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Women Lag Men as First Authors in Top Journals

More women are lead authors of studies in top journals, but gender gap remains

WEDNESDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of women who are leading authors of medical studies has greatly increased over the past four decades, but women still comprise a minority of such authors, according to a report in the July 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Reshma Jagsi, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues reviewed original research from six prominent medical journals, including during five different years since 1970. Sex was also determined for the authors of guest editorials in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers found that "the proportion of first authors of original research who were women increased from 5.9 percent in 1970 to 29.3 percent in 2004, and the proportion of senior authors who were women increased from 3.7 percent to 19.3 percent during the same period." The sharpest increases were noted in Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Journal of Pediatrics, while percentages remained low in the Annals of Surgery.

"Our findings validate the perception that although women have made substantial strides in the past four decades, a gender gap remains among the authors of original articles in prestigious academic medical journals. Further investigation is necessary to understand more fully the causes for this gap, including the possibility that certain barriers may impede women's participation as authors early in their careers and, in turn, may diminish the pool of female senior faculty members who may serve in the prominent authorship positions," the authors conclude.

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