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Women authorship of top medical articles continues to lag, new study shows

scientist-with-microscope-996187_1280Women are still significantly less likely than men to be the first author of research published in a prestigious medical journal, a new study shows. More worryingly, although the percentage of female first authors has climbed in the last two decades, it is now plateauing, or even declining.

Researchers from Baylor Scott & White Health, a non-profit health-care provider, examined 3,758 research articles that appeared in six top medical journals (Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, The BMJ, JAMA, The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine) between 1994 and 2014. Female first authorship climbed from 27 percent in 1994 to 37 percent in 2014, according to the study from The BMJ.

Female first authorship declined between 2009 and 2014 in two of the journals: The BMJ and the New England Journal of Medicine, first author Giovanni Filardo, PhD, points out in a news release.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Kathryn Rexrode, MD, associate professor of medicine and faculty director of the Office for Women's Careers at Harvard Medical School, explains why the trend is problematic:

Authorship is necessary for career progression and is also a symptom of success; it is the culmination of career development, mentorship, funding, and support. Gender inequity must therefore be tackled at the level of journals, universities, and funding agencies by training leaders to understand unconscious bias and by developing and implementing institutional policies that promote gender equity.

Previously: Stanford scientist Lucy Shapiro: "It never occured to me to question the things I wanted to do", Nature issues reminder that "equality in science is a battle far from won" and Former Brown University President Ruth Simmons challenges complacency on diversity
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