Implicit gender-career bias in postgraduate medical training still exists, mainly in residents and in females

M. Kramer*, I.C. Heyligers, K.D. Konings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Background More and more female residents enter postgraduate medical training (PGMT). Meanwhile, women are still underrepresented in academic medicine, in leadership positions and in most surgical specialties. This suggests that female residents' career development may still be negatively impacted by subtle, often unconscious stereotype associations regarding gender and career-ambition, called implicit gender-career bias. This study explored the existence and strength of implicit gender-career bias in doctors who currently work in PGMT, i.e. in attending physicians who act as clinical trainers and in their residents. Methods We tested implicit gender-career bias in doctors working in PGMT by means of an online questionnaire and an online Implicit Association Test (IAT). We used standard IAT analysis to calculate participants' IAT D scores, which indicate the direction and strength of bias. Linear regression analyses were used to test whether the strength of bias was related to gender, position (resident or clinical trainer) or specialty (non-surgical or surgical specialty). Results The mean IAT D score among 403 participants significantly differed from zero (D-score = 0.36 (SD = 0.39), indicating bias associating male with career and female with family. Stronger gender-career bias was found in women (beta(female) =0 .11; CI 0.02; 0.19; p = 0.01) and in residents (beta(resident) 0.12; CI 0.01; 0.23; p = 0.03). Conclusions This study may provide a solid basis for explicitly addressing implicit gender-career bias in PGMT. The general understanding in the medical field is that gender bias is strongest among male doctors' in male-dominated surgical specialties. Contrary to this view, this study demonstrated that the strongest bias is held by females themselves and by residents, independently of their specialty. Apparently, the influx of female doctors in the medical field has not yet reduced implicit gender-career bias in the next generation of doctors, i.e. in today's residents, and in females.
Original languageEnglish
Article number253
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2021


  • Career ambition
  • Clinical trainer
  • Gender
  • Gender-career bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Postgraduate medical training
  • Resident
  • Stereotype

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