12 steps to improve gender equity in academic dermatology


By Mardi Chapman

20 May 2024

Redressing long-standing gender disparities in dermatology won’t be easy, but “inactivity is not an option,” according to Australian dermatologist Professor Dedee Murrell.

Writing in the JEADV [link here], Professor Murrell and Dr Sophie Walter said disparities pervade all areas of academia, including faculty leadership, salaries, medical journal editor roles, senior authorship on academic papers, research grants, and prizes.  

For example, a 2023 study [link here] found only 30% of the top dermatology authors by publication rate between 2017 and 2022 were female.

“In another study, women made up 37% of editorial board positions of the top 20 dermatology journals,” they said.

There had been some improvements – such as the percentage of female speakers at American Academy of Dermatology meetings increasing from 17.9% in 1992 to 48% in 2017 – but persistent inequities such as the low proportion of female recipients of major research prizes awarded by dermatology organisations.

Professor Dedee Murrell, from the Department of Dermatology at Sydney’s St George Hospital, and her colleague said the challenges to achieving gender equity were no hidden secret and included childrearing and domestic responsibilities as well as unconscious bias.

They proposed the following actions:

  • Strengthen and expand societies and special interest groups that advocate for women in all areas of dermatology, including academic dermatology
  • Celebrate the careers of distinguished female academic dermatologists through publications, conference presentations and teaching curricula
  • Strive for a greater representation of women among editors and editorial board members of dermatology journals
  • Endeavour to have a greater representation of women among authors of dermatology publications
  • Arrange a greater representation of women among conference presenters and in other conference roles
  • Mentor female medical students, dermatology trainees and dermatologists
  • Secure better pay, parent leave and other work conditions
  • Promote leadership courses for women working or interested in academic dermatology
  • Conduct high quality research about gender inequity in academic dermatology, including outcome studies
  • Monitor gender equity in academic dermatology and impose sanctions for inequity as necessary
  • Support medical students’, dermatology residents’ and dermatologists’ health and avoid burnout
  • Learning from the experience and recommendations of other fields of academic medicine.

“Gender inequity manifests in all domains of academic dermatology, devalues able professional women and hinders the flourishing of our field.”

“All stakeholders are obligated to address the problem,” they concluded.  

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