Gender imbalance still rife across global rheumatology journals

Wednesday, 10 Aug 2022

Just 12% of global rheumatology journals have achieved gender balance across their academic and clinical board members, according to new research by a group of international rheumatologists.

The persistent gender imbalance in journal leadership could inadvertently be hindering the progress of women in academic publishing as well as gender-based advances in rheumatology approaches and therapies, the group has warned.

The research, published in The Lancet Rheumatology, found that across 34 global rheumatology journals, there were just six (15%) female editors-in-chief and 597 (27%) female editorial board members.

A mere seven journals* had achieved female representation of 40–60% in their editorial boards overall, while just four (12%) had gender balance in both academic and clinical board members, the findings showed.

Lead author Dr Pavel Ovseiko, a senior research fellow and principal investigator at the University of Oxford, told the limbic that while there has been strong progress on gender equality within rheumatology, a clear divide remains at leadership level which needs to be addressed.

“Already there is gender balance among rheumatologists in many countries and the proportion of female rheumatology researchers is rapidly expanding. However, women are still significantly under-represented in senior leadership roles, especially, in academic rheumatology,” he said.

“It is urgent to address gender equity on rheumatology journal boards to better represent rheumatology patients, the majority of whom are women, and the rheumatology profession, which has made a remarkable progress towards gender equity in recent decades,” Dr Ovseiko noted.

Gender-equitable representation is important as it can improve the quality of research and patient care, “especially in areas where there are sex and gender differences in the prevalence, clinical manifestation, and treatment of rheumatic diseases”, he said.

Fellow study author Dr Latika Gupta, a rheumatologist at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, also told the limbic that “closing the gender gap would bring diverse perspectives and working styles to the editorial ecosystem”.

As such, the study authors have called for all rheumatology journals to review their boards and monitor for gender imbalance, and employ strategies for diversification, such as establishing and monitoring gender targets and making editorial appointments fixed-term.

*Acta Reumatologica Portuguesa, Arthritis & Rheumatology, Arthritis Care & Research, The Lancet Rheumatology, Lupus Science & Medicine, Nature Reviews Rheumatology, and Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism

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