Association of Women Surgeons
Policy Statement on Sexual Harassment

The Association of Women Surgeons advocates for zero tolerance of sexual harassment, which represents the extreme end of the spectrum of gender discrimination. It is defined as verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. Sexual harassment can result in stress, loss of confidence and loss of productivity for individuals but also has system effects on the workplace that may include demoralization, increased turn over, and decreased productivity.  Research on sexual harassment in surgery has found that 20-60% of women medical students, residents, and faculty, have experienced sexual harassment over the course of their professional careers. Up to 15% of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment.  Behaviors that constitute sexual harassment include inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual advances or physical contact of a sexual nature, and quid pro quo where sex is posited explicitly or implicitly as a condition affecting employment or academic status.

The American Medical Association notes that consensual sexual relationships between trainees and their supervisors also raise concerns because of the inherent inequity in status and power between the individuals.  If these relationships occur or develop, they should be disclosed and the supervisory role eliminated.

The mission of the Association of Women Surgeons is to inspire, encourage and enable women surgeons to realize their professional and personal goals.  We are committed to fostering an environment for the practice of surgery which is supportive, fair, and in which all individuals are treated with respect and tolerance.  Sexual harassment must not be tolerated within the surgical community.

 

References:

http://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/2014/03/coet1-1403.html

Schroen A, Brownstein M, Sheldon G. Women in academic general surgery. Academic Medicine 2004;79(4):310-18

Rostami F, Ahmed A, Best A, Laskin D. The changing personal and professional characteristics of women in oral and maxillofacial surgery. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2010;68:381-5

Capek L, Edwards D, Mackinnon S. Plastic surgeons: a gender comparison. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 1997;99(2):289-99

Stratton T, McLaughlin M, Witte F, Fosson S, Nora LM. Does students’ exposure to gender discrimination and sexual harassment in medical school affect specialty choice and residency program selection? Academic Medicine 2005;80(4):400-8

Nora LM, McLaughlin M, Fosson S, Stratton T, Murphy-Spencer A, Fincher RM, German D, Seiden D, Witzke D. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment in medical education: perspectives gained by a 14-school study. Academic Medicine 2002;77(12):1226-34

Witte F, Stratton T, Nora LM. Stories from the field: students’ descriptions of gender discrimination and sexual harassment during medical school. Academic Medicine 2006;81(7):648-54

 

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The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) is committed to supporting women surgeons at various stages in their career – from medical school through retirement. Join our community of support and please consider making a contribution to the Foundation to help AWS work on pay equity.