The 'gender gap' in authorship in nursing literature

J R Soc Med. 2011 Nov;104(11):457-64. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2011.110015.


Objectives: Gender bias has been found in medical literature, with more men than women as first or senior authors of papers, despite about half of doctors being women. Nursing is about 90% female, so we aimed to determine if similar biases exist in nursing literature.

Design: Taking the eight non-specialist nursing journals with the highest impact factors for that profession, we counted the numbers of men and women first authors over 30 years.

Setting: We used nursing journals from around the world which attract the highest impact factors for nursing publication.

Participants: Eight journals qualified for entry, three from the United Kingdom, four from the United States of America, and one from Australia. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Using Chi-square and Fisher exact tests, we determined differences between the numbers of men and women across all the journals, between countries (USA, UK and Australia), changes over the 30 years, and changes within journals over time. RESULTS Despite the small proportion of men in the nursing workforce, up to 30% of first authors were men. UK journals were more likely to have male authors than USA journals, and this increased over time. USA journals had proportions of male first authors consistent with the male proportion of its nursing workforce. CONCLUSIONS In the UK (though not in the USA) gender bias in nursing publishing exists, even though the nursing workforce is strongly feminized. This warrants further research, but is likely to be due to the same reasons for the gender gap in medical publishing; that is, female nurses take time out to have families, and social and family responsibilities prevent them taking opportunities for career progression, whereas men's careers often are not affected in such ways.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Authorship*
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prejudice*
  • Publishing
  • United Kingdom
  • United States