Women’s Representation Among Peer Reviewers of Medical Journals
Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes,1,2 Amy Vassallo,3 Mark Woodward,1,3 Sanne A. E. Peters1,3,4
To investigate women’s representation among peer reviewers of medical journals overall and according to the gender of the editor in chief and women’s representation in the editorial board.
This cross-sectional study included journals of the BMJ Publishing Group that reported the names of their peer reviewers in 2020. For each journal, the gender of the editor in chief, deputy editors, and associate editors was determined based on photographs and pronouns available on the journal website or professional affiliations. The package genderizeR in R was used to predict the gender of the peer reviewers based on given names, which were extracted from full names and assigned as woman or man.
Overall, this study included 47 of the 74 journals in the BMJ Publishing Group because data were not publicly available for the remaining journals (Table 3). Women accounted for 30.2% of the 42,539 peer reviewers, with marked variation ranging from 8% in the Journal of ISAKOS to 50% in Medical Humanities. Women represented 33.4% of the 555 editors, including 19.2% of the 52 editors in chief. There were 5 journals with more than 1 editor in chief, all of which had 2 men as editors in chief. There were 5 journals with no woman among the editors and 12 journals in which women’s representation as editors was 50% or greater. Among those 12 journals, 7 had a woman as editor in chief. There was a moderate positive correlation between the percentage of women as editors and as reviewers (Spearman correlation coefficient, 0.590; P < .001). The percentage of women as editors excluding editors in chief was higher when the editor in chief was a woman than a man (53.3% vs 29.2%; P < .001). The percentage of women as peer reviewers was also higher in journals with a woman as editor in chief compared with a man (32.0% vs 26.4%; P < .001). There was no significant correlation between women’s representation and the journal CiteScore (Spearman correlation coefficient, −0.288; P = .07) or impact factor (Spearman correlation coefficient, −0.343; P = .09). This study has some limitations, such as using binary prediction of gender based on given names, relying on data for accepted rather than invited reviewers, and not accounting for the number of reviews performed by each individual.
Women account for less than 1 in 3 peer reviewers of medical journals. Women’s representation as peer reviewers is higher in journals with a higher percentage of women as editors or with a woman as editor in chief, suggesting that increasing women’s representation as editors may be one of many necessary steps toward gender equity. The gender gap among peer reviewers of medical journals mimics that previously found among authors and editors,1-3 thus emphasizing the need to address the persisting gender gap at all levels of the publishing system.
1. Lundine J, Bourgeault IL, Clark J, et al. The gendered system of academic publishing. Lancet. 2018;391(10132):1754-1756. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30950-4
2. Hart KL, Perlis RH. Trends in proportion of women as authors of medical journal articles, 2008-2018. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(9):1285-1287. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0907
3. Pinho-Gomes AC, Vassallo A, Thompson K, et al. Representation of women among editors in chief of leading medical journals. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(9):e2123026. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.23026
1The George Institute for Global Health, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK, firstname.lastname@example.org; 2School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King’s College London, London, UK; 3The George Institute for Global Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; 4Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Ana-Catarina Pinho-Gomes reported receiving funding through an Academic Clinical Fellowship by the National Institute for Health Research. Mark Woodward is a consultant for Amgen, Kyowa Kirin, and Freeline and reported receiving grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. Sanne A. E. Peters reported receiving support through a UK Medical Research Council Skills Development Fellowship. No other disclosures were reported.