October 09, 2023

There are few women on orthodontic journal boards.

It is widely recognised that there is a lack of female participation in the leadership of medicine and dentistry. This has been a matter of concern for some time, and there have been several initiatives to correct this situation. These have met with mixed success. This new paper looks at the gender balance of the boards of the major orthodontic journals.

I have posted about gender disparity in orthodontics before, and this post resulted in many comments. I have also produced some papers on the balance of the UK dental boards. These resulted in much discussion and a surprising amount of personal abuse on UK dental social media. Therefore, I was really interested to see this paper highlighting the gender imbalance on the boards of orthodontic journals.

A team from London, England, did this study. The European Journal of Orthodontics published the paper.

Gender representation amongst orthodontic editorial boards: trends over time

Samuel Reeves, Catherine Liu and Gavin Mack

EJO online. https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cjad027

What did they ask?

They asked

“what are the trends in gender representation within editorial boards of European and North American orthodontic journals from 2000 to 2023”?

What did they do?

The team did a simple retrospective cross-sectional study of editorial boards from 2000 to 2023. They included journals that had to be based in Europe or the USA, dating back to 2010, and ranked in the top two quartiles of orthodontic journals based on the SCI journal rank.

The team then accessed the information on the editorial board of the journals from their website. They then assigned the genders by first name recognition and inputted them into a gender recognition categorisation tool (https://gender-api.com).

What did they find?

They identified 810 board positions; 81% were held by men and 18.9% by women. The proportion of women increased from 14.7% in 2010 to 24.5% in 2023. These were the findings for each journal for 2000, 2010 and 2023. I have ranked this list according to the percentage of women board members in 2023.

Seminars in orthodontics3.02.539.3
Orthodontics and Craniofacial research11.518.526.3
Journal of Orthodontics14.322.726.1
Progress in Orthodontics19.221.917.9
Angle Orthodontist17.015.616.5
Journal of Orofacial orthopedics26.617.114.3

Interestingly, the flagship orthodontic journal, the AJO-DDO, has averaged the lowest proportion of women board members over all the years of the study. The journal with the most balanced board is the EJO. The most significant increase in women board members has been Seminars in Orthodontics, rising from 2.5% to 39.3% in 2023.

The EU has suggested that a balanced board has 40-60% of members of each gender. Considering this, only the EJO and Seminars have a gender-balanced board.

The authors of the paper pointed out that, for example, in the UK, women account for 64.6% of dental undergraduates; they also comprise 52% of registered orthodontic specialists; in the USA, 50% of registrants are women. There are no reasons to suspect these proportions are different in other parts of the World.

As a result, any gender imbalance on orthodontic journal boards is concerning,

The overall conclusion of the study was:

“Females are underrepresented on the editorial boards of high-ranking orthodontic journals”.

What did I think?

Many of the issues covered in this paper were raised in our article on the gender balance of the UK dental boards. In this paper, we considered the advantage of having a gender-balanced board. The most important of these is that balanced boards are likely to be effective, better understand their stakeholders, be open to new ideas and have broader experience. Furthermore, if board members are homogenous, they are more likely to produce groupthink and potentially have poorer performance.

It is also essential that the academic boards contain women because they act as role models to younger members of the workforce.

I wonder if I can be blunter and suggest that if a board is not balanced, this represents sexism, and women are not asked to be members because of the “old boys club”?

We now need to consider solutions. Firstly, I will be clear that the answer is not to introduce quotas, as this suggests an appointment is not entirely on merit. A better approach is to encourage women to apply for advertised posts. I am not sure how the journals make appointments to boards. However, I suspect they are currently made by a discussion and invitation from the present board? As a result, any imbalance tends to be continued? As a journal editor many years ago, I fell into this trap and was part of the problem.

The final decision on the way forward is with the individual journals. This paper highlights the problem. They should attempt to find a solution by examining how the EJO and Seminars achieved their balanced editorial board.

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Have your say!

  1. Wokeness invades

    • This is exactly the type of attitude that is outdated and unhelpful and discourages women to participate. In a profession where 50% (at least) are female then why are the boards not balanced? And why shouldn’t they be?

  2. Attending the BSODR 70th Anniversary Conference at Queen Mary University last month, we were given a detailed history of the organisation and past Presidents through the years 1953 – 2023.

    It was difficult not to feel I was indeed looking at an ‘old boys club’ as the names of the BSODR Presidents, and the years rolled by – It took until 2021 for the very first female President to be appointed Rachael Waddington. Rachael vacates her role this year 2023, to be replaced by….. I’ll let you fill in the blank.

  3. “Rachael vacates her role this year 2023, to be replaced by….. I’ll let you fill in the blank.”

    Hopefully the best person irrespective of race, gender, or class…..

  4. I have lately seen these kind of publications arise in the orthodontic arena. Difficult to say and affirm that there is a philosophy fight invading everything with gender loupes or it is just a matter of opportunity as every new concept, idea, appliance is an opportunity to publish irrespective of the motives. I do not suggest any hidden agenda at the source of the issue I just point out at comments that arise among colleagues.

    I sit and had the opportunity to sit in commissions, comitées, boards in which we were not a bunch of old boys. Many people reading this and knowing me are certain to what extent involving women in executive / directive positions is difficult. There is no doubt for me about equality and worthiness of women and in my case most important people in my persona and professional track are indeed women. Difficulty to find woment for this particular posts should really be researched in depth with questions that really go to the point of REAL causes and forget about hidden agendas of either extreme of philosophies.

    I do not endorse any of the extremes and the comments that will follow might make you think that I belong to one of them but I nevertheless want to share them with you.

    As a Spanish student trying to enroll in a postgraduate orthodontic program in my city 10 years ago I faced the “Womens barrier”. Most accepted candidates and trained candidates were women in a proportion difference that didn’t need advanced statistical tools to verify it. My undergraduate orthodontic training was carried on by a majority of female clinical instructors. My undergraduate class, roughly 70% of students were women. I did not belong with this facts to an outlier year.

    I am actually involved in postgraduate training in orthodontics and I am in touch with my female colleagues for many issues. I see the proportions of people attending international congresses and I am not particularly suprised by a majority of men, I would rather say a balance or in any case more women. Still when informally talking about women at a certain spread of age encouraging to get involved either orthodontic study clubs, associateship in university training or practice ownership, boards or commitees of any professional matter dealing with dentistry and orthodontics the “apparent lack of interest” is present. I put “apparent” because it is not lack of interest , it is to my personal opinion a matter of priorities. And I am not thinking about motherhood or family but ALSO.

    I will be very happy to see the answer in future studies as to WHY this is so. I hope one day we will pass from “conspiracy” of any extremes to determine how to involve women at any level and how to RETAIN them at thoses levels without the uncertainty that might be linked to the fact of “being women”. Concepts as age range and life priorities, number of kids, distribution of earning income by family were one of the spouse/s is orthodontist should help go to the heart of the question at least in our field.

    I finish with a question: how many of us think that a man or a woman might choose orthodontist because allows a lifestyle in which more time could be allocated to sports, hobbies, family, etc? Would it not be that orthodontics could also provide women with a more work life balance that is not going to in addition be filled with executive positions?

    I honestly thin that this debate should start from a non-judgemental point and unfortunately, either from the publication style or the “heated forums” that hold anti-woke positions this seems to be mission impossible. Good luck to both extremes and please, ask and answer the right questions: reality is richer than one thinks.

  5. We are the majority of professionals worldwide, but not in journal boards or congress speakers. We need balance. My opinion.

  6. In my opinion, Journals should invite or appoint members solely based on one’s merit, research experience, and exposure; not based on gender. Female orthodontists will definitely be a part of the board, if they are qualified. Their work should ensure their position in the board. I hope to see more women members in the editorial board in recent future. Same as I hope to see more women orthondontists actively taking part in research field.

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