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N Engl J Med. 2006 Jul 20;355(3):281-7.

The "gender gap" in authorship of academic medical literature--a 35-year perspective.

Author information

1
Department of Radiation Oncology, Office for Women's Careers, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA. reshma_jagsi@post.harvard.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Participation of women in the medical profession has increased during the past four decades, but issues of concern persist regarding disparities between the sexes in academic medicine. Advancement is largely driven by peer-reviewed original research, so we sought to determine the representation of female physician-investigators among the authors of selected publications during the past 35 years.

METHODS:

Original articles from six prominent medical journals--the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Annals of Internal Medicine (Ann Intern Med), the Annals of Surgery (Ann Surg), Obstetrics & Gynecology (Obstet Gynecol), and the Journal of Pediatrics (J Pediatr)--were categorized according to the sex of both the first and the senior (last listed) author. Sex was also determined for the authors of guest editorials in NEJM and JAMA. Data were collected for the years 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2004. The analysis was restricted to authors from U.S. institutions holding M.D. degrees.

RESULTS:

The sex was determined for 98.5 percent of the 7249 U.S. authors of original research with M.D. degrees. The proportion of first authors who were women increased from 5.9 percent in 1970 to 29.3 percent in 2004 (P<0.001), and the proportion of senior authors who were women increased from 3.7 percent to 19.3 percent (P<0.001) during the same period. The proportion of authors who were women increased most sharply in Obstet Gynecol (from 6.7 percent of first authors and 6.8 percent of senior authors in 1970 to 40.7 percent of first authors and 28.0 percent of senior authors in 2004) and J Pediatr (from 15.0 percent of first authors and 4.3 percent of senior authors in 1970 to 38.9 percent of first authors and 38.0 percent of senior authors in 2004) and remained low in Ann Surg (from 2.3 percent of first authors and 0.7 percent of senior authors in 1970 to 16.7 percent of first authors and 6.7 percent of senior authors in 2004). In 2004, 11.4 percent of the authors of guest editorials in NEJM and 18.8 percent of the authors of guest editorials in JAMA were women.

CONCLUSIONS:

Over the past four decades, the proportion of women among both first and senior physician-authors of original research in the United States has significantly increased. Nevertheless, women still compose a minority of the authors of original research and guest editorials in the journals studied.

PMID:
16855268
DOI:
10.1056/NEJMsa053910
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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