A Gender Gap in Publishing? Understanding the Glass Ceiling in Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery

Mitchell A. Johnson, Hillary Mulvey, Andrew Parambath, Jason B. Anari, Lindley B. Wall, Apurva S. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Women are underrepresented across most surgical specialties and especially in the field of orthopaedic surgery. Despite pediatric orthopaedic surgery being one of the most gender diverse subspecialties in orthopaedics, women may still face barriers to academic advancement. Research presentations at national meetings and publication record are important drivers of advancement in the field of academic orthopaedic surgery. The aim of this study is to assess whether research abstracts authored by women are less likely to be published than abstracts authored by men. Methods: Abstracts from research podium presentations given at the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America annual meetings from 2006 to 2020 were reviewed to assess research quality and determine basic study characteristics. For each abstract, author gender was determined through a search of institutional websites and professional networking websites for gender-specific pronouns. Resulting publications corresponding to the 2006 to 2018 were identified using a systematic search of PubMed and Google Scholar databases. Kaplan-Meier inverse survival analysis with log rank test were used to determine differences in publication rates based on whether the last (senior) author was female versus male. Multivariate, binary logistic regression was performed to assess factors predictive of eventual publication. Results: One thousand five hundred and eighty-one of 1626 (97.2%) of abstracts from 2006 to 2020 had an identifiable last author gender, with 17.8% (281/1581) female. No differences in study quality were identified across genders including sample size, level of evidence, or impact factor of journal if leading to publication. Women were more likely to author abstracts in foot, ankle, or lower extremity surgery [17.8% (50/281) vs. 12.9% (168/1300), P=0.032] and less likely to author abstracts focusing on the hip [11.0% (31/281) vs. 17.1% (222/1300), P=0.012]. Abstracts with women as the last author were significantly less likely to be published compared with abstracts with men as the last author [59.6% (143/240) vs. 67.9% (783/1154), P=0.013]. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that last author female gender was predictive of a lower likelihood of publication (odds ratio: 0.684, 95% confidence interval: 0.513-0.912, P=0.010). Women were less likely to be the last author of abstracts presented by study groups [2.1% (6/281) vs. 5.5% (71/1300), P=0.019]. Conclusion: In pediatric orthopaedic surgery, abstracts authored by women are less likely to reach publication, despite no identifiable differences in study quality. Reasons for this discrepancy must be explored including insufficient mentorship, exclusion from study group participation, or potential bias against female researchers in the field of orthopaedic surgery. Level of Evidence: Level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E484-E488
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America
  • abstract
  • ceiling
  • female
  • male
  • men
  • publication
  • research productivity
  • women


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