- A recent survey of academic medical faculty found nearly a third of the responding women reported having experienced workplace sexual harassment.
- Reshma Jagsi, MD, D.Phil, associate professor and deputy chair of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School, and her colleagues based their findings on responses from 1,066 physician-scientists that asked about topics including gender bias, gender advantage and sexual harassment.
- The study findings, published in JAMA, suggest that although women now comprise half of all medical school students and some perceive harassment to be an issue of the past, in actuality "our society has a long way to go before we achieve gender equity," Jagsi stated.
The results of the survey showed women to be perceiving and experiencing more gender bias than men; 10% of women said they perceived it compared to 22% of men, and 66% of women said they experienced it compared to 10% of men. As for overt sexual harassment, 30% of women said they had experienced it compared to 4% of men.
The findings dovetail with previous research that has found ongoing disparities between men and women in faculty rank at U.S. medical schools, Census data indicating that female physicians and surgeons earn just 69% of what males do, and that women account for only 18% of U.S. hospital CEOs.
While Jagsi's study focused on those in academic medicine, practice-based physicians likely experience harassment at a comparable rate, Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center told Medical Economics.
“Based on studies we have seen, it seems to be at least one in four women and as many as 60% of women in some occupations are experiencing sexual harassment on the job. Doctors, unfortunately, are not exempt from that pattern,” she said.
Jagsi suggested the medical field cannot simply count on waiting for the larger proportion of women in medical school to naturally lead to a larger proportion of women in leadership roles in the future, given that there continues to be gender inequality in medicine, perhaps sometimes from unconscious bias and assumptions about gender roles.
There needs to be a commitment from the top at healthcare institutions, Martin told Medical Economics, to ensure clear anti-harassment policies, clear complaint procedures that don't require going through a supervisor, and conduct staff training.