While women are still underrepresented in otolaryngology and other surgical specialties, they are even further underrepresented in positions of leadership. One analysis noted that four of 103 academic otolaryngology departments had female chairs in 2011 (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012;147:40–43). Of 1,054 academic otolaryngologists examined, women comprised 24% of assistant professors, 20% of associate professors, and 12% of professors.
In a separate study, Drs. Eloy and Chandrasekhar also found gender disparity in financial relationships between industry and academic otolaryngologists (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;143:796–802). For instance, among 1,514 academic otolaryngologists, 1,202 (79.4%) were men and 312 (20.6%) were women. In 2014, industry contributed a total of $4.9 million to academic otolaryngologists. Of that money, $4.3 million (88.5%) went to men, in a population in which 79.4% were male.
Drs. Eloy and Chandrasekhar also found gender differences in NIH grant funding in otolaryngology. Individual mean NIH awards to men ($362,946 ± $21,247 standard error of mean) were higher than those granted to women ($287,188 ± $38,029). Furthermore, of all NIH grants awarded, men had a higher percentage of the more prestigious R-series grants (76.2%) than did women (63.4%) (Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;149:77–83). “Researchers need to have significant money to fund projects in order to be academically productive,” Dr. Eloy said. “Men have a significant advantage compared to women in that regard.”
Pay disparities also exist between men and women. Not only are female physicians not considered for leadership roles as frequently as males, but females are also not paid at the same level or proportionally to males, said Katie L. Fechte, an employment and labor attorney at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., in St. Louis.
Other Causes of Gender Disparity
Dr. Eloy also thinks that, due to our past culture, many people still have implicit bias against women excelling in the workplace. “It’s hard to break old habits,” he said.
Another reason for gender disparity can be linked to women’s family responsibilities. “For the majority of couples, the woman takes on the bulk of the family work,” Dr. Eloy said. “I think that still happens a lot because, biologically, the woman is more involved; men don’t birth a child. Gender disparities can decrease as men start sharing more of the family responsibilities, including household chores and child care. This will enable women [to have] more freedom to pursue career opportunities.”
As a faculty member, opportunities weren’t evenly dispersed. Most healthcare providers in the otolaryngology field are men, and they typically reach out to other men with opportunities. —Melissa A Pynnonen, MD
Examining Sexual Harassment
Among the many forms of sexual harassment are lewd innuendos, touching, groping, assault, and rape. “Most examples are generalized or ‘innocent’ sexist remarks and behavior made by male patients (i.e., ‘I should really come to the hospital more often’),” Harris said. The most common examples of sexual harassment by co-workers emerge between male physicians and female nursing staff in the form of “locker room talk.”