Authorship by Female Physicians Inequitably Represented in Pediatric Journals

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Pediatric journal editors and associated medical societies should ensure institutional processes that allow for an equitable inclusion of women in medicine.
Pediatric journal editors and associated medical societies should ensure institutional processes that allow for an equitable inclusion of women in medicine.

Authorship of perspective-type articles in high-impact pediatric journals showed fewer female physician first authors despite women outnumbering their male colleagues in the pediatric specialty, according to a study published in the JAMA Network Open.

In 2015, women made up 61.9% of the active pediatrician population, yet female physicians continue to be underrepresented as first authors in pediatric journals. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study seeking to determine the number and proportion of women who authored perspective-type articles in the 4 highest-impact pediatric journals (Academic PediatricsJAMA PediatricsThe Journal of Pediatrics, and Pediatrics) by examining gender-related profiles associated with articles published between 2013 and 2017.

The study identified 425 perspective-type articles; physicians were listed as first author in 79.5% of the articles. Of those, 58.3% were men and 41.7% were women.

Underrepresentation of women among physician first authors was lower in articles categorized as scholarly (range, 15.4%-44.1%) vs categories described as narrative or personal in nature (range, 52.9%-65.6%). Women were also underrepresented among last authors and coauthors; these findings were even more pronounced if a male physician was the first author. The lowest representation of women-authored articles was associated with journals that used staff-driven solicitation processes, journals with lowest impact factors, and men listed as category editors. Notably, the editors-in-chief of the 4 included journals were all men.

Study limitations included the determination of author information by searching the publisher website, and gender determination in which name inspection was followed by an online search for profiles that identified the author as a man or woman. Women counted among active pediatricians included residents, clinical physicians without faculty status, and private practice physicians, all who may be less likely to contribute.

The study investigators concluded that while the pipeline of qualified women physicians is sufficient, processes at the journal level may be affected by institutional bias. While women are the majority in active pediatric practice, there is a need for more women physicians to author scholarly articles in order to express insights that may be influential in their field or enhance their academic resumes. Pediatric journal editors and associated medical societies should ensure institutional processes that allow for an equitable inclusion of women in medicine.

Reference                                                                                                                       

Silver JK, Poorman JA, Reilly JM, Spector ND, Goldstein R, Zafonte RD. Assessment of women physicians among authors of perspective-type articles published in high-impact pediatric journals [published online July 20, 2018]. JAMA Network Open. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0802.

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