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Scientists call on professional community to support women in diabetes research

INDIANAPOLIS—A group of leading scientists is holding a mirror to the diabetes research community and calling for the improved support of its female constituents.

Linda DiMeglio, MD, MPH, of Indiana University School of Medicine and Mark Atkinson, PhD, of the University of Florida, led a deep dive into the historical representation of women in the diabetes research community and that of women in influential positions among four major diabetes organizations. Their findings and recommendations were jointly published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care and Diabetes along with two accompanying editorial pieces.

Together with Jessica Dunne, PhD, of Janssen Research & Development, LLC, and Jennifer Maizel, MPH, and Amanda Posgai, PhD, of the University of Florida, they found that while women represent about half of the diabetes research community, they have remained historically underrepresented in key leadership roles and are less likely to receive honors and funding for their work.  

“I had observed and heard from others anecdotal reports about the underrepresentation of women in various settings,” said DiMeglio. “But collating and disseminating these hard data is a critical first step toward improving the representativeness of the diabetes field. So, when Dr. Dunne and Dr. Atkinson asked me to join them in doing a deep dive, I seized the opportunity.”

The group quantified gender representation in annual meeting attendance, editorial board service position, principal investigators for grant funding, and career achievement award recipients using data from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), JDRF, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).   

Major takeaways include:

  • Women account for nearly half of attendees at the ADA Scientific Sessions but are underrepresented in key leadership roles. Specifically, women represent only 9% of people serving in the role of President of Medicine and Science since the 1970s.
  • ADA journal editorial boards reflect historically gendered roles in research, where women are dominant on editorial boards for publications related to diabetes education for non-academic audiences but notably underrepresented in publications related to clinical and basic sciences with academic audiences.
  • Men in the diabetes research community receive the vast majority of research funding and increasing barriers exist for women competing for funding at advanced stages of their careers.
  • Women account for a small fraction of recipients of career achievement awards with little to no appreciable shift toward equity in recent decades despite the growing number of women in the field. 

The authors offer actionable recommendations to editorial boards, academic institutions, professional organizations and funding organizations to address issues of inequity and eliminate barriers for women in diabetes research. 


IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.