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"Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Experiences of Academic Medical Faculty". This study will depress you. This is Healthcare Triage News.

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Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Experiences of Academic Medical Faculty. This study will depress you. This is Healthcare Triage News.


A research letter in JAMA explored the experiences of academic medical faculty with sexual harassment and discrimination. In 2014, researchers conducted a mail survey of faculty who received new K08 and K23 career development awards, or K awards as we call them, from the NIH between 2006 and 2009. K awards are the usual grant of choice for junior faculty as they usually provide five years of salary support while they get their careers going.

The survey asked respondents about biases related to gender, both perceived in the environment and personal experienced, advantages related to gender, and outright sexual harassment. Those who reported that they had experienced sexual harassment were asked o report perceived effects on their confidence, their career advancement, and they were also asked about the severity of the experience.

This severity was defined on a 5-point scale. One, generalized sexist remarks and behavior. Two, inappropriate sexual advances. Three, subtle bribery to engage in sexual behavior. Four, threats to engage in sexual behavior. And, five, coercive advances. All of these are bad, but two to five were considered severe.

The authors then calculated the proportion of respondents who experienced the more severe forms of harassment, again levels 2 to 5. But, let's be honest again, they're all bad!

The survey had a response rate of 62% of the 1,719 faculty surveyed, which is a pretty good response rate. I've done published surveys of physicians before, and I got to tell you, that's a pretty good response rate. The results, on the other hand, are not good.

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. 22% reported perceptions of them receiving gender bias, and 10% experiencing it.

3 in 10 female academic medical faculty reported personally experiencing sexual harassment, versus only 4% of males. Of the women who reported harassment, 40% described more severe forms of it. Almost 60% reported that it had a negative effect on their professional confidence. Almost half reported that this negatively affected their careers.

I work in pediatrics. The vast majority of faculty, who mentor and with whom I work, are female. Based on their experiences, I'm not surprised by these results at all. I wish I could say I was, and I can't. Even in elite fields, where we hope people would know and behave better, there's much work to be done to improve things.


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