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December 10, 2021
Creating a sense of belonging and inclusivity through our portraiture
NIH launched the UNITE initiative in March 2020 to end structural racism and achieve racial and ethnic equity in biomedical research. Enhancing diversity of our workforce is a major goal of UNITE. Bringing diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skillsets to complex scientific problems enhances scientific productivity, and enhances problem solving of any kind. I’m proud of the current diversity of the NIH workforce, but recognize we still have quite a way to go to achieve true equity in biomedical research. The UNITE initiative is hard at work identifying barriers and recommending solutions to achieving racial and ethnic equity at NIH and at the institutions we fund. The initiative has already accomplished a great deal in just seven months.
To make meaningful change toward an inclusive culture, every person should feel they have equal opportunity for meritorious advancement within their organization. As such, every staff member deserves to see themselves represented throughout the ranks of their organization and in the imagery that their organization uses to depict its values. Recognizing that the artwork in shared or public spaces encodes an institution’s values and provides messages to its members about belonging, NIH launched another UNITE effort called The Power of an Inclusive Workplace Recognition Project (Recognition Project). The project was spearheaded by NIH intramural researcher Sadhana Jackson, M.D., a pediatric neuro-oncologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Cancer Institute, and a co-chair of the UNITE “T” Committee. In early racial equity discussions at NIH, Dr. Jackson noted the lack of racial and gender diversity in the portraiture on the walls and hallways of NIH buildings. The Recognition Project was launched to diversify the imagery in the halls and on the walls of many NIH buildings. The goal of the Recognition Project is to reflect the rich diversity of the NIH workforce, build a sense of belonging and inclusion among all NIH staff, and enhance recruitment and retention at NIH. I invite you to learn more about the Recognition Project and about the UNITE initiative.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.