While more women are entering academic medicine than ever before, they are less likely to be recognised as experts and leaders, to receive prestigious awards, to be promoted to full professorships, to hold leadership roles, or to publish original research or commentaries in peer-reviewed journals.
Additionally, articles written by women in high-impact medical journals receive fewer citations than those written by men, particularly when women are primary or senior authors, according to new research published today in JAMA Open Network by the Perelman School of Medicine and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers discovered that 35.6 percent of the 5,554 articles published between 2015 and 2018 in five leading academic medical journals had a female primary author and 25.8 percent had a female senior author. During this time period, articles with female primary authors received a median of 36 citations in other academic articles, compared to 54 citations for articles with male primary authors.
The trend continued with articles written by female senior authors, which received a median of 37 citations, compared to articles written by male senior authors, which received a median of 51 citations. Original articles co-authored by women as primary and senior authors received the fewest citations, with a median of 33, whereas articles co-authored by men as primary and senior authors received the most citations, with a median of 59.
“The number of times a peer-reviewed article is cited by other researchers is frequently used as a metric for academic recognition and influence, as well as in professional evaluations and promotions,” lead author Paula Chatterjee, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of General Internal Medicine at Penn Medicine, explains. “Female academics already face a number of barriers to career advancement, and the citation disparity exacerbates the divide between them and their male counterparts.”
Additionally, the authors note that several of the journals included in the study are focused on internal medicine, a field that typically has a higher proportion of female physicians than other clinical specialties. As a result, the findings may overstate the differences in citations to scholarly articles between male and female authors.
“Gender disparities in citations are just one indicator of academic medicine’s inequities. Our findings demonstrate that disparities in research recognition and dissemination are a result of inequities in the recognition and amplification of research. This disparity cannot be resolved solely by hiring and mentoring more women “Rachel Werner, MD, PhD, Executive Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics, is the senior author.
She continued, “Additionally, we must work to ensure that women already working in academic medicine are valued and promoted equally for their contributions and accomplishments. Everyone should be invested in bridging this gender divide, from the journals that publish this work to academic institutions that promote articles once they are published.”
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