In fields traditionally dominated by men, like engineering, medicine, and law, female employees have made great strides in leveling the playing field. However, women still face a disproportionate amount of gender discrimination in Los Angeles and sexual harassment, regardless of their level of education.
According to a survey reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly a third of female physicians reported experiencing sexual harassment at work compared to just 4% of men. Additionally, 70% of women surveyed said that they had perceived a gender bias in the workplace, and two-thirds reported being passed over, left out, or unable to move forward with career opportunities because of their gender. In comparison, 22% of men reported being aware of a gender bias at work and only 10% had personal experience with it.
1,066 physicians responded to the survey conducted by the University of Michigan Medical School. The survey was sent to all new recipients of National Institutes of Health grants from 2006 through 2009. The grants are usually given to doctors who have been recognized for various achievements in their careers, and the average age of the doctors who responded was 43.
While sexual harassment and gender discrimination is still depressingly common, the numbers have improved. A similar survey of female medical faculty conducted in 1995 noted that over half of women had experienced sexual harassment at work.
Even though the percentage of female doctors experiencing discrimination and harassment has decreased, the results still surprised researchers. Doctors who have entered the workplace in the past two decades attended medical school with an increasing number of women, and today’s medical classes are about 60% men, 40% women. Researchers expected that the changing makeup of medical school classes would lead to less harassment in the workplace, but it is still an ongoing problem.
In addition to problems with harassment and discrimination, female doctors are also continuing to suffer from a wage gap. Last month, a different survey reported that female doctors make about 24% less money than their male colleagues. Some of this discrepancy can be explained due to a different choice of specialties between the genders.
Fields like medicine and laboratory-based sciences have been slow to adapt to the influx of female doctors and scientists. As a result, many women worry that speaking up for fair pay and equal treatment in the workplace could cost them their jobs.
While it can be intimidating to lodge a complaint against an employer, is important to remember that it is illegal to fire or demote a person who complains about sexual harassment or gender discrimination. If a negative employment action occurs, the victim can sue the employer for reinstatement, lost wages, and damages for his or her emotional destress. In some cases, the employer may be liable for punitive damages.
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