Is there a gender bias in pediatric journals? A recent study by medical ethicists from the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital found that while the number of women in pediatrics is steadily increasing, they continue to be underrepresented as authors and editors in pediatric journals.
Researchers examined the gender of authors of original research in three high-impact pediatric journals (Pediatrics, JAMA Pediatrics and The Journal of Pediatrics) between 2001 and 2016. They found an increasing number of women as first authors (57.7 percent in 2016 vs. 39.8 percent in 2001) and as last authors (38.1 percent in 2016 vs. 28.6 percent in 2001). Editorial boards also included more women (39.8 percent in 2016 vs. 17.8 percent in 2001). Although the gap is closing, women are still underrepresented in publishing, which likely impacts their promotion pathway.
In 2013, women accounted for 58 percent of pediatricians, a 10 percent increase from 2000. That number will continue to rise, since women currently make up more than 73 percent of pediatric residents. Despite accounting for over 55 percent of all full-time pediatric faculty positions, women hold only slightly more than 40 percent of senior faculty positions (associate and full professorships).
In a second study, researchers looked at whether the publishing gap is due to bias in the peer review process. They examined the gender of corresponding authors, reviewers and editors to see if gender bias led to different publication recommendations and outcomes for original research articles and invited editorials submitted to The Journal of Pediatrics in 2015 and 2016.
Of the 3,729 original manuscripts submitted, 54.3 percent had female corresponding authors. Women were the associate editor (40.2 percent of submissions), guest editor (34.8 percent) or primary reviewer (37.4 percent), with no gender difference in editor or reviewer assignments for submissions by female vs. male corresponding authors.
There is still more to be done to achieve gender parity in academic pediatrics.
Lainie Ross, MD, PhD
Overall, female editors had a lower acceptance rate than male editors (20.1 percent vs. 25.6 percent), although there were no outcome differences by author gender for manuscripts overseen by female or male editors. Why female editors had a lower acceptance rate is unknown, says senior author Lainie Ross, MD, PhD, Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Medical Ethics at UChicago Medicine. She speculates it may be due to the quality of articles that are triaged to female editors, the quality of research in their area of expertise, or female editors may just be more selective than their male counterparts.
Similarly, although women served as peer reviewers 34 percent of the time, there were no differences in recommendations by female or male reviewers. Interestingly, women were asked to be peer reviewers less frequently than men, and when invited, were more likely to decline. In addition, women accounted for only one-third of editorial board members and were less likely to write editorials than would be expected given their representation as senior faculty.
“Publish or perish has long been the mantra of academia,” Ross says. “Our data show that female pediatricians are increasing in numbers as authors, editors, reviewers and editorial board members. While we found fairness in the review process, there is room for improvement in ensuring equal opportunity for female senior faculty as board members and editorialists. We have come a long way, but there is still more to be done to achieve gender parity in academic pediatrics.”
April Bellamy-Peyton, MD
Michael Boettcher, MD
Donald Brown, MD
Joy Elion, MD
Anne Gearhart, MD
Munzareen Padela, MD
Carl Toren, MD
Anitha Vinod, MD