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Acad Med. 2010 Aug;85(8):1276-81. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e5f2ce.

Gender differences in leadership amongst first-year medical students in the small-group setting.

Author information

1
Department of Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. nwayne@mednet.ucla.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To investigate the extent of gender bias in the volunteerism of small-group leaders amongst first-year medical students, and whether bias could be eliminated with special instructions to the students.

METHOD:

The gender of leaders in small-group sessions in a real academic setting was monitored under two conditions: control conditions, in which basic instructions were provided to participants, and intervention conditions, in which the same basic instructions were provided plus a brief "pep talk" on the importance of experiencing a leadership role in a safe environment. During the small-group sessions, an observer noted the gender and names of group leaders for later analysis. After a class debriefing, a subset of leaders and nonleaders from both the control and intervention groups were invited to be interviewed about their perceptions of the small-group experience. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed for analysis.

RESULTS:

In 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, disproportionately fewer women than men volunteered to become small-group leaders under control conditions. This gender bias was eliminated under intervention conditions. The interviews illustrated how a subtle change in instructions helped some female students take on a leadership role.

CONCLUSIONS:

Gender bias in leadership in the small-group setting amongst medical students-even when women make up half of the class-may persist without targeted intervention. The authors suggest that frequent and consistent intervention during medical school could be an important factor in encouraging women to identify themselves as leaders, promoting confidence to consider leadership roles in medicine.

PMID:
20671452
DOI:
10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e5f2ce
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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