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Harassment Remains

Nearly a third of female clinician-researchers report experiencing sexual harassment during the course of their careers, according to a study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The survey shows that gender-based harassment is not yet rare," first author Reshma Jagsi from the University of Michigan tells Stat News. "And the misperception that it is rare can hinder women from speaking out or getting help."

Jagsi and her colleagues followed up on a 1995 survey of academic medical faculty in the US that had found that slightly more than half of female medical faculty reported harassment. In this study, to get a picture of what more recent faculty have experienced, Jagsi and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,000 individuals who had received new K08 and K23 career development awards between 2006 and 2009. Survey items on harassment and bias were included among other career-related questions.

The researchers found that women were more likely than men to report perceptions and experiences of bias in their careers as well as to report personal experiences of sexual harassment. Thirty percent of women reported having experienced sexual harassment, as compared to 4 percent of men. About half the women reporting such harassment said it affected their careers and almost 60 percent said it affected their confidence in themselves as professionals.

"And there is a stigma to being a victim of harassment," Jagsi adds. "Many women want to be recognized for their work. But instead of attention being on her as a scholar, it will be on her as a victim. And being the complainer can have adverse effects on her career."

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