Workplace stressors: Gender bias and harassment

Residency Program Insider, October 4, 2019

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Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Resident Well-Being: A Guide for Residency Programs. For more information about this book, click here.

Although efforts to improve the female physician workforce have been successful (as demonstrated by the fact that nearly 50% of medical school classes are now female), women in training are no strangers to gender bias and harassment in the workplace. Examples include not being recognized as a physician by their patients or even other members of the treatment team, as well as inappropriate sexual comments or behavior by patients and peers.

Such instances are often fleeting, but they can leave a lasting impression. Increased efforts to remind patients kindly that the female resident is indeed their doctor and to deflect unwanted sexual remarks in the workplace can be exhausting and discouraging. These instances also distract from medical education.

Although it is unrealistic to expect that residency programs can entirely rid the workplace of bias and harassment, it is fair to expect that such programs support their female residents. They can do so by providing all trainees with education on recognizing harassment and encouraging reporting. Each institution has its own policy regarding discrimination and harassment. Programs must familiarize themselves with these policies, as well as ensure that residents receive them at some point in their orientation. Residents should also be provided with the appropriate channels for confidentially reporting issues. Residency programs can also help combat gender bias by ensuring that female trainees are well represented in resident leadership positions and have strong female mentors.

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