Sexual harassment among female surgeons
A recent survey in America has revealed worrying levels of sexual harassment of female surgeons. A total of 1,005 individuals completed the survey. Of these 744 (74%) were women. Of the respondents, 51% worked at an academic institution, 13% at community medical centres, 15% in private practice, and 19% in other settings.
Over half (58%) of the female respondents had experienced sexual harassment in the previous year. These results follow in the wake of the recent #MeToo movement, which has exposed sexual harassment across many different professions, especially the entertainment industry.
Personal harassment, of course, can have many different forms, ranging from the subtle to the really blatant. Survey responses indicated that the most common variety (in 53% of cases) was ‘verbal or physical conduct’ (ie body language). But ‘unwanted sexual advances or physical contact’ had occurred in 23% of the cases, and ‘comments about sexual orientation’ had occurred in 10%. However, dealing with subtle harassment can, in some ways, be even more challenging to deal with than its more blatant manifestations as the latter is perhaps easier to identify and challenge. Of note, women weren’t the only victims of this kind of behaviour, as 25% of the men responding also reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment themselves.
Is this exclusively a North American phenomenon? Or does this survey also reflect the experiences of trainees, not only surgical ones, here in the UK? Please do let us know your own thoughts and personal experiences by adding a comment to this blog.