March is Women's History Month, a month set aside to explore and celebrate the contributions and achievements of women while also bringing visibility to issues of gender disparity that could still use improvement. In today's post, we will look at gender disparities in the medical field, with an emphasis on fields in infection control.
In the specific field of epidemiology and infection control, we benefit from high levels of participation from female health care workers. According to a 2017 survey in Epidemiology, there are more female than male epidemiologists and epidemiology students. A majority of national professional association leadership positions in the field of infection control are held by women, and almost 40% of infectious disease doctors in the nation are female. Looking into the future, we can expect these positive trends to continue, with women making up 54% of infectious disease students in medical school. At the same time, leadership positions in medical schools, hospitals, academic journals, and health care companies are still disproportionately male.
Gender and Journal Citations
This gender gap is revealed in the most recent analysis of literature citation practices. Despite publishing the majority of research in the field, female authors are cited far less than male authors. To put this another way, women do most of the research in epidemiology, but most of the credit, via citations of articles, is given to male researchers. This does not mean that of all the body of epidemiological research, the men are producing the most citation-worthy work; rather, it means that, given a choice of whose research to cite, most authors go with the male citation. While time may help repair this imbalance, as more women attain leadership positions in faculty and journal positions, much of the change will have to be taken on by researchers using, and journal editors monitoring, proper citations practices.
Let's not forget to celebrate the fact that 77% of all healthcare workers are women. The contributions of women in every aspect of medical care helps our nation's health, safety, and future! Let's all work together to make sure that medical professions continue to make progress in gender parity. One way we can all help is to listen when someone is trying to explain barriers they have encountered due to gender, and keep our minds open to the idea that gender bias still exists in the sciences. Let's all take the time to listen and learn so that we can all make progress together.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.