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Gender Career Stereotypes, Implicit Bias, and Occupational Therapy

By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research

Implicit (unconscious) gender bias and stereotypes can affect clinical decisions and interactions between healthcare professionals, as well as impact careers. However, there is no research exploring the implicit gender bias or stereotypes of occupational therapy students or practitioners. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the gender-career bias of occupational therapy students. To do so, occupational therapy students (n = 54) from three Midwestern United States graduate occupational therapy programs completed the gender-career attitudes implicit association test (IAT) – biases associating women with family, and men with career – as well as a survey polling demographic information. Participants’ scores on the Gender-Career IAT were calculated and analyzed using descriptive statistics and a one-tailed t-test. Independent samples t-tests, one-way analysis of variance, and linear regression models were used to determine differences in implicit attitudes based on participants’ demographics. The majority (79.63%) of occupational therapy students in this study implicitly associated men with career, and women with family. There were not statistically significant differences in implicit attitudes based on demographic characteristics. It is critical to be aware of the existence of gender-career implicit biases, like other biases, to identify and reduce negative effects these attitudes could have on professional identity development, professional and clinical interactions, clinical assessments and interventions, as well as personal decisions regarding career trajectory. This study’s findings lay the foundation for future research on the effect of this bias on education, clinical practice, and career identity and longevity within the profession, as well as interventions to reduce implicit gender-career biases.

This abstract is a summary of the following journal manuscript: VanPuymbrouck, L. H., & Friedman, C. (2023). Gender career stereotypes, implicit bias, and occupational therapy. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 7 (4). Retrieved from