—the federal law that bans discrimination in publicly funded research and education.

The GAO study found deficiencies at the federal agencies which collectively award 90% of the nearly $25 billion in federal STEM grants awarded annually. The deficient agencies are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA.

Two of the three agencies responsible for $17.1 billion of federal STEM funding fail to conduct legally required Title IX compliance reviews to ensure the universities they fund are addressing gender bias within their research programs. The Congresswomen also requested that the Attorney General revive an inter-agency task force focused on Title IX gender discrimination issues to better coordinate efforts among the federal agencies involved in STEM grant-making. The congresswomen will be requesting briefings with DOE and NASA to discuss plans to improve their data collection systems to allow for a more complete study of possible gender discrimination at the agencies to be completed.

All three are critical of current American science output, claiming that existing research efforts are falling short because some are being left behind due to bias at the universities the administration funds.

“Right now, two agencies overseeing more than $17 billion in federal grants have not implemented legally required compliance reviews with the universities that use public money for research, while three other agencies fail to collect even the most basic demographic information needed to determine if bias exists in their grant-making processes. These are taxpayer dollars going to important research that will improve the lives of Americans – it’s vital that we know the best science is being funded by the best researchers, free of gender bias," said Rep. Louise Slaughter. 

“As Ranking Member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I will be closely following progress in implementing the GAO recommendations at those agencies under my committee's jurisdiction, and continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure that the remaining agencies also move forward on the recommendations," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

“Collectively, the six agencies in the GAO report are responsible for more than 90% of the $25 billion in federal STEM grants awarded annually. These agencies must do more to guarantee that the recipients of federal grants are the nation’s brightest and most promising scientists, regardless of gender," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro.