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. Further characterization of the reported sexual harassment experienced by orthopaedic surgeons is warranted, especially as it relates to women trainees.
(1) What is the overall proportion of women orthopaedic surgeons who reported having experienced sexual harassment during their orthopaedic residency? (2) Is the proportion of current orthopaedic trainees who report having experienced sexual harassment at work lower than the proportion of women attending orthopaedic surgeons who recall having been sexually harassed during their residency years? (3) Does this finding differ based on location of residency training?
An anonymous 12-question online survey was distributed between October 2019 and December 2019 to the 682 active and resident members of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, a professional society for women orthopaedic surgeons. The survey was created by Speak Up, an organization that is dedicated to identifying and correcting sources of workplace sexual harassment. Though not validated, the authors felt that this survey was the most easily adaptable to reflect orthopaedic training, and the authors felt it had good face validity for the purpose in a study of this kind. A total of 37% (250 of 682) of those contacted returned completed surveys. Twenty percent (51 of 250) were current residents, and 80% (199 of 250) were currently in fellowship or in practice. All survey respondents self-identified as women. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive and comparative statistics to determine the differences in proportions of sexual harassment among current residents and attendings, as well as differences in geographic locations.
Sixty-eight percent (171 of 250) of women reported having experienced sexual harassment during their orthopaedic training. We found no differences between current and past trainees in terms of the proportion who reported having experienced sexual harassment during residency training (59% [30 of 51] versus 71% [141 of 199], odds ratio 0.59 [95% CI 0.31 to 1.11]; p = 0.10). Compared with the northeast region of the United States, we found no differences in the proportion of women who reported having experienced sexual harassment during residency training in the South region (65% [55 of 84] versus 67% [36 of 54], OR 1.06 [95% CI 0.51 to 1.17]; p = 0.89), the Midwest region (75% [53 of 71], OR 1.55 [95% CI 0.77 to 3.12); p = 0.22), or the West region 66% [27 of 41], OR 1.02 [95% CI 0.46 to 2.23); p = 0.97).
We found that a high proportion of women orthopaedic trainees report having experienced sexual harassment during orthopaedic residency. 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.
Level of Evidence
Level II, prognostic study.