Proportion of women authors still low in ophthalmology journals

September 30, 2021

2 minutes to read

Source / Disclosures

Disclosures: The authors do not report any relevant financial disclosures.

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Women still make up a lower proportion of lead and lead editorial authors in top ophthalmology journals despite growth in recent years, according to a survey.

Cherie A. Fathy, MD, MPH, and his colleagues consulted articles published in Ophthalmology, JAMA Ophthalmology and American Journal of Ophthalmology over two periods – 2005 to 2009 and 2015 to 2019 – to explore the disparity between the authors.

First and senior female paternity increased by 68% between the first period (18.1%) and the second (30.4%). But compared to male ophthalmologists, female ophthalmologists were more often the first authors than the principal authors, and the female authors were more likely to be non-ophthalmologists or to hold non-medical and non-doctoral degrees.

Cherie A. Fathy

Aakriti Garg Shukla

Healio / OSN spoke with Fathy and co-author Aakriti Garg Shukla, MD, on their results and the gender disparity among ophthalmology editorial authors.

Healio / OSN: What does the increase in the number of female authors show on the composition of ophthalmologists in general? Does the number of female authors increase with the increase in women doctors?

Fathy and Shukla: Demography is changing in the field of medicine, and in particular ophthalmology. Women surgeons are more and more common; only 18% of specialized surgeons were women from 2000 to 2005, but this number rose to 24% from 2016 to 2017. In ophthalmology, the proportion of surgeons rose from 14% in the early 2000s to a quarter in 2020. a greater proportion of trainees than practicing ophthalmologists, an observation which is consistent with the growing number of women in ophthalmology. Our study found that the increase in editorial authorship of women corresponds to the increase in the proportion of female ophthalmologists. However, we found that while women wrote 25% of editorials, they wrote 30-36% of ophthalmic publications overall over the past decade. This is an important result, as the authors of editorials are usually invited by the editorial boards to write these articles.

Healio / OSN: A greater proportion of female authors were not ophthalmologists and had non-medical or non-doctoral degrees. What is the reason for the disparity?

Fathy and Shukla: This finding is probably explained by the higher proportion of women in training. Because our criteria defined ophthalmologists as individuals who completed residency training in ophthalmology, medical students and ophthalmology residents were grouped into the category of non-ophthalmologists.

Healio / OSN: Are there initiatives within the ophthalmic community to promote women as senior authors?

Fathy and Shukla: We are not aware of any formal initiatives to promote women as senior authors, but anecdotally, we believe that initiatives for the equalization of gender representation are already underway. Examples include the emphasis on increasing diversity among editorial boards and the conscious effort to ensure equitable gender representation on conference panels.

Healio / OSN: Do you see growth opportunities?

Fathy and Shukla: Certainly. Considering the increasing proportion of women as ophthalmic trainees, we would expect an increase in the number of female authors. To support this, we need to proactively ensure that the pipeline to such leadership opportunities in our field is strong. Supporting and mentoring the next generation of ophthalmologists should be a priority. Equally important, we need to recognize that while we are improving when it comes to gender representation, there is still a pretty big gap in underrepresented minorities in medicine entering ophthalmology. We absolutely have to make sure that our physician population resembles the community it serves. Empowering all ophthalmologists, regardless of gender or race, will contribute to the success of ophthalmology as a field.