Namandjé N. Bumpus, PhD, spoke on “How Racism and Sexism Squash Talent and Slow Progress in STEM” on Feb. 10. Hosted by Women in Science and Healthcare (WiSH), the presentation, held via Zoom, was part of the Dr. Rosalind Franklin Centennial Series honoring women’s advancements in science and health care.
Dr. Bumpus is a professor and director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine — the first African American woman to lead a department at the institution, and the only African American woman currently chairing a pharmacology department at any U.S. medical school.
“It’s important to look at the contributions of women in science and medicine, but we have to be willing to acknowledge the very unique experience that exists for certain women and understand how our language and our actions marginalize women, even as we try to elevate women overall,” said Dr. Bumpus, who emphasized the intersection of race and gender.
Dr. Bumpus added that her experience of racism in academia has often been dismissed, even by women colleagues.
“Specific systemic barriers go beyond sexism alone for Black and Latina and Indigenous women,” Dr. Bumpus said. “If we want to move to a place where we are really seeing inclusivity in science and academia, we have to acknowledge intersectionality and the impact that it has.”
Dr. Bumpus researches genetic differences that influence how people metabolize antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. Her recently published perspectives include “For Better Drugs, Diversify Clinical Trials” in the journal Science, and “Too Many Senior White Academics Still Resist Recognizing Racism,” featured in Nature.
Making science and academia truly inclusive requires moving beyond discussions of diversity to actually confront oppression and racism.
She was attacked for the latter piece — someone sent her an image of a lynching, she said — for challenging “over-represented people in science” to “wake up to how the culture in academic science is exclusionary.”
“Making science and academia truly inclusive requires moving beyond discussions of diversity to actually confront oppression and racism,” Dr. Bumpus told her RFU audience. “How do we really turn ourselves into a unit as scientists in academia who are creating opportunities for all and who are willing to be brave enough to recognize everyone’s experience and the discrimination they have faced?”