Study Finds Significant Gender Disparity in the Number of Women Physicians Publishing Papers in Biomedical Journals

New Study Shows a Concerning Gender Gap Between the Number of Biomedical Papers Written by Women Doctors Compared to Male Counterparts

There exists a significant gender gap between the number of women physicians publishing biomedical papers compared to their male counterparts, according to a study which appeared in the journal Family Practice.

“Many studies examined gender inequalities in research, but only a few data are available for general biomedical journals,” the authors wrote in their abstract. “We assessed the prevalence of female first authorship in general biomedical journals and examined its variations across a number of author article and journal characteristics.”

As noted in a press release, the medical profession has undergone marked changes recent decades, with a growing proportion of women physicians now working in the field. In fact, in many countries, half of the students entering medical schools are women. However, women physicians face continuous and significant barriers throughout their careers; such as receiving lower salaries, less funding, and having more difficulty  publishing their research, while still experiencing a slower career progression vs. male doctors. It was further noted that gender inequalities in publishing may stand as a chief reason why men continue to outnumber women in academic leadership positions.

To analyze the bibliometric characteristics of scientific articles, the researchers analyzed 767 arbitrarily selected articles published in 2016 in nine high-impact factor journals of primary healthcare and nine general internal medicine journals. They extracted the following data: author (gender, number of publications and affiliation of the first author), paper (number of authors, number of participants and study design) and journal characteristics (journal discipline and 2015 impact factor). Subsequently, they compared the proportion of articles authored by women physicians and male physicians using univariate and multivariate logistic regressions adjusted for intra-cluster correlations.

An Under-Representation

According to the study results, the female authorship proportion was 48% (63% for primary healthcare and 33% for general internal medicine, P-value<0.001). A further multivariate analysis showed that women physicians published five or less articles in over 15 publications (OR=1.6; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.4]). The study also revealed that women were more often affiliated with institutions in the Western world (OR=2.2; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.9]), were more likely to publish qualitative studies (versus systematic reviews or experiments: OR=2.7; 95%, CI 1.5 to 4.8]) and to publish in primary healthcare journals (OR=1.7; 95% CI 1.1 to 2.7]).

The research authors wrote in conclusion that: “The under-representation of women in articles published by general internal medicine journals, in articles from the non-Western world and in systematic reviews and trials should be addressed.”