Gender bias persists in authorship of rheumatology research articles

Women may have achieved gender parity in the rheumatology workforce but are under-represented in senior authorship positions on original research articles in rheumatology, a new review finds.

Women comprised 51.5% of first authors but only 35.3% of senior authors of 7,641 articles published in high impact rheumatology and general medical journals between 2015 and 2019, according to a study by rheumatologist Professor Nicola Dalbeth and colleagues from Auckland University.

Under‐representation of women in authorship was particularly apparent in articles reporting randomised controlled trials, especially those supported by industry.

Writing in Arthritis and Rheumatology,  Professor Dalbeth and colleagues said women comprised about 50% of the rheumatology workforce in Australia and New Zealand, but there was still a glass ceiling in academic career progression.

“Our findings may be due to the low number of women in rheumatology academic leadership positions, with women less likely to be full or associate professors compared to men,” they said.

Women were more likely to be a first author on an article with a woman as senior author, they noted.

The study found similar patterns of authorship by gender for articles related to different rheumatic diseases.

“Paediatric rheumatology articles had the highest proportion of women first and senior author, and vasculitis articles had the lowest proportion of women first and senior authors.”

There was no change in the pattern of authorship for first authors over the study period but a small increase in women senior authors over time was evident.

Women had a slightly lower odds of being first authors on articles reporting RCTs compared with articles reporting basic science, systematic reviews and other clinical research..

The lowest proportion of women senior authors was seen in articles reporting basic science and RCTs.

“Given that randomised controlled trials are widely regarded as the highest quality of research and have a large impact on clinical practice, these findings highlight a potential barrier in career advancement for female rheumatologists.”

Women were also less likely to be first or senior authors on articles reporting industry funded or initiated research.

“These findings highlight the importance of institutional and industry leaders to take steps to ensure that women are represented equally as the future gender gap in the rheumatology workforce narrows,” the study concluded.

Already a member?

Login to keep reading.

Email me a login link

© 2022 the limbic