04 Jun Despite Large Numbers of Female Gynecologic Surgeons, Gender Disparities and Harassment Persist
MedicalResearch.com – Responses
Marina Stasenko, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that includes gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. A recent report in Fortune magazine noted that over half of US women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Until recently, much of the conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace has been relegated to private discussions behind closed doors. However, the MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in various fields, like media and business world. Although there are more female physicians in practice today than ever before, with women accounting for over 50% of young physicians, sexual harassment and gender disparities continue to plague the field of medicine.
Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology is a professional organization of over 2000 physicians, scientists, allied health professionals, nurses, and patient advocates dedicated to the care of patients with gynecologic cancer. As of 2015, 46% of members of the SGO were women, and that number is steadily growing. SGO leadership is also increasingly female – with 2 of the last 3 presidents being women.
Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities. The 2015 SGO practice survey noted that while 22% of male Gynecologic Oncologists held the rank of professor, only 11% of their female counterparts held the title. They also noted that the mean annual salary for male physicians was nearly 150,000$ greater than salary for female physicians.
Given the fact that there is little objective data on sexual harassment in gynecologic oncology, the objective of our study was to evaluate perceptions of sexual harassment and gender disparities among physician members of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: To our knowledge, our data represents the first look at sexual harassment and gender disparities in the field of gynecologic oncology. Our results show that in the surveyed population, experiences of sexual harassment are common (with 64% of respondents reporting experiencing some form of sexual harassment on at least 1 occasion either during their training or during their years of practice) and was reported by all genders (71% female and 51% male respondents). Of concern is that more aggressive sexual harassing behaviors that suggest sexual contact (like being subjected to unwanted sexual advances and being asked to exchange sexual favors for academic position), were also frequently reported (by 30% and 3% of all respondents, respectively). Unfortunately, very few respondents report the behaviors (14.5%), and when the incident is reported, many are dissatisfied with the outcome (65%).
In regards to gender discrimination, while we’ve shown that female respondents are more likely to report instances of perceived gender discrimination, nearly 20% of male respondents also reported experiencing gender discrimination in their careers.
In regards to career advancement and income, more male than female respondents feel that they had no obstacles to advancement in their career (70% male respondents compared to 34% female respondents). Further, 91% of men and 57% of women felt that there is no gender pay difference.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: As we review our results, new questions have arisen. We could not address all aspects of sexual harassment and gender disparities in our survey. Gender must be examined through a lens of intersectionality as each person’s unique circumstances shape how they interact with the world at large. Further, this study did not focus on patient-physician interactions (questions were specifically asked about interactions respondents had with physicians, nurses, or hospital staff). Interactions of physicians with their patients and their patients’ families would be informative to explore.
We hope that this study is the starting point of a wider conversation on the topic.
We have no disclosures.
Citation: ASCO 2019 abstract
Survey of sexual harassment and gender disparities among gynecologic oncologists.
Author(s): Marina Stasenko, Christopher M. Tarney, Mitchell Veith, Kenneth Seier, Yovanni Casablanca, Carol L. Brown; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, MD; Wright Patterson Med Ctr, Beavercreek, OH
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