Women dramatically underrepresented on cardiology journal editorial boards

An analysis of major cardiology journals in both the U.S. and Europe underlines the stark sex gap in cardiology, revealing that, between 1998 and 2018, there were no women editors-in-chief for U.S. general cardiology journals and only one woman editor-in-chief for a European journal.

The research, penned by Sowmya Balasubramanian, MD, and colleagues and published Feb. 17 in Circulation, looked to assess the “current state of sex disparity” among CV journal editorial boards. Despite a four- to six-fold increase in women in academic medicine over the past five or so decades, Balasubramanian et al. said, female representation in editorial boards remains low. In 1994, just 4% of editors-in-chief of the 100 most influential clinical medicine journals in the world were women.

Balasubramanian and co-authors examined female representation on editorial boards of major general and subspecialty cardiology journals according to the h5-index, including in their analysis:

  • U.S. journals (Circulation; Journal of the American College of Cardiology; Journal of the American Medical Association: Cardiology; American Journal of Cardiology)
  • European journals (Heart; International Journal of Cardiology; European Heart Journal)
  • Subspecialty journals (Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, Cardiovascular Interventions, Heart Failure, Clinical Electrophysiology; Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, Cardiovascular Interventions, Heart Failure, Clinical Electrophysiology; Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography; Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance; Journal of Nuclear Cardiology; Europace; EuroIntervention; European Journal of Cardiovascular Imaging; European Journal of Heart Failure)

The researchers analyzed January 2018 mastheads for U.S. journals and 2019 mastheads for European general and subspecialty cardiology journals for the number and sex of editors-in-chief, deputy or associate editors and editorial board members. They found that, during a 10-year period leading up to 2018, there were no women editors-in-chief for U.S. cardiology journals and just one woman editor-in-chief for a general European cardiology journal. 

Women seemed to be less represented among deputy and associate editors in Europe than in the U.S., but editorial board membership was similar (9% vs. 20.7% and 11.8% vs. 12.8%, respectively). Over 20 years, female deputy/associate editor representation increased “significantly” for Circulation, and women editorial board membership increased for both Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. There wasn’t a significant change in representation within the American Journal of Cardiology.

Balasubramanian and colleagues said the number of women serving on the editorial boards of all three major U.S. journals combined doubled between 1998 and 2018—from 6.3% to 12.9%—but absolute representation for women “remained low.”

“Women representation on editorial boards of major U.S. and European cardiology journals is low, paralleling the low number of women in academic cardiology,” the authors wrote. “Our data show improvement in composition of U.S. journal mastheads with respect to the number of women over time in a subset of journals, particularly in subspecialty journals founded after 2000.”

Indeed, the team said that although there were just two women editors-in-chief during a 20-year period, two new JACC journals—Cardio-Oncology and Case Reports—and Circulation Research named female editors-in-chief for their 2019 cycles.

“This study highlights the need for continued attention to barriers in career advancement for women in cardiology,” Balasubramanian et al. said. “Engagement of women faculty at early-career stages as ad hoc reviewers would help create a robust pipeline of future women editors. Diversity in editorial boards not only can improve the societal relevance and quality of the journal but also can provide women role models for future generations.

“A more sex-balanced and diverse editorial team adds value by decreasing publication bias against women, providing a favorable impression of the journal and increasing the likelihood of competitive submissions.”