Stereotype threat disproportionately affects young female surgeons

Women surgeons in-training who are surrounded by negative stereotypes have worse psychological health than those who do not perceive stereotypes in their environment, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Researchers surveyed 380 physicians in 14 residency programs from 2010 to 2011 on stereotype threat, expectations of the program, faculty and the public.

Female surgical residents were the only group to show a relationship between a perceived negative stereotype and poor psychological health, according to the report. Female surgeons who did not perceive stereotypes against them had better psychological health.

The other groups — male surgical residents, and both male and female residents in nonsurgical specialties — did not have an association between stereotype threat and psychological well-being.

"The data suggest that women in surgical training, but not men, may face a stressor, stereotype perception, that is negatively associated with their psychological health," the researchers conclude. "Efforts should be made to further understand this relationship and investigate possible interventions to level the playing field for male and female surgical trainees."


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