Ten steps to gender equity: The BMJ’s resolutions

The covid-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the gender inequity that still exists for women in science, medicine, and academic publishing. When we previously wrote about the underrepresentation of women in the discourse and decision making on covid-19, we were challenged to commit to policies and guidelines that enable better representation of women in our publications and structures.

Here, then, are ten changes that we are making to promote gender equity across The BMJ.

Although the focus here is on gender equity, we will not overlook other important dimensions of diversity, such as race, national identity, sexual orientation, disability, and many others, in our efforts for better inclusion.  We will use an intersectional lens when promoting gender equity.

1. Ensure that The BMJ‘s Editorial Board has 50:50 gender representation and increased diversity

We will report on the diversity of The BMJ’s editorial board and support editorial teams of other BMJ Journals to create diversity in their editorial boards. We will review this diversity on a regular basis. 

2. Invite equal numbers of men and women as peer reviewers

An internal audit of peer review at The BMJ in 2017 using genderize identified that on 18% of papers, no women reviewers were invited. We have significantly more women than men as patient peer reviewers so we need to also look at equity in patient peer review.

3. Take gender into account when identifying authors for editorials and other commentary, to create a platform for more balanced and diverse voices 

Research shows that across thousands of medical journals, women of comparable achievement are less likely than men to be authors of editorials or other commentary. In previous years, The BMJ has invited a comparable number of women and men to author editorials, but we saw the number of women decline during covid-19 and this prompts us to renew our commitment and continue to measure this as an important outcome. 

4. Audit the number and percentage of accepted papers with women senior or first authors compared to similar papers with men in the same authorship positions to ensure that our processes do not introduce discrimination

Some work suggests that papers with women in key authorship positions are less likely to be sent for peer review or accepted for publication.

5. Change text and pictures in job postings to ensure that women and other underrepresented groups are not discouraged from applying or affected adversely by biased recruitment processes

For example, remove phrases or requirements that we know deter women applicants, e.g. requiring that applicants state their preferred salary range. We will avoid using photographs of people which can imply that we have a particular type of person in mind for the role.

6. Invite gender balanced judging panels for The BMJ Awards

We will also consider how we can improve the submission process for the awards to encourage diversity in teams who submit their work for consideration.  We make our judging criteria transparent because it is recognised that there is gender bias in many award procedures. 

7. No manels. BMJ staff across the company will not participate in or chair any panels which are exclusively composed of men

Manels send the wrong message to attendees at conferences or other gatherings and limit exposure to different ideas and ways of thinking. BMJ has formally adopted a “no manels” policy for all staff participating in events.

8. Incorporate actions to promote gender equity into editorial staff objectives and discuss at annual performance reviews

Staff performance reviews offer a framework for action and accountability.

9. Review our resolutions on a regular basis

These are small steps towards improving diversity and inclusion and we will regularly review and report on whether we are making progress towards these resolutions and other areas of activity we want to start.

10. Engage in and influence change across scholarly publishing 

BMJ is an active member of the Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing and we will continue to have an editorial focus on diversity and inclusion across healthcare and research. 

Cat Chatfield (research integrity editor, The BMJ), Sophie Cook (head of scholarly comment, The BMJ), Navjoyt Ladher (head of education, The BMJ), Elizabeth Loder (head of research, The BMJ), Richard Hurley (features editor, The BMJ), Mark Richards (product owner, article transfer service BMJ), and Sara Schroter (senior researcher at The BMJ) on behalf of The BMJ Gender Diversity Group.

COI declaration We are employees of BMJ. We have no other competing interests to declare

Twitter: @drcatchatfield @NavjoytLadher @eloder