Effects of sexual harassment on advancement of women in academic medicine: A multi-institutional longitudinal study

Elsevier, EclinicalMedicine, Volume 20, March 2020, 100298
Authors: 
Anita Raj, Karen M. Freund, Jennifer M. McDonald and Phyllis L.Carr

Background

Sexual harassment of women in academic medicine may impede advancement and productivity. This study analyzes the longitudinal effects of sexual harassment on academic advancement and productivity among women.

Methods

We undertook a longitudinal analysis to predict effects of sexual harassment reported in 1995 on career outcomes measured in 2012–13, among a sample of women in academic medicine (N = 1273) recruited from 24 U.S. medical schools. Measures included survey data from 1995 on sexual harassment (predictor), and 2012–2013 data on retention in academic medicine, rank, leadership positions, and refereed publications (outcomes), captured from surveys and public records. We used multivariable models to test effects of sexual harassment on study outcomes, adjusting for socio-demographics, employment-related variables, and gender discrimination.

Findings

In 1995, 54% of women reported any workplace sexual harassment, and 32% of women reported severe harassment (e.g., threats or coercive sexual advances) in the workplace. Multivariable regression models showed no significant effects of sexual harassment. However, severe sexual harassment was associated with higher odds of attaining full professorship by 2012–2013 (AOR: 1·70; 95% CI 1·03, 2·80; p = 0·04).

Interpretation

Contrary to our hypothesis, women reporting severe workplace harassment in 1995 were more rather than less likely to advance to full professor. Women seeking advancement may be more vulnerable to sexual harassment in academic medicine vis a vis greater exposure to those who abuse their position of authority.