Reshma Jagsi’s study finds that 30 percent of female doctors in US sexually harassed

Reshma Jagsi’s study finds that 30 percent of female doctors in US sexually harassed

New York: Every seventh patient seen in the country are by physicians of Indian origin. The largely influential Indian American community boasts of its success in Medicine, Academia and Research. Now, a new report claims that a third of high-achieving female physicians or scientists in the US have been victims of sexual harassment, say researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist. In addition, 30 percent of women compared to four percent of men said they had experienced sexual harassment in their professional careers.

The findings showed that women were more likely than men to report both perceptions and experiences with gender bias. Gender bias was perceived by 70 percent of women as against 22 percent of men and 66 percent of women said they experienced gender bias compared to 10 percent of men.

“The perception among many of us is that this type of behaviour is a thing of the past. So it’s heartening to see quite how many relatively young women in this sample reported experiences with harassment and discrimination,” said study author Reshma Jagsi, associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“This is a sobering reminder that our society has a long way to go before we achieve gender equity,” Jagsi added.  The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the situation reflects a larger societal problem.

Women who experience these types of harassment may be less likely to report these incidents if they feel they are unique and aberrational. “We need to recognise the degree to which sexual harassment and gender inequality continue to be an issue in academic medicine,” Jagsi noted.

Researchers surveyed 1,066 men and women who had received a career development award between 2006-2009 from the National Institutes of Health. The physicians were asked a number of questions about their career experiences, including questions about gender bias, gender advantage and sexual harassment.

Medicine is a notoriously grueling career, with punishing hours, rampant burnout and the threat of crippling student loan debt. And for women, the landscape can be even bleaker. New findings suggest that 30 percent of top women clinician-researchers have experienced blatant sexual harassment on the job.

The study, published in JAMA included more than 1,700 men and women who’ve received K-awards, prestigious career development awards handed out by the National Institutes of Health.

Sixty-six percent of the women who responded to the survey said they’d personally experienced some form of gender bias in their career, compared to just 10 percent of men. And 70 percent said they perceived gender-based biases against women in the the field, though not necessarily personally.

Perhaps more shocking, 30 percent of the women said they’d experienced outright sexual harassment, including sexist remarks or behavior, unwanted sexual advances, bribery, threats and coercion.

“I had a misperception that overt sexual harassment was largely a thing of the past, a vestige of another generation,” admitted study author Dr. Reshma Jagsi of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who frequently lectures on why relatively few women reach the senior ranks in academic medicine.

In a survey of academic medical faculty conducted in 1995 (but published in 2000), more than 50 percent of women said they’d experienced harassment in their careers, compared to just 5 percent of men. Jagsi said she had expected to see a significant dip in incidents of sexual harassment in the latest survey, particularly given that the makeup of medicine has changed so much and women now make up roughly half of all medical students.

Subscribe to our Newsletter