Women are less likely than men to write invited commentaries in medical journals, according to a new study appearing in JAMA Network Open.
Researchers from Harvard University and Elsevier examined all invited commentaries appearing in English-language medical and multidisciplinary journals between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017. Of the more than 43,000 commentaries published in about 2,550 journals, slightly more than a quarter of the authors were women. When the researchers matched the authors based on scientific expertise, seniority, and other factors, they found women were about 21 percent less likely than their male counterparts to publish a commentary.
"I was genuinely surprised by the size of the gender gap we found," says first author Emma Thomas, a doctoral student in Harvard, in a statement.
A related commentary — written by two women, Elizabeth Loder and Rebecca Burch, both of Harvard and both journal editors — notes that the cause of this gap is likely "multifactorial" and suggests that journals can in part address it by seeking balance in their peer reviewers, as reviewers are often tapped to write editorials. They also note that there is anecdotal evidence that women are more likely to decline such invitations, a trend they say should be examined further.
"Women physicians should insist on being heard, and medical journal editors and other gatekeepers must work to identify and dismantle the systems that stand in the way of their full participation," Loder and Burch write.