Study: Many Female Medical Faculty Members Experience Harassment

May 18, 2016

Some 30 percent of female medical academics have experienced sexual harassment on the job, compared to 4 percent of their male counterparts, according to a new research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association. A majority (59 percent) of women who’d experienced harassment said it hurt their confidence in themselves as professionals, and 47 percent said the experiences limited their career advancement.

The study, led by Reshma Jagsi, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan, is based on survey responses from 1,066 recent recipients of career development awards from the National Institutes of Health regarding their career and personal experiences. Women were much more likely to than men to report both perceptions of and experiences with gender bias in their careers. Common harassment experiences include sexist remarks or behavior and unwanted sexual advances, while a much smaller proportion of respondents reported experiences with bribery or threats to engage in sexual behavior or coercive advances.

The study notes that a similar 1995 survey found strikingly similar results, indicating more reform is needed. ”Although a lower proportion reported these experiences [sexual harassment] than in a 1995 sample, the difference appears large given that the women [in this new survey] began their careers after the proportion of female medical students exceeded 40 percent," it says. "Recognizing sexual harassment is important because perceptions that such experiences are rare may, ironically, increase stigmatization and discourage reporting. Efforts to mitigate the effect of unconscious bias in the workplace and eliminate more overtly inappropriate behaviors are needed."

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