Where are the males? Gender differences in undergraduates' interest in and perceptions of the genetic counseling profession

J Genet Couns. 2011 Aug;20(4):341-54. doi: 10.1007/s10897-011-9365-x. Epub 2011 Apr 20.


Genetic counseling is a female-dominated field, with women comprising about 95% of the profession (Smith et al. 2009). Greater patient choice and satisfaction may be achieved by increasing the number of male counselors, but empirical evidence about the reasons for this gender imbalance is limited. In this study 190 undergraduates (110 females, 79 males, 1 unknown) in upper division bioscience courses completed a survey assessing their knowledge and perceptions of and interest in genetic counseling as a career. There were only two significant gender differences. Females indicated significantly greater interest than males in pursuing a genetic counseling career, and they rated interpersonal skills as more integral to genetic counseling than males. Multiple regression analyses of knowledge and perceptions as possible predictors of male and female interest in pursuing a genetic counseling career yielded no significant predictors of male interest. For females, there were four significant predictors: estimated salary, career characteristics, perceptions of genetic counseling as interpersonally focused, and whether they had already chosen a career. Implications for recruiting males to the profession, and research recommendations are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors*
  • Workforce