Comparison of the contributions of female and male authors to medical research in 2000 and 2015: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2019 Feb 13;9(2):e024436. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024436.


Objectives: The proportion of women engaged in clinical research has increased over time. However, it is unclear if women and men contribute to the same extent during the conduct of research and, if so, if they are equally rewarded by a strategic first or last author position. We aim to describe the prevalence of women authors of original articles published 15 years apart and to compare the research contributions and author positions according to gender.

Design: Repeated cross-sectional study.

Setting: Published original articles.

Participants: 1910 authors of 223 original articles published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2000 and 2015.

Primary and secondary outcomes measures: Self-reported contributions to 10 aspects of the article (primary) and author position on the byline.

Results: The proportion of women authors increased from 32% (n=243) to 41% (n=469) between 2000 and 2015 (p<0.0001). In 2000, women authors were less frequently involved than men in the conception and design (134 (55%) vs 323 (61%); p=0.0256), critical revision (171 (70%) vs 426 (81%); p=0.0009), final approval (196 (81%) vs 453 (86%); p=0.0381) and obtaining of funding (39 (16%) vs 114 (22%); p=0.0245). Women were more frequently involved than men in administration and logistics (85 (35%) vs 137 (26%); p=0.0188) and data collection (121 (50%) vs 242 (46%); p=0.0532), but they were similarly involved in the analysis and interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript, provision of materials/patients and statistical expertise. Women were less often last authors than men (22 (9%) vs 82 (16%); p=0.0102). These gender differences persisted in 2015.

Conclusions: The representation of women among authors of medical articles increased notably between 2000 and 2015, but still remained below 50%. Women's roles differed from those of men with no change over time.

Keywords: authorship; gender; publication; research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Bibliometrics
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors