Meeting NewsPerspective

Majority of gynecologic oncologists, female and male, experience sexual harassment, survey shows

CHICAGO — More than 70% of female gynecologic oncologists reported encountering sexual harassment during training or in practice, according to survey results presented at ASCO Annual Meeting.

Overall, 64% of gynecologic oncologists who responded to the survey experienced some form of sexual harassment, including 51% of male respondents.

“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,” Marina Stasenko, MD, a gynecologic oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told HemOnc Today.

“Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities,” she added.

Stasenko and colleagues reported the results of an anonymized email survey sent to 1,566 physician members of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in October 2018. Respondents reported demographics, sexual harassment experiences during training and in practice, and perceptions of gender disparities.

Researchers obtained responses from 402 physicians (255 women, 147 men). Female respondents tended to be younger, nonwhite, unmarried and in the earlier stages of their careers (P .001 for all).

"Sixty percent of respondents were female. This is comparable to the current gender breakdown of SGO membership, where females make up 51% of members,” Stasenko said. “The survey response rate of 26% is on par or greater than response rates to similar surveys. Given the subject matter, we do believe that our respondents are an appropriate representation of the surveyed population.”

The results showed that 64% of all respondents experienced some form of sexual harassment during their job training or practice, including 71% of female and 51% of male respondents.

However, only 14.5% of respondents had reported this sexual harassment when it occurred, with a greater percentage of women than men reporting such incidents (17% vs. 10%). Stasenko said that 65% of those who reported incidents of sexual harassment were unsatisfied with the outcome.

Types of sexual harassment reported included subjection to sexist names or remarks (51% of female and 24% of male respondents, P .001); subjection to unwanted sexual advances (23% of women; 28% of men); being denied training or advancement based on gender (33% of women; 19% of men); and being asked for sexual favors in return for advancement (4% of women; 2% of men).

Women were more likely than men to report that gender was an obstacle to career advancement (34% vs. 10%; P .001) and that gender influenced their salary (64% vs. 19%; P .001). Men more frequently reported a gender-based pay gap did not exist in gynecologic oncology (91% vs. 57%; P .001).

“To our knowledge, our data represents the first look at sexual harassment and gender disparities in the field of gynecologic oncology,” Stasenko told HemOnc Today. “Of concern is that the more aggressive sexual-harassing behaviors that suggest sexual contact also were frequently reported. Unfortunately, very few respondents report the behaviors, and when the incident is reported, many are dissatisfied with the outcome.”

Stasenko acknowledged some study limitations.

“The survey was voluntary, and the respondents were a self-selected group, resulting in sampling bias,” she noted. Other limitations included closed-ended questions that “did not allow for more nuanced understanding of participant experiences and perceptions.”

For example, the study did not address participants’ sexual orientation, which means certain aspects of harassment and gender disparities went unexplored.

“Our study sheds a light on experiences of sexual harassment and gender disparities, and future work should focus on interventions to address these issues,” Stasenko said. “These interventions can include improved anti-sexual harassment policies and tools for reporting harassing behavior, as well as increased transparency with promotions and salary setting. We hope that this study is a starting point of a wider conversation on the topic.” – by Drew Amorosi

Reference:

Stasenko M, et al. Abstract LBA10502. Presented at: ASCO Annual Meeting; May 31-June 4, 2019; Chicago.

Disclosures: Stasenko reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the abstract for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

CHICAGO — More than 70% of female gynecologic oncologists reported encountering sexual harassment during training or in practice, according to survey results presented at ASCO Annual Meeting.

Overall, 64% of gynecologic oncologists who responded to the survey experienced some form of sexual harassment, including 51% of male respondents.

“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,” Marina Stasenko, MD, a gynecologic oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told HemOnc Today.

“Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities,” she added.

Stasenko and colleagues reported the results of an anonymized email survey sent to 1,566 physician members of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in October 2018. Respondents reported demographics, sexual harassment experiences during training and in practice, and perceptions of gender disparities.

Researchers obtained responses from 402 physicians (255 women, 147 men). Female respondents tended to be younger, nonwhite, unmarried and in the earlier stages of their careers (P .001 for all).

"Sixty percent of respondents were female. This is comparable to the current gender breakdown of SGO membership, where females make up 51% of members,” Stasenko said. “The survey response rate of 26% is on par or greater than response rates to similar surveys. Given the subject matter, we do believe that our respondents are an appropriate representation of the surveyed population.”

The results showed that 64% of all respondents experienced some form of sexual harassment during their job training or practice, including 71% of female and 51% of male respondents.

However, only 14.5% of respondents had reported this sexual harassment when it occurred, with a greater percentage of women than men reporting such incidents (17% vs. 10%). Stasenko said that 65% of those who reported incidents of sexual harassment were unsatisfied with the outcome.

Types of sexual harassment reported included subjection to sexist names or remarks (51% of female and 24% of male respondents, P .001); subjection to unwanted sexual advances (23% of women; 28% of men); being denied training or advancement based on gender (33% of women; 19% of men); and being asked for sexual favors in return for advancement (4% of women; 2% of men).

Women were more likely than men to report that gender was an obstacle to career advancement (34% vs. 10%; P .001) and that gender influenced their salary (64% vs. 19%; P .001). Men more frequently reported a gender-based pay gap did not exist in gynecologic oncology (91% vs. 57%; P .001).

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“To our knowledge, our data represents the first look at sexual harassment and gender disparities in the field of gynecologic oncology,” Stasenko told HemOnc Today. “Of concern is that the more aggressive sexual-harassing behaviors that suggest sexual contact also were frequently reported. Unfortunately, very few respondents report the behaviors, and when the incident is reported, many are dissatisfied with the outcome.”

Stasenko acknowledged some study limitations.

“The survey was voluntary, and the respondents were a self-selected group, resulting in sampling bias,” she noted. Other limitations included closed-ended questions that “did not allow for more nuanced understanding of participant experiences and perceptions.”

For example, the study did not address participants’ sexual orientation, which means certain aspects of harassment and gender disparities went unexplored.

“Our study sheds a light on experiences of sexual harassment and gender disparities, and future work should focus on interventions to address these issues,” Stasenko said. “These interventions can include improved anti-sexual harassment policies and tools for reporting harassing behavior, as well as increased transparency with promotions and salary setting. We hope that this study is a starting point of a wider conversation on the topic.” – by Drew Amorosi

Reference:

Stasenko M, et al. Abstract LBA10502. Presented at: ASCO Annual Meeting; May 31-June 4, 2019; Chicago.

Disclosures: Stasenko reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the abstract for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Eloise Chapman-Davis

    Eloise Chapman-Davis

    Sexual harassment in the workplace has been talked about since roughly the 1970s. It’s a bit more concerning when we must talk about the subject in terms of health care and medical workplaces. This study brings national attention to the fact that it affects so many women in medicine, both in training and in practice.

    These are not just isolated events, and in a subspecialty like gynecologic oncology — where we are taking care of women who have cancer — these are the types of incidents you would hope nobody would have to deal with in training or in practice.

    What was surprising about the results was the number of people who were willing to admit they were subjected to sexual harassment. The fact that more than half of men, in addition to 71% of women, reported being sexually harassed in training or in practice was eye-opening.

    People’s willingness to be more vocal about being subjected to sexual harassment may have something to do with the #MeToo movement. Another contributing factor is the composition of the medical field, where we see that more than 50% of spaces in medical schools are occupied by women, and the subspecialty of OB/GYN — once a male-dominated field — is now a more female-dominated subspecialty.

    The 26% survey response rate is phenomenal for a topic that could be considered so controversial. It’s important that an organization such as ASCO puts this topic into the forefront because it brings attention to the fact that this behavior occurs in the medical field. We know sexual harassment happens in other fields, but there is a perception that because we are physicians all trained the same way at some great institutions that, in our field, all things are equal. What this study uncovers is that we as physicians don’t feel that all things are equal.

    • Eloise Chapman-Davis, MD
    • Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian

    Disclosures: Chapman-Davis reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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