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
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.