Females are first authoring more papers in medical journals than they were two decades ago but a gender gap still exists in some of the high impact journals, research shows.
The observational study involving six leading journals found the representation of women among the first authors of original research increased from 28% in 1994-98 to 38% in 2009-14.
However since 2009 female authorship appeared to plateau and in some journals declined, the researchers reported in their paper published in The BMJ.
For instance first authors were less likely to be female in the New England Journal of Medicine (adjusted odds ratio 0.68, 95% confidence interval 0.53 to 0.89) and significantly more likely to be women in The BMJ (1.30, 1.01 to 1.66).
The results suggest that “underrepresentation of research by women in high impact journals is still an important concern,” the study authors said.
The findings could be explained by the paucity of females on editorial boards, they suggested. Females may also be more likely to submit their papers to different journals, they added.
Writing in an accompanying editorial Kathryn M Rexrode, associate professor of medicine from Harvard Medical School said authorship was necessary for career progression and was a “symptom of success”.
“It is the culmination of career development, mentorship, funding, and support. Gender inequity must therefore be tackled at the level of journals, universities, and funding agencies by training leaders to understand unconscious bias and by developing and implementing institutional policies that promote gender equity,” she concluded.