Background: Orthopaedic surgery is a male-dominated field. As of 1998, women accounted for 42% of medical school graduates, yet only 6.9% of the total number of orthopaedic residents were female. The purpose of our study was to determine whether the Electronic Residency Application Service charts of female candidates for orthopaedic residencies are ranked lower by faculty reviewers than are those of male candidates with similar qualifications. Methods: After we obtained permission from the applicants, the Electronic Residency Application Service applications submitted by ninety male and ten female candidates for admission to a university orthopaedic residency program for the 1998 National Residency Matching Program were randomly divided into ten groups, consisting of the charts of nine male candidates and one female candidate. Each chart from a female candidate was altered into a "male" version, in which all names and personal pronouns were changed but which was otherwise identical to the original female version. Therefore, each group of ten charts existed as a paired set: one containing the true female chart and one, the altered "male" chart. The paired sets acted as their own control. One hundred and twenty-one faculty reviewers from fourteen orthopaedic residency programs around the United States each reviewed either the "male" or the female version of one set, without knowledge of the goals of the study, and ranked the ten charts in the order in which they would like to have the candidates as residents in their own programs. Each version of the sets was reviewed by at least five separate reviewers. Reviewers at a given institution were randomized to review different sets, so that there was no overlap among them. The rankings of the female-"male" pairs were compared with use of a standard paired t test. Results: No significant difference was detected in the rankings of the female and "male" charts (p = 0.5). The mean difference in rankings was -0.33, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from -1.41 (favoring females) to 0.74 (favoring "males"). Conclusions: The low percentage of female residents is not due to bias against female applicants in the initial chart-review phase of the orthopaedic residency selection process. It is possible that bias is introduced in other stages of the selection process, such as the interview.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine