Women Are Underrepresented As Senior Authors in Rheumatology Literature

Women are underrepresented as senior authors in rheumatology literature, although they are represented as first authors, according to a study.

“Gender bias in authorship of scientific articles is well‐described. … Women authors are also underrepresented in first and senior authorship positions in articles published in medical journals, even in disciplines such as family medicine which are enriched for women practitioners,” the study authors wrote. “Even in articles in which first and second authors of different gender contribute equally, men are more likely to be listed first.”

The researchers identified rheumatology original research articles published in high‐impact rheumatology (Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Arthritis & Rheumatology, Rheumatology, Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, Arthritis Research & Therapy, Joint Bone Spine, Arthritis Care & Research, and The Journal of Rheumatology) and general medical journals (The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, The British Medical Journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, and Annals of Internal Medicine) between 2015 and 2019; they collected the first and senior authors’ genders, disease category, research design, and funding source.

A total of 7,651 original articles were identified; women constituted 51.5% of the first authors (95% confidence interval [CI], 50.4-52.6%), but only 35.3% of the senior authors (95% CI, 34.2-36.4%). Women had a much lower likelihood of being first and senior authors for articles on randomized clinical trials than other designs, as well as those on industry‐funded/industry‐initiated studies as opposed to studies not funded by industry. When assessing articles highlighting industry‐funded/industry‐initiated randomized controlled trials, women were significantly underrepresented as first authors (18.5%; 95% CI, 13.8-24%) and senior authors (23.9%; 95% CI, 18.6-29.8%).

The present study was published in the January issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology.

“These findings highlight the need for institutional and industry leaders to take steps to ensure that women are represented equally as the gender gap in the rheumatology workforce narrows in the future,” the study authors wrote in their conclusion.