Gender gap in rheumatology academia spans several decades

Tuesday, 17 Nov 2020

The under-representation of women in senior authorship positions on rheumatology research articles has persisted over 15 years and is particularly apparent in paediatric journals, rheumatologists report.

The latest analysis comes on the back of a trial previously reported by the limbic [link here] which found that of over 7,500 articles published between 2015-19 women comprised 51.5% of first authors but only 35.3% of senior authors.

The current analysis builds on these findings, this time analysing nearly 125,000 rheumatology publications over a 15 year period from 2005 to 2020.

The authors from. Wisconsin in the US confirmed the conclusion of the previous analysis, finding that female authors appeared to have proportional representation as first and middle authors in non-paediatric publications.

“Contrary to this encouraging finding, marked under-representation with respect to senior authorship and authorship of RCTs has persisted over a 15 year time frame and nearly 125,000 publications,” they wrote in a letter published in Arthritis and Rheumatology.

The previous researchers had speculated that the disparities in authorship could be a reflection of differences in career-phase however the current authors said that if this were the case, they would be expected the issue to resolve as early-stage female investigators assumed more senior roles.

“Preliminary evidence of such a trend is not apparent in these data. Under-representation as senior authors or authors of RCTs may also reflect gender bias – both conscious and unconscious – in academic promotion, editorial decisions, or grant funding,” they wrote.

These concerns may be especially applicable to paediatric rheumatology, where the “gender gap” appears to be widening, they added.

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