MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Julie Silver, MD
Associate Professor and Associate Chair
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and
Staff physician at Massachusetts General
Brigham and Women’s and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospitals
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There are many documented disparities for women in medicine that include promotion and compensation. For physicians in academic medicine, both promotion and compensation may be directly or indirectly linked to publishing. Similarly, opportunities that stem from publishing such as speaking engagements, may be affected by a physician’s ability to publish.
For more than twenty years, there have been reports of women being underrepresented on journal editorial boards and gaps in their publishing rates. For example, a report titled “Is There a Sex Bias in Choosing Editors?” by Dickersin et al was published in JAMA in 1998 and made a compelling case for bias. Moreover, the authors noted that “a selection process favoring men would have profound ramifications for the professional advancements and influence of women”. Despite a steady stream of reports over the years, gaps have not been sufficiently addressed, and in 2014 Roberts published an editorial in Academic Psychiatry titled “Where Are the Women Editors?”. The 2017 review by Hengel titled “Publishing While Female” highlights many of the gaps, disparities and barriers for women in medicine.
Conventional reasons for disparities, such as there are not enough women in the pipeline or women do not want to conduct research or pursue leadership positions, are simply not valid. Therefore, it is important to look at other barriers, such as unconscious (implicit) bias that may affect the editorial process.
In this study, we analyzed perspective type articles from four high impact pediatric journals. We selected pediatrics, because most pediatricians are women, and therefore there are plenty of highly accomplished women physicians. We found that women were underrepresented among physician first authors in all of the journals (140 of 336 [41.7%]).
We also found that underrepresentation was more pronounced in article categories that were described as more scholarly (range, 15.4%-44.1%) versus narrative (52.9%-65.6%). Continue reading