Background: Working memory (WM) has been a matter of intensive basic and clinical research for some decades now. The investigation of WM function and dysfunction may facilitate the understanding of both physiological and pathological processes in the human brain. Though WM paradigms are widely used in neuroscientific and psychiatric research, conclusive knowledge about potential moderating variables such as gender is still missing. Methods: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the effects of gender on verbal and visuospatial WM maintenance tasks in a large and homogeneous sample of young healthy subjects. Results: We found significant gender effects on both the behavioral and neurofunctional level. Females exhibited disadvantages with a small effect size in both WM domains accompanied by stronger activations in a set of brain regions (including bilateral substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area and right Broca's area) independent of WM modality. As load and task difficulty effects have been shown for some of these regions, the stronger activations may reflect a slightly lower capacity of both WM domains in females. Males showed stronger bilateral intraparietal activations next to the precuneus which were specific for the visuospatial WM task. Activity in this specific region may be associated with visuospatial short-term memory capacity. Conclusion: These findings provide evidence for a slightly lower capacity in both WM modalities in females.

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