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Open Access Publications from the University of California

#MeToo in EM: A Multicenter Survey of Academic Emergency Medicine Faculty on Their Experiences with Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment


Introduction: Gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment of female physicians are well documented. The #MeToo movement has brought renewed attention to these problems. This study examined academic emergency physicians’ experiences with workplace gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of emergency medicine (EM) faculty across six programs. Survey items included the following: the Overt Gender Discrimination at Work (OGDW) Scale; the frequency and source of experienced and observed discrimination; and whether subjects had encountered unwanted sexual behaviors by a work superior or colleague in their careers. For the latter question, we asked subjects to characterize the behaviors and whether those experiences had a negative effect on their self-confidence and career advancement. We made group comparisons using t-tests or chi-square analyses, and evaluated relationships between gender and physicians’ experiences using correlation analyses.

Results: A total of 141 out of 352 (40.1%) subjects completed at least a portion of the survey. Women reported higher mean OGDW scores than men (15.4 vs 10.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.6–6.8). Female faculty were also more likely to report having experienced gender-based discriminatory treatment than male faculty (62.7% vs 12.5%; 95% CI, 35.1%-65.4%), although male and female faculty were equally likely to report having observed gender-based discriminatory treatment of another physician (64.7% vs 56.3%; 95% CI, 8.6%-25.5%). The three most frequent sources of experienced or observed gender-based discriminatory treatment were patients, consulting or admitting physicians, and nursing staff. The majority of women reported having encountered unwanted sexual behaviors in their careers, with a significantly greater proportion of women reporting them compared to men (52.9% vs 26.2%, 95% CI, 9.9%-43.4%). The majority of unwanted behaviors were sexist remarks and sexual advances. Of those respondents who encountered these unwanted behaviors, 22.9% and 12.5% reported at least somewhat negative effects on their self-confidence and career advancement.

Conclusion: Female EM faculty perceived more gender-based discrimination in their workplaces than their male counterparts. The majority of female and approximately a quarter of male EM faculty encountered unwanted sexual behaviors in their careers.


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