Gendered career considerations consolidate from the start of medical education

Margret Alers1, Petra Verdonk2, Hans Bor1, Katarina Hamberg3 and Antoine Lagro-Janssen1

1Radboud University Medical Center, Department of Primary and Community Care, Gender and Women’s Health Unit, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

2VU University Medical Centre, Department of Medical Humanities, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, School of Medical Sciences, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3Umeå University, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine, Umeå, Sweden

Submitted: 25/04/2014; Accepted: 31/08/2014; Published: 13/09/2014

Int J Med Educ. 2014; 5:178-184; doi: 10.5116/ijme.5403.2b71

© 2014 Margret Alers et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: To explore changes in specialty preferences and work-related topics during the theoretical phase of Dutch medical education and the role of gender.

Methods: A cohort of medical students at Radboudumc, the Netherlands, was surveyed at start (N=612, 69.1% female) and after three years (N=519, 69.2% female), on specialty preferences, full-time or part-time work, motivational factors, and work-life issues. Chi square tests were performed to analyze gender-differences, and logistic regression to explore the influence of gender on considerations.

Results: A total of 214 female and 78 male students completed both surveys. After three years, the male students remained highly interested in surgery, but the female students increasingly preferred gynecology. These initial preferences were predictive. Four out of five male students versus three out of five female students continued to show a full-time preference. Women increasingly preferred part-time work. After three years, the combination of work, care, and patient contact motivated female students more, whereas salary remained more important to male students. Female students indicated that their future careers would influence their family life; male students assumed having a family would only affect their partners' careers.

Conclusions: Against an international background of the feminization of medicine, our study shows that career considerations are reinforced early in medical studies. Women prefer to work fewer hours and anticipate care tasks more often. Students' preferences reflect Dutch cultural norms about working men and women. Therefore, guidance in choice-making much earlier in medical education can create opportunities.