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.
Samuel Reeves, Catherine Liu and Gavin Mack
EJO online. https://doi.org/10.1093/ejo/cjad027
What did they ask?
“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 orthodontics||3.0||2.5||39.3|
|Orthodontics and Craniofacial research||11.5||18.5||26.3|
|Journal of Orthodontics||14.3||22.7||26.1|
|Progress in Orthodontics||19.2||21.9||17.9|
|Journal of Orofacial orthopedics||26.6||17.1||14.3|
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.
Emeritus Professor of Orthodontics, University of Manchester, UK.