‘Significant number’ of vascular surgeons experience workplace sexual harassment
More than 40% of vascular surgeons said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to the results of a survey presented at the Society for Vascular Surgery Vascular Annual Meeting.
Matthew Smeds, MD, chief of the division of vascular and endovascular surgery at Saint Louis University, and Bernadette Aulivola, MD, FACS, director of the division of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy at Loyola University Medical Center, mailed an anonymous survey including questions on gender bias and sexual harassment to 346 vascular surgery faculty members at 52 U.S. training sites; 149 (43%) completed the survey.
“This survey stemmed from a previous study we did looking at harassment in vascular surgery trainees (residents and fellows) that showed 61% had either experienced or witnessed others being sexually harassed and a low percentage (53%) felt comfortable reporting,” Smeds told Cardiology Today’s Intervention. “This was recently accepted for publication in the Annals of Vascular Surgery.”
According to the researchers, 32% of respondents said they thought harassment is common in surgical specialties, with historical male dominance, ignoring of behaviors and power dynamics/hierarchy being the most common reasons cited.
In addition, 41% of respondents reported they have experienced workplace harassment, and the most common types were being told unwanted sexually explicit comments/questions/jokes, being called a sexist slur or nickname or receiving unwanted flirtation, Smeds said during a presentation.
Those who reported being harassed were more likely to be women (37% vs. 13%; P < .001) and experienced a mean of 2.6 of 10 types of harassment.
Although 84% of respondents said their institution has a mechanism for reporting harassment incidents, only 7.2% of the harassing behaviors were reported, Smeds and Aulivola found.
The most common reasons for not reporting behavior were believing it was harmless (67%) and believing nothing good would come from filing a report (28%), according to the researchers.
In addition, 30% of respondents said they felt uncomfortable identifying as a target of sexual harassment or feared repercussions, and 59% of respondents said they would feel comfortable discussing such issues with department or division leadership.
“Further research will be done looking at these topics in more detail and more broadly within vascular surgery with the hopes of developing a national task force to develop tools for increasing equity in things such as practice, pay, promotion and tenure,” Smeds said in an interview. “With vascular surgery recruiting more and more female surgeons, now is the time to address these issues and to continue to make vascular surgery as inclusive and appealing to finishing medical graduates as possible.” – by Erik Swain
Smeds M, et al. Abstract VESS18. Presented at: Society for Vascular Surgery Vascular Annual Meeting; June 12-15, 2019; National Harbor, Md.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures