Importance: Women remain underrepresented among editors of scientific journals, particularly in senior positions. However, to what extent this applies to medical journals of different specialties remains unclear.
Objective: To investigate the gender distribution of the editors in chief at leading medical journals.
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional study of the editors in chief at the top 10 international medical journals of 41 categories related to the medical specialties of the Clarivate Analytics Web of Science Journal Citation Reports in 2019.
Main outcomes and measures: Proportion of women as editors in chief.
Results: This study found that, overall, women represented 21% (94 of 44) of the editors in chief, with wide variation across medical specialties from 0% to 82%. There were 5 categories for which none of the editors in chief were women (dentistry, oral surgery and medicine; allergy; psychiatry; anesthesiology; and ophthalmology) and only 3 categories for which women outnumbered men as editors in chief (primary health care, microbiology, and genetics and heredity). In 27 of the 41 categories, women represented less than a third of the editors in chief (eg, 1 of 10 for critical care medicine, 2 of 10 for gastroenterology and hepatology, and 3 of 10 for endocrinology and metabolism).
Conclusions and relevance: This study found that women are underrepresented among editors in chief of leading medical journals. For the benefit of medical research, a joint effort from editorial boards, publishers, authors, and academic institutions is required to address this gender gap.