Background: Despite a dramatic influx of female dermatologists during the last 30 years, women in academic dermatology departments remain relatively clustered in junior faculty positions. Research in other specialties showing a disparity in the academic productivity of women has led to many hypotheses regarding factors that may place them at a competitive disadvantage. It is unknown, however, whether similar differences in academic productivity might also serve as barriers to advancement in dermatology, or whether any productivity gap actually exists in this specialty that experienced a more substantial entry of women. Objective: Because publication in peer-reviewed journals is one of the core measures of academic productivity used in the promotion process, we evaluated trends in the prevalence of female authorship in top dermatology journals during the last 3 decades. Methods: We conducted an observational study of trends in the sex distribution of US authors in 3 prestigious general dermatology journals (in 1976, 1986, 1996, and 2006) and 3 subspecialty dermatology journals (in 2006 only). Journals were chosen based on published impact factors and citation half-lives. Results: During the last 3 decades, the proportion of women authoring manuscripts in the 3 major general dermatology journals increased from 12% to 48% of US-affiliated first authors (P < .001) and from 6.2% to 31% of US-affiliated senior authors (P < .001). Separate analyses by journal and by article type showed similar increases. The prevalence of female authors in subspecialty journals in 2006 was slightly more variable. Limitations: Although the publications selected for this study capture many of the most respected US journals in dermatology, they may not be representative of all journals in which dermatologists publish. Conclusions: Female dermatologists are authoring publications in growing numbers that match or exceed their prevalence in the academic and overall workforce. This suggests that other factors (differences in productivity outside of the publishing arena, differences in job descriptions or opportunities, differences in career aspirations, a lack of institutional support or flexibility, or gender bias) may be associated with the ongoing reduced advancement of women to senior academic dermatology ranks relative to their male colleagues, and further research is warranted to explore these possibilities.
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