AN DIEGO — Two top scientists are suing their employer, the Salk Institute, alleging that they and other women have suffered long-term gender discrimination at the renowned California research center.
Vicki Lundblad and Katherine Jones allege in their lawsuit filed this week that the institute has long been an “old boys club,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Thursday. The suit describes “a culture where women are paid less, not promoted and denied opportunities and benefits simply because they are women,” the newspaper said.
Lundblad and Jones allege that they have faced pressure to downsize their laboratories even though they’ve done well in bringing in research money.
They also accuse Salk administrators of not promoting any female scientist to the rank of full professor since 1999, of retaliating against them for their complaints, and of not responding seriously to changes proposed by Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, the institute’s president since late 2015.
In a statement, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies said, “Drs. Jones and Lundblad, whose laboratories have received over $5 million in support from the institute over the past 10 fiscal years, have been treated generously by the institute, including relative to their male peers. Each scientist’s lucrative compensation package is consistent with well-recognized metrics that have been applied to all Salk faculty in a nondiscriminatory manner.”
The institute was founded by Jonas Salk, who developed the world’s first effective and safe vaccine against polio.
A spokesman for the institute said it wouldn’t make any comments beyond the statement because of the pending litigation.
Lundblad and Jones didn’t offer comments outside of their lawsuits.
Lundblad, 64, is a molecular and cell biologist who has done groundbreaking studies of how telomeres, the protective tips of chromosomes, factor into aging and cancer, according to the Union-Tribune.
Jones is a biologist who has done widely cited research on how to fight cancer and conducted studies that have helped to explain how dormant HIV infections can become active. She has spent her entire 30-year career at the Salk Institute.
Since its opening in 1963, the institute in seaside La Jolla has consistently garnered international attention for its pioneering advancements in basic science.