Medical Technology

Workplace Discrimination Common in Hepatology

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Hepatologists, particularly women and racial/ethnic minorities, commonly experience discrimination in the workplace, according to a cross-sectional survey of members of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

“Widespread workplace discrimination” has been described in other areas of medicine but less is known about discrimination in hepatology, Dr. Lauren Feld, a gastroenterology/transplant hepatology fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle, said in presenting the results at the AASLD’s Liver Meeting.

Using the AASLD listserv, she and her colleagues surveyed 199 hepatologists (130 women; 60% white; 27% Asian/Pacific Islander) about their experience of workplace discrimination.

“Unfortunately, we found very high rates of workplace discrimination,” said Dr. Feld, who serves on the AASLD Women’s Initiatives Committee.

Among the key findings of the survey:

– 75% of women and 37% of men report workplace discrimination.

– Twice as many women as men say they are not included in administrative decision-making.

– More than 40% of women and 7.5% of men report being treated disrespectfully from nursing or support staff.

– About 40% of women and 13% of men report receiving unequal pay.

– About a quarter of women and 4.5% of men say they were held to higher standards of performance than their peers.

– 17% of women and 10% of men feel they are not fairly considered for promotions or senior management positions.

– Two hepatologists reported sexual harassment in their workplace.

“Black and Hispanic women more frequently experienced workplace discrimination compared to their white counterparts,” Dr. Feld reported. Overall, she said the findings are “consistent with anecdotal experience that we’ve heard about.”

This survey is “the first step, the descriptive step” that hopefully will lead to interventions to reduce bias and recruit, promote and retain women and physicians from underrepresented ethnicities to the field of hepatology, Dr. Feld said.

“Major areas to address are lack of inclusion and administrative decision-making, pay disparities and disrespectful treatment by nursing and support staff,” she said.

“The support of national organizations like AASLD will be hugely impactful in combating discrimination and biases. Increasing institutional support and research funding for this work will be essential, as in the past obtaining funding has been very difficult,” Dr. Feld added.

SOURCE: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, held November 12-15, 2021.

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