Women, Early Career Cardiologists Most Likely to Experience Emotional, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Discrimination, emotional harassment and sexual harassment contribute to a high global prevalence of a hostile work environment in cardiology, according to results of an ACC survey published May 10 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The survey found that women and cardiologists early in their career are most likely to experience a hostile work environment.

Garima Sharma, MD, FACC, member of ACC's Women in Cardiology Section Leadership Council, et al., sought to assess emotional harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment experienced by cardiologists and its impact on professional satisfaction and patient interactions worldwide. The ACC conducted an online survey with cardiologists in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, the European Union, the Middle East, Oceana, and North, Central, and South America.

Of the 5,931 cardiologists (77% men and 23% women) who responded to the survey, 44% reported a hostile work environment. Higher rates of a hostile work environment were found among women, Blacks and North Americans. Women were more likely to experience emotional harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment. Gender was the most frequent cause of discrimination, followed by age, race, religion and sexual orientation. Multivariate analysis showed that women and early career cardiologists "had the highest odds of experiencing [a hostile work environment]."

Researchers found that 75% of respondents said a hostile work environment adversely affected professional activities with colleagues and 53% of respondents said it adversely affected professional activities with patients.

"A renewed focus on organization structure, processes, and practices to mitigate [hostile work environments] across the globe in cardiology is critical to ensuring workforce well-being and optimal patient care," write the authors.

"[What] is required is not only to deal with individual cases, but to create a healthy culture where a hostile work environment is largely eliminated or significantly reduced," write Javed Butler, MD, MPH, MBA, FACC, and Ileana L. Piña, MD, MS, FACC, in an accompanying editorial comment. "Nurturing such a culture is unlikely to occur by only punitive measures and will require explicit recognition, education, ownership, expectations, reward structures, and a proactive not reactive paradigm. This forward-thinking approach will require effective leadership to set an example to create such a culture."

This topic will be discussed as part of ACC's monthly Diversity and Inclusion webinar series. Stay tuned for details. Register for the May webinar, Addressing Determinants of Health to Improve Outcomes in Cardiovascular Disease: A Focus on Minority Health, taking place Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. ET.

Keywords: Sexual Harassment, Personal Satisfaction, Leadership, Prevalence, Ownership, African Americans, Motivation, Workplace, Gender Identity, Hostility, Educational Status, Patient Care, ACC International

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