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Women as First Authors, as Last or Senior Authors, and as Editorial Board Members of 3 Academic Pediatric Journals: A 22-Year Trend Analysis

September 22, 2023

Women make up nearly 70% of the pediatric work force. How is this reflected in journal authorship or in serving on a journal editorial board? Both of these activities are markers of leadership in academic medicine. Dr. Wadsworth Williams (Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago), Manu Sundaresan, (an undergraduate at the University of Chicago), and Dr. Lainie Ross (University of Rochester) explored these in a study being early released this month in Pediatrics (10.1542/peds.2023-062576). This is an update of a previous evaluation, taking the findings from 2016 through 2022.

The authors evaluated original research studies published in JAMA Pediatrics, The Journal of Pediatrics, and Pediatrics over 22 years. They classified the gender of authors and editorial board members with an algorithm that classified gender only into male and female based on first name. If gender could not be determined from first name, the authors used academic institution websites and other online registries. Potential subjects were excluded if the study team could not classify gender. This happened less than 1% of the time. 

The good news is that all 3 journals had an increase in the proportion of women as first authors (23.7%), senior authors (22.8%), and as editorial board members (15.9%) over the 5 one-year time periods studied between 2001 and 2022. Overall, 67.3% of first authors were women, which is similar to the proportion of women who were assistant professors in 2021, and 48% of the senior authors were women, similar to the proportion of women who are associate professor or professor in 2021. The study also found that 47.4% of editorial board members from these journals were women. It is interesting and important to note that the proportion of women who are senior authors is so much lower than the percentage of women who are first authors. 

There are limitations to this article, including the binary approach to gender and the use of an algorithm instead of self-report. The study did not directly assess faculty rank; there are many cases in which first authors are more senior faculty and junior faculty are senior authors. Still, it is reassuring to see that the proportion of women in 3 major pediatric peer-review journals parallels the prevalence of women at the various faculty ranks and that editorial board membership parallels the percentage of women who are senior faculty. There are a lot more interesting data in this study, so link to it and learn more.

If you are interested to know the percentage of women on the editorial board for Pediatrics as of July 2023, the general editorial board membership is 53% women and our executive editorial board (i.e., section editors) is 56% women, a trend that has been increasing yearly since 2009. 

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