Representation of female neurosurgeons as abstract authors at neurological surgery conferences

Gabrielle W. JohnsonDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Alison Almgren-BellDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Alexander SkidmoreDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Dhvanii RavalDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Gretchen BlowDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Hongjie GuDepartment of Biostatistics, Washington University in St. Louis;

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Kimberly MackeyDepartment of Neurosurgery, South Georgia Medical Center, Valdosta, Georgia; and

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Mari GrovesDepartment of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

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Hedwig LeeDepartment of Sociology, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri;

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Jennifer M. StrahleDepartment of Neurosurgery, Washington University in St. Louis;

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OBJECTIVE

Female neurosurgeon representation has increased, but women still represent only 8.4% of neurosurgeons in the US. Women are significantly underrepresented as authors in neurosurgical and spine journals, a key indicator of professional success in academic medicine. In this study, the authors aimed to assess the gender diversity of first and last authors of accepted abstracts at neurosurgical conferences in 2015 and 2019.

METHODS

Annual meeting abstracts for 2015 and 2019 of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), and pediatrics, spine, stereotactic and functional surgery, and cerebrovascular AANS/CNS subspecialty sections were obtained and analyzed for gender. Partial data were obtained for tumor and pain sections. Composite gender data were obtained from the societies. Percentage differences were calculated using comparison of proportions testing.

RESULTS

Overall, female neurosurgeons accounted for only 8.3% of first and 5.8% of last authors, and 7.2% of authors overall. The pediatrics section had the highest proportion of female neurosurgeons as first (13.7%) and last (12.4%) abstract authors, while the spine section had the lowest proportions of female neurosurgeon first (4.6%) and last (2.0%) authors. Qualitatively, a higher proportion of women were first authors, while a higher proportion of men were last authors. Overall, there was no significant change in female neurosurgeon authorship between 2015 and 2019. With regard to society demographics, female neurosurgeons accounted for only 6.3% of AANS membership. The pediatrics section had the highest proportion of female neurosurgeons at 18.1% and the stereotactic and functional surgery section had the lowest of the subspecialty sections (7.6%). While female neurosurgeons represented 12.6% of spine section membership, they represented only 4.7% of first authors (−7.9% difference; p < 0.0001) and 2.4% of last authors (−10.2% difference; p < 0.0001). For the 2019 cerebrovascular section, female neurosurgeons were underrepresented as presenting authors (5.8%) compared with their membership representation (14.8%, −9.0% difference; p = 0.0018).

CONCLUSIONS

Despite an increase in the number of female neurosurgeons, there has not been a corresponding increase in the proportion of female neurosurgeons as abstract authors at annual neurosurgery conferences, and female neurosurgeons remain underrepresented as authors compared with their male colleagues.

ABBREVIATIONS

AANS = American Association of Neurological Surgeons; ASSFN = American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery; CNS = Congress of Neurological Surgeons; POSNA = Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America; WINS = Women in Neurosurgery.
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Illustration from Di Somma et al. (pp 1187–1190). Published with permission from Glia Media | Artist: Martha Headworth, MS.

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