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J Natl Med Assoc. 2007 Jul;99(7):764-71.

Women on professional society and journal editorial boards.

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University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Department of Surgery, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Membership on a professional medical society or journal editorial board is a marker of influence and prestige for those in academic medicine. This study presents the first comprehensive quantification of women on these boards and the implications for women in medicine.


The numbers of women and men on professional society and journal editorial boards across 28 specialties (March 2004) were counted. The number of women holding multiple roles on these boards and the number of women holding top leadership positions on these boards were counted, and these proportions were compared.


Three-thousand-four-hundred-seventy-three individuals on 39 professional medical society boards and 54 journal editorial boards were included. Eighty-three percent (2,884) of board members were male. Men occupied > 80% of top leadership positions on these boards. Thirty-five of the 589 women in the study held multiple roles. Anesthesiology (p < 0.0025), pediatrics (p < 0.0001), dermatology (p = 0.0001), obstetrics/ gynecology (p = 0.05), medical genetics (p < 0.015) and rehabilitation medicine (p < 0.03) had significantly lower proportions of women on boards in comparison to the total women in the specialty. Internal medicine, plastic surgery, cardiology and general surgery had nearly equivalent proportions; in otolaryngology and family medicine, female board members slightly exceeded the proportion of women in the field.


Women's representation on society and editorial boards does not always reflect their presence in medical specialties, and it is critically lacking in certain specialties. Efforts should be made to attain parity of women leaders on these boards. Further efforts should be made to eliminate barriers to women's leadership in medicine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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