The wake of the #MeToo movement encouraged women all over the country to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Recently, a California-based surgeon called out the prevalence of sexual harassment in the medical world, drawing from her own experiences as a young female resident several years ago. She explained that she was one of many female professionals who often faced unwanted advances from her male superiors. When asked about how she responded to those incidents, the former resident spoke about how the nature of the medical field can make it difficult to tackle sexual harassment. Some factors of the medical world that may threaten the civil rights of its female professionals include:
- Hierarchy: The medical field has a hierarchical nature, where your professional status matters, and your worth may be largely defined by the number of years you’ve spent studying and working. Young medical residents tend to be treated as lowly interns, whereas “physicians and top administrators are at the peak and feel free to mistreat nurses and others they see as being underneath them.” Because of this, women of various medical ranks may end up prioritizing their professional status over their civil rights.
- Male-dominated world: A study revealed that there are twice as many male doctors than there are female doctors in the United States. This means that women are the minority in the medical world, and that those below physician status such as nurses or residents could be more vulnerable to sexual harassment. The surgeon recalled how many male physicians were not as accustomed to seeing their female colleagues work their way up in the medical field, and that “instead of embracing their rise, (they) act inappropriately toward them instead.”
- High stress levels: It is no surprise that a career in the medical world can be demanding. According to the surgeon, everyone was often busy and exhausted at work, and although the presence of sexual harassment was common knowledge among female residents, no one had the energy to speak up. Instead, many found it easier to accept it as normal behavior.
Encouraging more women in the medical field to speak up
Although sexual harassment continues to occur in the medical world, there is hope that efforts like the #MeToo movement may continue to empower women to speak up. Calling out the male-dominated and hierarchical culture of the medical field may be the first step to exposing sexual harassment in the world of medicine.