Female radiology residents are 31 times more likely to experience discrimination than men

A new analysis reveals just how often radiology residents—and which ones—are on the receiving end of discriminatory behavior in the workplace. 

The results of this latest survey, which was distributed to program directors across the U.S., suggest that more than 30% of radiology residents are the victim of some sort of discrimination during their residency, and another 31% said they had witnessed discriminatory behavior directed toward another. 

According to the responses, females are most often the target of bias in the workplace, with women being more than 31 times more likely than men to be the victim of some form of prejudice during residency. 

The survey included a section where respondents were asked to describe the discriminatory behavior they had experienced. Many detailed incidents with patients, attendings and other medical staff who spoke down to or questioned women working as physicians. 

“Numerous comments made by patients and their family members about my looks and gender. One even said: ‘They let women be doctor's now?!’ followed by laughing. I have been asked more than once if I am married and how my husband feels about me being a doctor,” one respondent wrote. 

Another said that the inappropriate comments are particularly bad for women who are perceived as overweight. 

“Those who are overweight suffer most. We are also told that we are sloppy and lazy for being overweight,” the comment reads. “Female physicians are expected to tolerate verbal abuse without comment.” 

Race, nationality and immigration status fell in line behind gender for most discriminated against. The perpetrators of such behavior varied, but radiology attendings were most often accused of inappropriate interactions, followed by co-residents, patients, technologists and nurses. 

Concerningly, just 20% of the incidents the residents experienced were reported to a superior, and only a small handful of those felt that the outcome was positive. 

Some of the women’s comments alluded to fear of being reprimanded as the root of their hesitancy to tell a superior about what they were experiencing. 

“...as female residents we need to stay quiet, endure the abuse and harassment because they will hurt our careers,” one wrote. 

“Everyone in charge at our institution is male and thinks the female residents are 'whiny.' We are told to keep our heads down and not cause problems,” another stated. 

Corresponding author of the paper Aline Camargo, MD, with the department of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, noted that the respondents did have positive insight pertaining to training on discrimination and harassment. The group suggested that this data could be used to address the root causes of prejudice in radiology departments. 

“We believe that our data can help residency programs to better understand their intrinsic sources of discrimination, which can be silently pervasive and negatively affect the trainee's well-being and academic performance,” the team wrote, adding that residency programs should frequently check in with residents and monitor their well-being. 

The study abstract can be viewed here

Hannah murhphy headshot

In addition to her background in journalism, Hannah also has patient-facing experience in clinical settings, having spent more than 12 years working as a registered rad tech. She joined Innovate Healthcare in 2021 and has since put her unique expertise to use in her editorial role with Health Imaging.

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