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Survey: 70% of oncologists faced workplace sexual harassment

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Workplace Sexual Harassment |

A recent survey of medical professionals revealed that 70% of U.S. oncologists – women and men – have been victims of sexual harassment by their peers or supervisors. A total of 80% of the female respondents reported incidents of sexual harassment in the previous 12 months compared with 56% of male oncologists.

Surveyors received these startling findings after reaching out last year to 1,000 members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), a medical professional group. Of the 271 respondents, 153 were women and 118 men. A total of 250 oncologists responded while the remaining 21 were either residents or fellows.

Gender-based harassment, sexual coercion

Most of the 271 respondents – 68% — had been out from training for more than five years, and 62% from academia. Results of the survey included that:

  • Roughly 69% of the respondents cited cases of gender-based harassment. This includes hostile and second-class treatment and the objectification of a person based on gender.
  • A total of 17% noted incidents of unwanted sexual attention, including sexual advances, touching and the pursuit of a sexual relationship.
  • Also, 3% reported they had been sexually coerced by peers and supervisors. This example is when someone makes sexual demands of another, perhaps by threatening their job status or promising job-related benefits.

The survey’s release coincides with a controversy involving a highly touted male oncologist, ousted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for having sexual relations with mentees. Dr. Axel Grothey resigned from the Mayo Clinic in 2018 due to sexual relationships he had with an oncology fellow and a junior faculty member. He is now employed in the Memphis area.

The recent survey reflects similar findings from a 2018 study that revealed 64% of the country’s gynecologic oncologists were victims of sexual harassment while training or in practice.

Sexual harassment can surface in any profession. If you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, do not tolerate such behavior, advocate for yourself and seek advice from a trusted ally.


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