Document Type : Letter to Editor


Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2AZ, UK


Gender equality amongst healthcareprofessionals is no doubt paramount to allowboth equal opportunity and provision of goodquality healthcare. The General Medical Councilencourages that all colleagues should be treatedfairly, but studies have previously demonstratedgender bias against female medical students(1). Whether this might have any impact on thestudents’ decision-making process and careerpathways has yet to be explored.We aimed to evaluate whether doctors gavestudents gender-specific advice and the extentto which this advice influenced the students.Furthermore, we explored whether students felttheir gender affected their career choices. Wecarried out a cross-sectional national study ofBritish clinical medical students. A standardisedquestionnaire was completed by 94 students(54.3% female). The response rate was 88.7%.Results showed that 43.6% (n=41) of studentsreceived career advice based purely on theirgender, and 63.4% (n=26) of these said that thiswould influence their career choices. Importantly,82.9% (n=34) of the students who receivedgender-specific advice were female.Additionally, 41.2% (n=21) of females felttheir gender would restrict their career choicescompared with only 11.6% (n=5) of males(p=0.00142). 37.3% (n=19) of females thoughttheir gender would unfairly disadvantage theircareer progression compared to 4.65% (n=2) ofmales (p=0.00016).Our results highlighted that doctors gave moregender-specific advice to females compared tomales, and that this advice significantly impactsstudents’ decision making process. Furthermore,females disproportionately felt their careers wouldbe disadvantaged and restricted compared withmales. This shows an enormous disparity betweenmale and female attitudes towards medical careers.This can have both long and short-term effects ontraining, career choices and patient interaction.Further research investigating why females feeltheir gender will restrict their careers, and whydoctors give gender-specific advice, particularlytargeted at females must be undertaken to identifythe root cause of the problem.We therefore advocate that medical schools: 1)promote gender equality through seminars, talksand increase accessibility to good female rolemodels; and 2) train clinical teachers to impartgeneric career advice as opposed to genderspecificcareer advice.