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Are Women in Rheumatology Closing the Gap?

Aug 20, 2020 12:30 pm

"Fierce, Formidable and Phenomenal" was the tag line used to introduce Vice-Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris. Her introduction followed a review of the increasing role of women in voting, society and politics in America. But, has the same been realized by women in academic medicine and rheumatology?  Two recent articles have summarized the gender effect in academia and publications.

Bagga et al has examine journal article authorship as related to career advancement and promotion by looking at women as first and senior authors on rheumatology original research articles published between 2015 and 2019. Of the 7,651 research articles included, 51.5% of the articles had women first authors and 35.3% had women as senior authors.

Women were less likely to be first and senior authors of articles reporting clinical trials and industry-funded trials compared with articles on other clinical research designs (P<0.001), and non-industry trials (P≤0.01), respectively.  For example with industry‐funded trials, women were first authors in 18.5% and senior authors in 23.9%.

Overall the authors reported that women were under‐represented in senior authorship positions, especially for randomized controlled trials, and those initiated by industry.

In the same issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology, Jorge et al reported on physician gender and academic advancement among US rheumatologists.  A US nation wide, cross‐sectional study of practicing rheumatologists in the United States in 2014 was used to estimate the number of academic rheumatologists, faculty rank, and appointments at top 20 medical schools. Of the 6,125 total practicing rheumatologists, women were represented  with 941 (15%) having academic faculty appointments.

Academic female rheumatologists (41.6%) were younger and completed residency more recently than men. Women had fewer total publications, first or last author publications, and NIH grants. Moreover, women were less likely to be full or associate professors than men (aOR 0.78 [95% CI 0.62‐0.99]).  Women in rheumatology did have the same similar odds (as men) of being a fellowship program director or division director (aOR 0.90, 95% CI: 0.69‐1.43 and aOR 0.96, 95% CI: 0.66‐1.41, respectively). 

Women in academic rheumatology are growing in number. While fewer of them have been promoted to full or associate professors, they have matched men in leading academic rheumatology as fellowship program directors or division directors. 



The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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