Intended for healthcare professionals


The gender gap in first authorship of research papers

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 02 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1130
  1. Kathryn M Rexrode, associate professor of medicine and faculty director of Office for Women's Careers 1 2
  1. 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  2. 2Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  1. krexrode{at}

Parity of authorship should be a priority for journals, universities, and funding agencies

Women have been attending medical school in numbers equal to or greater than those of men since 1996 in the United Kingdom,1 and in nearly equal numbers in the United States since 2003.2 However, despite parity in medical school admissions, substantial gender differences in rank and leadership remain in academic medicine. The progress of women attaining first and senior authorship of original research publications, the currency of success for promotion in academic medicine, will directly translate into equity of academic advancement for women in the future.

In a linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.i847),3 Filardo and colleagues examined the prevalence of female first authorship among original research articles published over the past two decades (1994-2014) in six high impact general medical journals. This study is notable for its rigor, examining six issues a year for all selected journals throughout the 20 year study period and using online searches of authors to identify gender in those with ambiguous names. The authors report some good news—an …

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