Effects of Gender Bias and Stereotypes in Surgical Training: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Sara P. Myers, Mohini Dasari, Joshua B. Brown, Stephanie T. Lumpkin, Matthew D. Neal, Kaleab Z. Abebe, Nicole Chaumont, Stephanie M. Downs-Canner, Meghan R. Flanagan, Kenneth K. Lee, Matthew R. Rosengart

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41 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Factors contributing to underrepresentation of women in surgery are incompletely understood. Pro-male bias and stereotype threat appear to contribute to gender imbalance in surgery. Objectives: To evaluate the association between pro-male gender bias and career engagement and the effect of stereotype threat on skill performance among trainees in academic surgery. Design, Setting, and Participants: A 2-phase study with a double-blind, randomized clinical trial component was conducted in 3 academic general surgery training programs. Residents were recruited between August 1 and August 15, 2018, and the study was completed at the end of that academic year. In phase 1, surveys administered 5 to 6 months apart investigated the association of gender bias with career engagement. In phase 2, residents were randomized 1:1 using permuted-block design stratified by site, training level, and gender to receive either a trigger of or protection against stereotype threat. Immediately after the interventions, residents completed the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) assessment followed by a final survey. A total of 131 general surgery residents were recruited; of these 96 individuals with academic career interests met eligibility criteria; 86 residents completed phase 1. Eighty-five residents were randomized in phase 2, and 4 residents in each arm were lost to follow-up. Intervention: Residents read abstracts that either reported that women had worse laparoscopic skill performance than men (trigger of stereotype threat [A]) or had no difference in performance (protection against stereotype threat [B]). Main Outcomes and Measures: Association between perception of pro-male gender bias and career engagement survey scores (phase 1) and stereotype threat intervention and FLS scores (phase 2) were the outcomes. Intention-to-treat analysis was conducted. Results: Seventy-seven residents (38 women [49.4%]) completed both phases of the study. The association between pro-male gender bias and career engagement differed by gender (interaction coefficient, -1.19; 95% CI, -1.90 to -0.49; P =.02); higher perception of bias was associated with higher engagement among men (coefficient, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.19-2.24; P =.04), but no significant association was observed among women (coefficient, -0.25; 95% CI, -1.59 to 1.08; P =.50). There was no evidence of a difference in FLS score between interventions (mean [SD], A: 395 [150] vs B: 367 [157]; P =.51). The response to stereotype threat activation was similar in men and women (interaction coefficient, 15.1; 95% CI, -124.5 to 154.7; P =.39). The association between stereotype threat activation and FLS score differed by gender across levels of susceptibility to stereotype threat (interaction coefficient, -35.3; 95% CI, -47.0 to -23.6; P =.006). Higher susceptibility to stereotype threat was associated with lower FLS scores among women who received a stereotype threat trigger (coefficient, -43.4; 95% CI, -48.0 to -38.9; P =.001). Conclusions and Relevance: Perception of pro-male bias and gender stereotypes may influence career engagement and skill performance, respectively, among surgical trainees. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03623009.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-560
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA surgery
Volume155
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

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