Gender disparities in publishing could widen for physicians due to COVID-19

As people shifted to working from home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, journal submissions from academics increased across the board. But a new study from Northwestern Medicine found that as men’s academic productivity increased, female physicians submitted less.

The research reflects broader trends in academic publishing and is the first study to find such trends in family medicine. The study contributes to a growing body of evidence that the pandemic has caused unique career disruptions for women as they stretched out during remote work, causing stress, burnout and anxiety.

“The concern is that these problems are getting worse,” said Catherine Wright, corresponding author of the article and director of research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “As men have been able to submit more, they can benefit from more citations, promotions, funding and career opportunities as women fall further and further behind.”

The article, “COVID-19 and Gender Differences in Family Medicine Scholarship,” has been published Jan. 24 in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Wright said the study was conceived in part because of observations on her own ward, where she saw roles change drastically and many physicians attempting to dual-role between babysitting or caring for children. old people and work. Santina Wheatco-first author and director of the Northwestern-McGaw Family Medicine Residency Program at the Erie Family Health Center in Humboldt Park, highlighted the impact of changing schedules on her own life.

“Suddenly we were doing telehealth all hours of the day, and clinic hours changed significantly and quickly,” Wheat said. “There was also always the feeling that you might need to cover for someone else, which impacted your ability to think academically – or mentor others to do the same. “

To conduct the study, the team performed a bibliometric analysis of journal submissions to see how submission rates changed during the pandemic. Having access to the last five years of submission data from the Annals of Family Medicine, the top-ranked primary care journal, the scientists reviewed submission data before and during the pandemic. They looked at the volume of submissions by gender in addition to the breakdown of author gender by type of submission (such as original research versus special reports, which have a different impact on duration).

The document revealed that the Annals of Family Medicine received 41.5% of its submissions from women in the early months of the pandemic – the period analyzed by the scientists – marking a widening gender gap in the field.

The document warns that the discrepancy is “troubling” and may have long-term repercussions for women in the medical field because of the way tenure decisions are made. Wright’s hope is that adding this research to the growing body of data will catalyze change in these areas.

“Posts are always the hallmark of tenure and promotion decisions, so we want to make sure women aren’t at risk of falling further behind,” Wright said. “Our hope is that this data could be used by promotion and tenure committees to reassess promotion criteria.”

For example, Wright said, women tend to be more involved in creating curricula and services, so weighting such activities more evenly with publications could help balance the scales. She added that there was both a childcare and eldercare crisis in the country, and that parents and caregivers needed enhanced support to thrive in their roles. Wright said without intervention, these impacts will ripple beyond the pandemic.

Beyond advocacy, the team hopes to examine other metrics of diversity in the data and see if other populations have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. They are also currently analyzing the gender composition of peer reviewers, the custodians of accepted work by scientific journals.

Deborah Smith Clementschair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Nancy Warren Furey Chair in Community Medicine, and professor of medical training, is also a co-author, with Deborah Edburg, professor and physician at Rush University.

About Florence M. Sorensen

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