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LETTER TO EDITOR
Ahead of print publication  

Comments on: Does gender gap exist in Indian rheumatology? analysis of faculty gender representation at its annual conferences-authors reply


1 Department of Rheumatology, Saveetha Medical College Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Rheumatology, MIOT Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Centre for Rheumatology, Kozhikode, Kerala, India

Date of Submission06-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance08-Aug-2021

Correspondence Address:
Vinod Ravindran,
Centre for Rheumatology, Kozhikode - 673 009, Kerala
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/injr.injr_174_21



How to cite this URL:
Mohansundaram K, Sowndhariya VA, Ravindran V. Comments on: Does gender gap exist in Indian rheumatology? analysis of faculty gender representation at its annual conferences-authors reply. Indian J Rheumatol [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2021 Dec 9]. Available from: https://www.indianjrheumatol.com/preprintarticle.asp?id=326155



Dear Editor,

We are happy that our work appraising gender disparity in the Indian Rheumatology Association's (IRA) annual conferences has invoked thought-provoking responses from our colleagues.[1] We agree with Dr. Balan that, in addition to continued work on identifying and addressing the reasons for gender disparity, adequate mentorship would help more women reach the higher levels of medical academia. However, we disagree with the suggestion that separate forums for women help as it has the potential to lead to more segregation than intended inclusion.[2]

Drs. Pinto and Mahendranath's contention that women are generally not applying for the orations in IRA conferences (IRACONs) has to be appreciated and addressed. We also agree that prominent women in our field have to take younger female colleagues under their wings, mentor them, and give them opportunities at every possible level (for example, as a speaker or co-author for book chapters/journal articles). The lack of recognition of qualified women in our field, though often a subconscious act, still calls for constant appraisal, acknowledgment, and remedial actions. We are much enthused by data from JIPMER undergraduate conferences shared by Drs. Sathar, Jha and Thabah and agree that bridging this gender disparity has to start at very early in the medical career and must include eencouraging women speakers at the undergraduate level, giving positive and constructive feedback to them, and offering coaching for budding speakers.

Drs. Sathar, Jha, and Thabah have underscored diverse reasons of gender disparities in medical conferences. We, however, do not believe that low self-esteem among women to be a strong reason augmenting gender disparity. In fact these women have had advanced training in their given specialties, implying that there is no dearth of either self-esteem or talent. A guilt conscience which perhaps every female can vouch for is prioritizing studies over family during hectic years of postgraduate and specialty training. After due qualification, subsequently, it leads them to lean more toward their young family during the early phases of the career.[3] As a result, in their early career, when their visibility in academic meetings decreases, it unfortunately leads to a vicious cycle; people tend to forget and subconsciously ignore them, resulting in a further lack of opportunities.[4] This is where mentorship helps to identify the potential of females during their training, ensuring that they never fall behind in this competitive society. While it has been accepted universally by all authors that IRA alone does not stand out in gender disparity, it should not serve as an excuse to delay necessary steps being taken to negate it.

We also tried to look into the proportion of women as speaker in “plenary sessions” or as “keynote speakers” in our study; however, as these terminologies had not been used universally in all IRACONs, we decided not to include it. IRACONs 2015 and 2017 had female scientific committee chairs. The female representation as speakers did not show any drastic change in these years.[1] It underscores that though there is no apparent discrimination or conscious decisions resulting in gender disparity, there is a need for a robust governance structure for the organization and conduct of our IRACONs. In this regard, IRA could consider a specific committee or a task force in the lines of EULAR to ensure adequate female representation in all major conferences. Adapting a new approach is often difficult; however, with careful thought and will to do so, our IRA could soon stand out among learned societies as far as women empowerment and gender parity are concerned.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Mohansundaram K, Sowndhariya VA, Ravindran V. Does gender gap exist in Indian rheumatology? Analysis of faculty gender representation at its annual conferences. Indian J Rheumatol [Inpress]. [doi: 10.4103/injr.injr_33_21].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Kibbe MR, Kapadia MR. Underrepresentation of women at academic medical conferences -“Manels” must stop. JAMA Netw Open 2020;3:e2018676.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Stack S. Gender, children and research productivity. Res Higher Educ 2004;45:891-920.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Corona-Sobrino C, García-Melón M, Poveda-Bautista R, González-Urango H. Closing the gender gap at academic conferences: A tool for monitoring and assessing academic events. PLoS One 2020;15:e0243549.  Back to cited text no. 4
    




 

 
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