The effect of gender bias on medical students and career choices: a cross-sectional study



Gender equality amongst healthcare
professionals is no doubt paramount to allow
both equal opportunity and provision of good
quality healthcare. The General Medical Council
encourages that all colleagues should be treated
fairly, but studies have previously demonstrated
gender bias against female medical students
(1). Whether this might have any impact on the
students’ decision-making process and career
pathways has yet to be explored.
We aimed to evaluate whether doctors gave
students gender-specific advice and the extent
to which this advice influenced the students.
Furthermore, we explored whether students felt
their gender affected their career choices. We
carried out a cross-sectional national study of
British clinical medical students. A standardised
questionnaire was completed by 94 students
(54.3% female). The response rate was 88.7%.
Results showed that 43.6% (n=41) of students
received career advice based purely on their
gender, and 63.4% (n=26) of these said that this
would influence their career choices. Importantly,
82.9% (n=34) of the students who received
gender-specific advice were female.
Additionally, 41.2% (n=21) of females felt
their gender would restrict their career choices
compared with only 11.6% (n=5) of males
(p=0.00142). 37.3% (n=19) of females thought
their gender would unfairly disadvantage their
career progression compared to 4.65% (n=2) of
males (p=0.00016).
Our results highlighted that doctors gave more
gender-specific advice to females compared to
males, and that this advice significantly impacts
students’ decision making process. Furthermore,
females disproportionately felt their careers would
be disadvantaged and restricted compared with
males. This shows an enormous disparity between
male and female attitudes towards medical careers.
This can have both long and short-term effects on
training, career choices and patient interaction.
Further research investigating why females feel
their gender will restrict their careers, and why
doctors give gender-specific advice, particularly
targeted at females must be undertaken to identify
the root cause of the problem.
We therefore advocate that medical schools: 1)
promote gender equality through seminars, talks
and increase accessibility to good female role
models; and 2) train clinical teachers to impart
generic career advice as opposed to genderspecific
career advice.

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 P ISSN: 2322-2220            E ISSN:2322-3561      

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