Despite a 1993 law mandating women's inclusion in government-funded trials, "there are still enormous gaps in the scientific process as it relates to women," says Dr. Paula Johnson, executive director of The Connors Center for Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
For example, fewer than a third of cardiovascular clinical trial participants are women, and only a third of trials that include women report sex-specific outcomes, according to a report by Johnson that was released Monday at a national summit on women's health issues in Boston.
Yet cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death among American women.
"We still have a lot of bias embedded in academic medicine, and certainly it comes down to the people actually doing the studies," says Dr. Eve Higginbotham, vice dean for diversity and inclusion at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Women are still struggling to get to the highest levels of academic medicine," she says. "In many cases, women are not the primary drivers in many of these studies."
Higginbotham says that women only represent 5 percent of medical professors in the United States.