Gender gap in critical care literature authorship and task force participation [abstract] Abstract uri icon


  • Background: Over the past 40 years, the number of women practicing medicine has increased substantially. In 2014, women made up 32% of actively licensed physicians in the United States compared to just 10% in 1980. Despite this, women continue to be underrepresented in the upper echelons of academic medicine and among authors of scientific literature. The extent to which women are represented among authors of critical care research and on critical care task forces has not been evaluated. We sought to determine whether the participation of women on recent major critical care task forces was similar to the proportion of women who authored critical care literature over the past 5 years. Methods: We determined the gender of first and senior (last listed) authors of adult clinical critical care research published in high impact journals (NEJM, JAMA and AJRCCM) over the past 5 years and compared this to the gender distribution of critical care task forces which were assembled between 2011-2016 (ARDS Definition Task Force, The Multisociety Task Force for Critical Care Research, Surviving Sepsis and the Third International Consensus Definition for Sepsis and Septic Shock). Gender, graduate degree(s), and institutional affiliation were identified for all authors and task force participants. Analysis was restricted to those authors and participants with MD degrees. Gender was determined by initial inspection of first name. For situations in which gender was uncertain, we used institutional websites and internet searches using Google to confirm gender. Data were stored and analyzed using a Microsoft Excel database, comparing the gender distributions of authors to task force participants. Results: A total of 274 adult clinical critical care articles were published in NEJM, JAMA, and AJRCCM between January 2011 and September 2016. Of these articles, women authored 16.5%; 21.1% (48/227) of first authors and 11.6% (25/215) of senior authors were women. Of the 114 physicians who participated in major critical care task forces between 2012-2016, 6.1% (7/114) were women. Conclusions: While women remain underrepresented in the authorship of critical care literature, there is an even larger gender gap in critical care task force participation. This may reflect bias in the selection of task force members.

publication date

  • 2017