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Healthcare Trends

Survey Report: Female physicians receive less respect and more harassment than their male counterparts

Executive Summary

Women recently overtook men in the number of potential physicians entering medical school. If that trend holds, there may be a future where there are more female physicians than male. However, today women are still greatly outnumbered in the medical field (65% of physicians are men) and they are often dealing with more workplace issues than their male counterparts. CompHealth surveyed more than 700 female and male physicians to find out their thoughts on the work environment, leadership opportunities, work/life balance, and workplace harassment.

Women physicians face more harassment at work than men

While women and men face different types of harassment in the workplace — women receive the brunt of it. Only 12% of women reported having never dealt with some form of sexual harassment versus 38% of men. Women are also more likely to experience discrimination, insubordination, retaliation, physical violence, and sexual harassment than men. Eighteen percent of women had reported leaving a job because of harassment compared to 10% of men.

Collectively, both women (83%) and men (73%) felt the medical industry has an issue with harassment, but the majority have never even considered leaving the field over it. Twenty percent of men and 7% of women stated the medical industry does not have an issue with harassment.

Women also witnessed far more harassment of other women than they did of men. Men witnessed more harassment of women than they did of men but still saw much fewer numbers, usually less than half of the number of women reporting.

There are also great differences in how women and men view their organizations efforts to fight harassment. Men were more likely to think their organizations had harassment policies, training, and clear reporting processes in place.

Women physicians receive less respect

The perception of life as a physician varies greatly depending on your gender. While 69% of men felt that women and men were respected equally in their organizations only 34% of women agreed. And 63% of women felt that men were more respected than women.

Female physicians were also significantly more likely to state that they are treated differently by administration, other physicians and patients than their male peers. Eighty-seven percent of women feel patients treat them differently than men while only 58% of men feel they are treated differently. Similar numbers were found when looking at treatment by nurses, administration, other physicians and other staff.

Women physicians have less opportunities for leadership

Both women (63%) and men (69%) are confident in their ability to fulfill their career aspirations and the majority feel they have advanced in their careers. However, women are less comfortable in being assertive and are less likely to think promotions are based on fair criteria or that the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees.

When it comes to actual advancement opportunities there is a big disparity in what women and men think. Seventy percent of men feel opportunities for their gender are the same as for women, while just 49% of women feel the same. Comparatively, women were far more likely to think opportunities were worse (49% of women compared to 13% of men).

Survey Report

Harassment

Women are much more likely to experience discrimination than their male counterparts (45% versus 25%), they are also less likely to report not having ever experienced or seen harassment (52% of men versus 37% of women). Women are also more likely to face insubordination and sexual harassment than men.

Looking at harassment support within the organizations they work, female physicians have much lower opinions on the support given to those who report harassment.

 

Harassment witnessed or experienced

Support for victims of harassment

Harassment is more likely to drive a woman to leave a job (18%) or to consider leaving medicine entirely (15%). Both women and men agree that medical industry has an issue with harassment, but it hasn’t pushed them to change careers (63% of men, and 66% of women).

Harassment’s effect on staying at a  job

Leaving medicine due to harassment

Sexual harassment is a much bigger issue for female physicians with only 12% reporting not having experienced some form of sexual harassment compared to 38% of men. For women, the largest form of harassment is verbal remarks of a sexual nature (77%) followed by unwanted touching (37%) and lustful staring (35%). For men, the largest form of harassment is also verbal remarks of a sexual nature (48%) followed by lustful staring (27%) and persistent and unwanted invitations of a sexual nature (25%).

Sexual harassment experienced

The report asked both women and men how often they witnessed harassment toward women. Women observed harassment much more than men and in very different ways. In almost every category women witnessed substantially more harassment of other women than men witnessed of their female coworkers. Forty-nine percent of women witnessed discrimination and insubordination towards women compared to just 16% (discrimination) and 14% (insubordination) of men witnessing the same behavior aimed at women.

While women in all specialties witness more harassment than their male counterparts, women, specifically  in emergency medicine (68%) and surgery (71%), are significantly more likely than any other specialties (45%) to experience discrimination. Women in surgery are significantly more likely than other specialties to experience sexual harassment (65% compared to 24% of women in all specialties).

The behavior that men most reported witnessing women deal with was cyberbullying (19%) while only 8% of women only reported seeing cyberbullying. Comparatively, women witnessed retaliation (36%), physical violence (33%), and sexual harassment (29%). Men reported seeing those same behaviors less than half those numbers.

Witnessing harassment towards women – male perspective

Witnessing harassment towards women – female perspective

Looking at harassment aimed at male physicians, men reported witnessing more retaliation (22%) compared to women (3%). Men also reported witnessing more discrimination (23% for men, and 10% for women) and cyberbullying aimed at men (23% for men, and 8% for women)

Women were much less likely to notice any harassment of men.

Witnessing harassment towards men – male perspective

Witnessing harassment towards men – female perspective

According to the survey many organizations lack known policies and trainings for specific types of harassment other than sexual harassment and discrimination. When asked if their organization had a policy or training to address the types of harassment they had witnessed, men were more likely to report that their organizations did have policies or trainings in place compared to women. Women were significantly less likely to believe their organizations were able to address the issues of sexual harassment, physical violence, or retaliation.

Organization has policy

Organization has training

The numbers widen when asked about HR specific trainings and clear reporting processes for harassment. For example, 82% of men thought their organization had a clear reporting process for sexual harassment while only 49% of women reported the same.

Organization has HR specific training

Organization has clear reporting process

Respect in the workplace

The perception of life as a physician varies greatly depending on your gender. While 69% of men feel that women and men are respected equally in their organizations, only 34% of women agree. Sixty-three percent of women feel that men are more respected than women.

Views on gender equality are also mixed with 12% of men reporting that gender equality is poor in their organization compared to 41% of women.

Perception of respect by gender

 

Perception of gender equality in organizations

Female physicians are significantly more likely to state they are treated differently by administration, other physicians, and patients than their male peers. Eighty-seven percent of women feel patients treat them differently than men, while only 58% of men feel they are treated differently. Similar numbers were found when looking at treatment by nurses, administration, other physicians, and other staff.

Further, women in psychiatry are more likely than any specialty to believe they are being treated differently by patients (91%) compared to their male counterpart (48%), and women in emergency medicine are more likely than any other specialty to report being treated worse compared to men by being overlooked or feeling ignored (41% compared to 5% of men).

Are you treated differently because of your gender? Male perspective

Are you treated differently because of your gender? Female perspective

When asked how women and men were treated, women reported feeling more ignored, being given more undesirable work, and receiving less support. Men also reported being given undesirable work and receiving less support, however, 60% of men responded “none of the above” to the “treated worse” options as compared to 34% of women.

Although both women and men reported similar instances of having more expected of them, 21% of men reported being given more attention or singled out compared to just 6% of women. Looking at all of the “treated better” options, only 48% of women reported “none of the above” compared to 59% of men.

Are you treated worse because of your gender?

Are you treated worse because of your gender?

Overall, female physicians across all specialties feel that they receive less respect in the workplace, are treated differently, and are treated worse than their male counterparts. This is exacerbated in specific specialties such as emergency medicine (81% of women feel men are more respected) and OBGYN (73% of women feel men are more respected).

Leadership

Both women and men are confident in their ability to fulfill their career aspirations (63% of women, and 69% of men) and the majority have advanced in their careers, but men still rate higher (58% of women, and 69% of men). In addition, women are less comfortable in being assertive and are less likely to think promotions are based on fair criteria or that the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees.

Attitudes towards advancement opportunities

Looking specifically at advancement opportunities, there is a big disparity in what women and men think. Seventy percent of men feel that opportunities for their gender are the same as that for women, while just 49% of women feel the same. Comparatively, women were far more likely to think opportunities were worse (49% of women compared to 13% of men).

Opportunities for advancement

Women across all specialties report having worse advancement opportunities than men. However, women in surgery feel that opportunities for advancement are even worse for their gender (35% of women feel there are advancement opportunities compared to 62% of men). Women in surgery are also the least likely to believe that the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees (just 6% of women compared to 49% of men).

When it comes to work performance, both women (74%) and men (75%) rank themselves as being above average or higher. However, when asked how they thought the opposite gender would rate them, the numbers changed. Seventy percent of men ranked women’s work performance at above average or higher, while women thought only 59% of men would rank them that high.

Challenges at work

All physicians face challenges in their work, and both women and men reported facing issues with work/life balance, leadership opportunities, and compensation. In general, women across specialties believe they face more challenges in medicine than men, particularly with respects to work/life balance. Women in surgery are significantly more likely than other specialties to place work/life balance as a top challenge for females in medicine (82% compared to 65% of women in all specialties).

Perceptions of challenges at work, by gender

Pay

There were no significant differences between women and men with respects to income changes or the magnitude of those changes. However, across all specialties, female physicians reported lower levels of annual income compared to men and generally feel that they are paid worse than men. This is especially true for female OBGYNs, who are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to earn less than $200,000 each year (only 13% of men reported making less than $200,000 compared to 50% of women). Additionally, women in surgery are more likely than any other specialties to feel they have lower pay than their male peers with 53% of women feeling they make less money compared to just 4% of men.

Reported income

Pay compared to peers

Family

The career of a physician is hard; it takes years of training and long hours to finally become a doctor. So, it’s not surprising that 71% of both women and men reported that their careers had limited the amount of time they were able to spend with their families. They also spend less time with friends and feel there is less sympathy for physicians’ work/life balance and family situations due to their larger salaries.

Work/life balance

While women and men both face similar difficulties with work/life balance, women are more likely than men to reduce their work hours, take time off, switch to part time, turn down a promotion, or quit their jobs in order to take care of their families. In addition, women are more likely to have delayed starting a family than men (74% versus 52%).

Sacrifices for family/child care

 

Delayed starting family – males 

Delayed starting family – females

Female physicians are also significantly more likely to have taken parental leave than men (45% versus 20%). Some organizations offered paid parental leave but more were likely to just offer unpaid leave as required by the Fair Work Act 2009.

Does your organization offer paid parental leave?

Used paid parental leave – males

Delayed starting family – females

Methodology

CompHealth, in partnership with Hanover Research, administered a survey to 781 female and male physicians. The goal of the study was to identify the perceptions women and men have about the healthcare industry and each other in relation to harassment, leadership, family-life, and other areas impacting a physician’s life at work.

About CompHealth

CompHealth is a national leader in healthcare staffing, serving providers in more than 100 specialties. CompHealth was founded in 1979 and is now the largest locum tenens staffing agency in the U.S. The company also specializes in permanent physician placement and both temporary and permanent allied healthcare staffing. CompHealth is part of the CHG Healthcare family of companies, which has ranked on FORTUNE magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” for the past 10 years.

 

About the author

Avatar

Chad Saley

Chad Saley is a public relations manager at CHG Healthcare, the parent company of CompHealth.

2 Comments

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  • This is an irresponsible and incredibly sexist “study”. Male physicians are harassed just as much if not MORE than females. You can prove anything you want with statistics. Walk a mile in my shoes! I hate going to work because of what I have been subjected to, but I have no other option. The difference is, when the male is harassed, no one cares and nothing is done! NOTHING!! It’s a double standard that gives abusive females (both Nurses and Physicians) free reign to abuse male colleagues with IMPUNITY. WAKE UP!!!

    • Thank you for your feedback. Our survey interviewed both men and women about their experiences working in healthcare, and you can view the responses we received from both genders in our report. If a bad work environment is affecting your ability to do your job, please contact a human resources representative in your company to share your experiences.

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