Background: Gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment are common in medical practice and may be even more prevalent in academic medicine.
Objective: To examine the prevalence of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment among medical school faculty and the associations of gender-based discrimination with number of publications, career satisfaction, and perceptions of career advancement.
Design: A self-administered mailed questionnaire of U.S. medical school faculty that covered a broad range of topics relating to academic life.
Setting: 24 randomly selected medical schools in the contiguous United States.
Participants: A random sample of 3332 full-time faculty, stratified by specialty, graduation cohort, and sex.
Measurements: Prevalence of self-reported experiences of discrimination and harassment, number of peer-reviewed publications, career satisfaction, and perception of career advancement.
Results: Female faculty were more than 2.5 times more likely than male faculty to perceive gender-based discrimination in the academic environment (P < 0.001). Among women, rates of reported discrimination ranged from 47% for the youngest faculty to 70% for the oldest faculty. Women who reported experiencing negative gender bias had similar productivity but lower career satisfaction scores than did other women (P< 0.001). About half of female faculty but few male faculty experienced some form of sexual harassment. These experiences were similarly prevalent across the institutions in the sample and in all regions of the United States. Female faculty who reported being sexually harassed perceived gender-specific bias in the academic environment more often than did other women (80% compared with 61 %) and more often reported experiencing gender bias in professional advancement (72% compared with 47%). Publications, career satisfaction, and professional confidence were not affected by sexual harassment, and self-assessed career advancement was only marginally lower for female faculty who had experienced sexual harassment (P = 0.06).
Conclusion: Despite substantial increases in the number of female faculty, reports of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment remain common.