Female representation in radiology improving—albeit slowly

Though female representation on radiology journal editorial boards remains relatively low, researchers wrote in Academic Radiology this month that progress is improving, with more women entering academic radiology early in their careers and JACR’s first female editor-in-chief set to take the journal’s reigns next January.

Prachi P. Agarwal, MBBS, and her colleagues’ thoughts come months after a team led by Crystal L. Piper, MD, MS, of Yale University, found women were underrepresented on radiology journal editorial boards. The study discovered that while just over 27 percent of first authors in four major radiology journals were women, their membership on editorial boards didn’t quite reach 19 percent—something Agarwal and co-authors said wasn’t too surprising.

“While we agree that first authorship suggests academic promise and is a marker of academic productivity, it is unclear if this signifies eligibility for editorial board membership,” Agarwal, a radiology professor at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, Michigan, et al. wrote in a letter to the editor. “Given the known ceiling effect and leaky pipeline, it is expected to find lower women representation in journal editorial boards compared to the overall percentage of women faculty in radiology.”

Because a chunk of first author papers are written early on or midway through a physician’s career, they said, it might have been more beneficial to compare editorial board participation to female senior authorship.

Agarwal and colleagues performed a similar study of their own, focusing on four major radiology journals—Radiology, the American Journal of Roentgenology, Academic Radiology and the Journal of the American College of Radiology—and analyzing gender differences in representation at various academic levels in 2018. Associate and section editors were considered board members, and the researchers used AAMC data to provide context for the proportion of male and female representation in academic radiology.

The majority of editorial board members were professors, the authors found—70 percent. The remainder were associate professors and assistant professors, with women constituting around a quarter of professors and associate professors and half of assistant instructors. In 2017, women made up 21 percent of professors, 27 percent of associate professors and 33 percent of assistant instructors, indicating growth.

“It is particularly encouraging to note that women constitute almost half of early career faculty,” Agarwal et al. wrote, nodding to the assistant professor positions. “This inclusion of women at early stages of their academic career is a healthy sign of a promising future, and in turn gives them a chance to lead and mentor future generations.”

The authors said the participation of women associate professors and professors in editorial boards is lower than in men, but that the stats are proportionate to the female percentage of academic radiologists. They lauded the recent announcement of Ruth Carlos, MD, as incoming JACR editor as “a positive step” toward female inclusion in the radiology sphere.

“We are hopeful that this ‘one small step’ will be a major leap toward closing the gender gap in radiology,” Agarwal and colleagues wrote.