A step toward equal representation? A cross-sectional analysis of the gender composition of neurosurgical editorial boards from 2000 to 2020

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  • 1 Department of Neurological Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; and
  • | 2 Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota
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OBJECTIVE

At present, females constitute less than 10% of neurosurgeons in the US, despite representing approximately half of all medical students. Multiple barriers have been described for females entering the neurosurgical field, particularly academic neurosurgery. Understanding the environment that female neurosurgeons face and any potential barriers preventing career advancement is needed to recruit, promote, and retain females in neurosurgery.

METHODS

The gender composition of editorial boards for 5 high-impact neurosurgery journals was analyzed from 2000 to 2020. The names of editorial board members were obtained directly from the journal administration, physical copies of the published journal, or publicly available data through each journal’s website. The gender, degrees, academic titles, H-index, and country were determined for each individual and statistical tests were performed to identify significant differences.

RESULTS

Of the 466 identified individuals that served on at least one editorial board between 2000 and 2020, there were 36 females (7.7%) and 430 males (92.3%). There were no significant differences between males and females serving on multiple editorial boards. Most females possessed an additional graduate degree (58.3%), while only one-third of males (33.5%) obtained such a degree (p = 0.002). In addition, males had significantly higher average H-indices than females (p = 0.002). These trends were also observed when analyzing only US-based editorial board members. Although females were more likely overall to be identified as associate professors, males were more likely to be appointed as full professors (p = 0.001); this trend did not remain true in the US-based cohort. When analyzing the editorial boards for individual journals, all 5 journals experienced an increase of female representation since 2000 or since their inception after 2000. The highest proportion of females for a single journal was 27.3% in 2020. All other journals ranged from 11.0% to 13.5% in 2020.

CONCLUSIONS

When entering the field of neurosurgery, females continue to face significant social and academic barriers. While the proportion of females on editorial boards for neurosurgery journals in 2020 is consistent with the proportion of practicing female neurosurgeons, there is a statistically significantly higher likelihood that females possess additional graduate degrees and lower H-indices compared to their male counterparts. The authors encourage neurosurgical journals to continue expanding female representation on editorial boards.

ABBREVIATIONS

JNS = Journal of Neurosurgery.

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