The Journal of Clinical Oncology surveyed practicing oncologists, oncology residents, and fellows to determine the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment in their field. 271 medical professionals completed the journal’s Sexual Experiences Questionnaire. 56% of respondents were women; 44% of respondents were men.
The survey asked respondents to separately categorize harassment by colleagues and patients. It further segmented harassment into the three following categories: gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.
In total, 70% of respondents, regardless of gender, reported that they had experienced some type of harassment in the past year. Below, we take a deeper dive into the study’s findings.
Women Are Harassed At Higher Rates Than Men
Across almost all types of sexual harassment, women suffered higher rates than men. The only exceptions were unwanted sexual attention from patients (men were 1 percentage point higher) and sexual coercion from patients (both sexes reported 1%).
The Majority Of Harassment Comes From Colleagues
The study found that most of the harassment was conducted by the victim’s peers or superiors. 80% of female respondents, and 56% of male respondents, were harassed by colleagues. In comparison, 67% of women and 35% of men were harassed by patients.
Unfortunately, colleague harassment may be more difficult for the victim to address. The victim is forced to work with their harasser on a consistent basis and may suffer repeat harassment. If the harasser is a superior, the victim may also fear retribution if they report the issue.
How Has Sexual Harassment Impacted Oncologists?
The Journal of Clinical Oncology found that sexual harassment was tied to the following negative outcomes:
- Diminished mental health
- Diminished feelings of workplace safety
- Increased turnover
Medical professionals who were harassed by colleagues (but not by patients) also had lower overall job satisfaction.
Alarmingly High Harassment Trends Serve as a Call for Change
This was the first study conducted among oncologists to document their experiences with workplace sexual harassment. The fact that more than half of both women and men were harassed in the last year is troubling. In many instances, victims fail to report their harassment, so the actual rates of harassment may be higher than the study’s numbers show.
Sexual harassment among oncologists is a prevalent problem that must be addressed by hospitals and other medical facilities to protect the physical and emotional health of doctors, residents, and fellows. Hopefully, this bleak survey data will spark positive workplace change.