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Women gaining in medical research

More women appear to be taking leadership roles in medical research, but their numbers still lag behind men, according to a new study.

Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues analyzed the number of women who were the lead or senior author of papers in six leading U.S. journals: the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Annals of Surgery and the Journal of Pediatrics.

The number of female lead authors increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 29 percent in 2004. The number of female senior authors increased from 4 percent in 1970 to 19 percent in 2004.

The researchers noted that the rate of increase might be reaching a plateau, with an apparent slowdown from 2000 to 2004.

Similar increases were found in the number of women invited to write editorials. In 1980, no invited editorials in JAMA were written by women, while almost 19 percent were written by women in 2004. Only 1.5 percent of the editorials in the New England journal were written by women in 1970, a share that rose to 20 percent in 2000 but dropped to 11 percent in 2004.

In the specialty journals, the greatest increases were in the pediatrics and the obstetrics/gynecology journals and the smallest was in the surgery journal, mirroring the proportion of women in those fields.

“Women have come a long way, but there is still a long path ahead,” said Jagsi, whose study was published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.


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