Sexual harassment and discrimination are far too common among medical faculty

A research letter in JAMA explores the experiences of academic medical faculty with sexual harassment and discrimination:

[I]n 2014 we conducted a postal survey of individuals who had received new K08 and K23 career development awards (hereafter referred to as K-awards) from the National Institutes of Health from 2006-2009. Items on gender bias (both perceived in the environment and personally experienced), gender advantage, and sexual harassment were included in a larger questionnaire evaluating career and personal experiences. Additionally, those who had experienced sexual harassment in their professional careers were asked to report perceived effects on confidence and career advancement and specify the severity of the experience using 5 levels: 1, generalized sexist remarks and behavior; 2, inappropriate sexual advances; 3, subtle bribery to engage in sexual behavior; 4, threats to engage in sexual behavior; and 5, coercive advances. The proportion of respondents experiencing more severe forms of harassment (levels 2-5) was quantified and the perceived effects and severity described.

They had a response rate of 62% of the 1719 faculty surveyed (which is petty good). The results are not pretty.

About 70% of women faculty reported perceptions of gender bias in their careers, and 66% reported actual experience with it. This is much more than men report (22% perceptions and 10% experience). Three in ten women reported personally experiencing sexual harassment, versus only 4% of men.

Of the women who reported harassment, 40% described more severe forms of it. Almost 60% reported a negative effect on their professional confidence. Almost half reported that this negatively affected their careers.

I work in pediatrics, and the vast majority of faculty who I mentor and with whom I work are female. Based on their experiences, I’m not surprised by these results at all. There’s much work to be done to improve things.


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