The number of women who are first authors on studies appearing in top medical journals increased between 1994 and 2014, but in recent years, there's been a plateau, according to a Baylor Scott & White Health-led team of researchers.
As the researchers report in the BMJ, they sifted through research articles published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, BMJ, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine between February 1994 and June 2014. Overall, they found that female first authorship increased from 27 percent in 1994 to 37 percent in 2014, but began to level out or decline by 2009.
However, some journals followed a slightly different pattern. The NEJM, for instance, had a lower proportion of female first authors between 2009 and 2014 than it had between 1994 and 1999. Meanwhile, the BMJ started out with a higher-than-average proportion of female first authors, which then declined and was overtaken by that of other journals.
And where on the list a researcher falls is taken into consideration in hiring, tenure, and other career decisions, NPR notes. "This is our livelihood," Carolyn Lam, a cardiologist at the Duke-NUS medical school in Singapore, tells NPR's Shots blog. "It's important."