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22-08-2022 | Health services research | News

More efforts needed to improve gender equity in academic rheumatology

Author: Claire Barnard


medwireNews: Findings from two studies highlight the need for interventions to improve gender equity in academic rheumatology career advancement and on journal editorial boards.

For the first study, Laura Coates (University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues analyzed survey responses from 324 EULAR and Emerging EULAR Network (EMEUNET) members representing 23 of the 45 society countries as well as the USA and Mexico. Most (71.3%) respondents were women, while 28.4% were men and one identified as third gender.

The study authors report in RMD Open that women represent at least half of qualified rheumatologists in many of the 13 member countries evaluated (range 28–91% across countries), but there are “disproportionately fewer” female academic rheumatologists compared with clinical rheumatologists (range 10–85%).

Moreover, “[w]hile the majority of early career academic rheumatologists are female, women remain significantly under-represented in senior academic roles,” they add. Just one country had more than half of full professor positions occupied by women – Lithuania at an estimated 80% – while the estimated proportions in other countries ranged from 0% in Albania and Switzerland to 33% in the Netherlands.

Coates et al found no statistically significant differences by gender in terms of leadership aspirations, share of time spent on research, self-efficacy in career development, and work–life integration. However, women were significantly more likely to report gender discrimination in the past 5 years than men (38 vs 13%), and perceived significantly lower levels of gender equity in their institutions.

“These findings suggest that women and men equally aspire to become leaders in rheumatology, but institutional culture makes it harder for women than men to realise their leadership aspirations,” write the researchers.

They also analyzed working hours, finding that both men and women in academic roles reported working longer hours than those in non-academic roles, while women in academic roles worked 4.5 hours/week less on average than their male counterparts.

Coates et al believe that these results “have important implications for the sustainability of the academic rheumatology workforce as previous research showed that role strain is positively associated with intent to leave academic medicine for both genders and perceived work–family conflict is negatively associated with leadership-seeking for women.”

Taken together, the study findings provide “empirical evidence on gender equity in academic rheumatology,” which will be used to inform a EULAR taskforce “developing a framework of potential interventions to accelerate gender-equitable career advancement,” they conclude.

The second study, published as a correspondence in The Lancet Rheumatology, focused on gender representation on the editorial boards of 34 rheumatology journals.

Latika Gupta (Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, UK) and team found that just 15% of editors-in-chief of these journals were women, as were 27% of editorial board members. Approximately a fifth (21%) of the journals had gender-balanced editorial boards, defined as women representing 40–60% of members.

“Notably, gender representation varies greatly by occupation,” say the researchers. Specifically, among journals in which the role of editor-in-chief is held by a publishing professional (n=4), there were an equal number of men and women in this role, but not among journals with academics or clinicians filling this position (89 vs 11%).

“Gender representation on editorial boards matters because editorships-in-chief and editorial board memberships are prestigious roles that increase the visibility of role-holders and provide opportunities to influence research and practice through agenda setting, editorial decision making, and peer review,” write Gupta et al.

Noting that “journals that do not yet have gender-balanced editorial boards could be contributing to journal-level barriers that slow the advancement of women in academic publishing,” they call for “all rheumatology journals to review representation on their editorial boards and monitor gender balance.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2022 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

RMD Open 2022; 8: e002518
Lancet Rheumatol 2022; doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(22)00157-6