Nearly 70% of Female Orthopedic Surgeons Report Sexual Harassment During Residency

More than two-thirds of female orthopedic surgeons reported experiencing sexual harassment during residency, according to a survey.

“The field of orthopaedic surgery is not free from sexual harassment, with one recent study revealing that 47% of surveyed American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) members reported experiencing sexual harassment during their careers,” the study authors wrote. “Further characterization of the reported sexual harassment experienced by orthopaedic surgeons is warranted, especially as it relates to women trainees.”

To ascertain just how prevalent this problem is, the researchers shared a 12-question online survey with active and resident Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (RJOS) members. The survey was created by an organization called Speak Up, whose mission is to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the 682 women who received the survey, 250 (37%) completed it, including current residents (n=51, 20%) and women currently in fellowship or practice (n=199, 80%). The researchers sought to identify differences between sexual harassment based on geographic location and between residents versus attendings.

Overall, 68% of respondents (n=171) said they experienced sexual harassment during residency. There were no significant differences between current versus past trainees (59% [n=30/51] vs. 71% [n=141/199]; odds ratio [OR]=0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.31 to 1.11; P=0.10). Sexual harassment rates did not differ by region: Northeast (65% [n=55/84]; reference) South (67% [n=36/54]; OR=1.06; 95% CI, 0.51 to 1.17; P=0.89), Midwest (75% [n=53/71]; OR=1.55; 95% CI, 0.77 to 3.12; P=0.22), and West (66% [n=27/41]; OR=1.02; 95% CI, 0.46 to 2.23; P=0.97).

The study was published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®.

In a related article published in CORR Insights®, Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, wrote, “The message is clear: women in orthopaedic surgery have experienced sexual harassment during and after their training, regardless of their geographic location, from colleagues and supervising faculty who were men.” The present study, coupled with other recent research on the topic, “has clearly documented and confirmed that sexual harassment exists to a meaningful degree in orthopaedic surgery,” with offenses ranging from “at best, thoughtless behavior and, at worst, sexual bullying and assault, creating a demeaning and disruptive work environment.”

To combat the issue, the authors of the original study recommended, “Residency programs should take steps to further identify and combat the sources of sexual harassment by increasing the number of women in leadership roles within the department and by ensuring that women trainees have adequate mentorship from both women and men attendings. After such measures are implemented, future studies should aim to evaluate their efficacy.”