gender gap in academic medicine
Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil. CREDIT Michigan Medicine

A new study has found that fewer women were first authors on COVID-19-related research papers published in the first half of this year, suggesting a worsening gender gap in academic medicine

Researchers looked at 1,893 articles related to COVID-19 published between January and June and compared that to 85,373 papers published in the same journals in 2019. They found the share of women first authors dropped 14% for COVID-19 papers compared to papers published in 2019 and that the differences were most striking in March and April to compared to May. Looking only at March and April publications, the share of women first authors was 23% lower than for 2019 papers.

While the study does not assess the reasons for this drop, the authors suggest that during the initial lockdown, women were more likely to take on child care as the results show a staggering difference during the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic when schools were closed and researchers were told to work from home. Previous research has already shown women are underrepresented among authors of medical research and female physician-scientists often spend more time on domestic tasks.

Study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan said: “The coronavirus pandemic may be creating even greater challenges than before for women in academic medicine. We suspect school closures, limited child care and work-related service demands might have taken the greatest toll on early career women, especially during the height of the disruptions.”

“We know that diverse teams are important for solving complex problems like those related to COVID-19. It’s critical in this time of crisis that we have policies that support the full inclusion of diverse scholars, including transforming attitudes about domestic expectations for women and resources to support all those balancing great demands both at home and at work.”


The results of this study were published in the journal eLife

Additional authors: Jens Peter Andersen, Mathias Wullum Nielsen, Nicole L. Simone, Resa E. Lewiss


University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center,

Michigan Health Lab,

Michigan Medicine Cancer AnswerLine, 800-865-1125


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here