The New Gender Gap: The Under Representation of Women in Clinical Trials

The New Gender Gap: The Under Representation of Women in Clinical Trials

Modern society has advanced significantly in terms of gender equality and fair representation. However, facets of medical research appear to be lagging behind somewhat. Clinical trials, in particular, have recently come under the spotlight due to their lack of equal gender representation. 

Companies like Clinical Ink have found a definitive link between gaps in our scientific knowledge and an imbalance in gender representation. What is the reason for this overt discrepancy? Why have women historically been excluded from health research?

A growing body of evidence suggests that men and women appear to be far from equal, at least when it comes to clinical trial participation statistics. This gender gap has several implications for the efficacy of future research, making it imperative that we deal with this inequality proactively.

In order to gain further insight into the issue, let’s take a look at all of the established facts. Beginning with the most recent peer-reviewed data, read on to find out all there is to know about the medical research gender gap.

The scope of the problem

It’s a well-established fact that diseases and treatments have a wide range of effects, and each person reacts to those effects in different ways. Even at a cellular level, men and women are entirely different from each other. 

Every individual cell in our bodies has a sex, making gender considerations incredibly important to the efficacy of almost any medical research. However, despite this knowledge being commonplace nowadays, many clinical studies fail to represent women adequately.

Take cardiovascular disease, for example. It’s the most common cause of death for women in the US, yet only around 30% of cardiovascular clinical trial participants are female. In addition to this, roughly two-thirds of trials don’t even take the sex of trial subjects into account when producing results.

If you think about it, men and women receive the same doses of medication for everything from over-the-counter drugs to prescribed medication. There’s no consideration for differences in gender, which is a glaring oversight that needs to be corrected as swiftly as possible.

The New Gender Gap: The Under Representation of Women in Clinical Trials

How inequality affects research

Cardiovascular research is but one of the many avenues for research that could benefit from greater female representation. In fact, it should go without saying that all medical research should be done with equal representation in mind. At the very least, male and female representation should be relative to the population in question.

Without sufficient gender representation, the validity of scientific research becomes debatable at best. If the majority of clinical trial subjects are male, how can females trust the research results? They can’t, which is why sex and gender need to become predominant considerations for all future research.

Current improvements and future solutions

Although some progress has been made towards fair representation, government agencies and other health institutions still have a long way to go before reaching a stage of equal gender representation.

It’s important to note that there’s no issue with clinical trials themselves. Instead, the mindset behind our research is causing underrepresentation. For toxicology and biomedical research especially, there needs to be a more significant push for trials that include enough women. 

It’s impossible to ignore gender differences. Even from a micro perspective, we have male and female cells within our bodies. They are built differently, and their unique characteristics must be taken into account in scientific research. 

In some circles of modern society, it may be inappropriate to discuss what some may call ‘gender constructs.’ However, the truth of the matter is that from genetics to behavior, men and women are simply biologically different from one another. The sooner we drive that fact home, the more effective our research will be in the future.

The New Gender Gap: The Under Representation of Women in Clinical Trials


In a fairly recent announcement, the FDA declared that it would take sex differences in research into greater account in the future. However, whether or not this shift will make enough of a difference remains to be seen.

Men and women react to drugs differently, metabolize chemicals differently, and we differ in countless other ways, so why have these differences not been reflected in research results? Clearly, awareness and inclusivity need to be improved beyond their current state.

The problem is that it will take the collective effort of all stakeholders to improve the situation. While there has been some improvement here and there, it’s nowhere near the holistic level of change we need.

The early phases of research are where the most improvement is needed. Additionally, government policies regarding equal representation need to be strictly enforced, and countries without relevant legislative guidelines have to be willing to change for the better.