Female rheumatologists missing out on global awards: analysis


By Selina Wellbelove

3 Apr 2024

An analysis of gender equity among global rheumatology awards has revealed a “concerning” lack of female representation and the need for organisational change, researchers report.

A group of international academics carried out a cross-sectional analysis of data on recipients of rheumatology awards from six major international bodies*.

They found that of 1,127 awardees between 1972 and 2023, the vast majority were men (83%) with just 17% women.

Of the grant-awarding bodies included in the analysis, EULAR demonstrated the highest gender parity, with 31% female recipients, followed by AFLAR (30%) and PANLAR (22%).

At the other end of the scale, the lowest female representation was observed for ACR (15%) and APLAR (14%) awards, while just 15% of winners of the Carol-Nachman Prize and Medal, considered the world’s most prestigious prize in rheumatology, were female.

“This disparity is particularly concerning given the substantial contributions of female rheumatologists to the field,” the authors noted, in a letter published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (link here).

However, they also highlighted that within the timeframe studied “an encouraging trend” towards bridging the gender gap was seen, with the proportion of female awardees before 1990 (12%) having tripled (36%) in the period after 2021.

Nevertheless, the continued “significant under-representation” of females among rheumatology award winners “warrants focus on organisational measures for gender equity in recognising excellence across the field,” they stressed.

The findings highlight that “considerable progress” is still needed to create a climate of gender equity across the spectrum of international rheumatology awards, the authors said, and they called for “constructive initiatives that recognise excellence across the field and foster positive change”.

“Diversifying selection committees of award-granting institutions and award nominee pools by taking into account their gender, geography, ethnicity and age could broaden representation among nominees,” they noted.

Other measures to develop a more level field include assessing young investigator award nominees on academic as opposed to biological age, to counter parental career breaks, naming future rheumatology awards after “eminent female pioneers”, and increasing transparency of the nomination and selection process, they suggested.

*The American College of Rheumatology (ACR), European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR), Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR), Pan-American League of Associations for Rheumatology (PANLAR) and African League of Associations for Rheumatology (AFLAR), and the Carol-Nachman Prize.

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