ASMOF survey findings on Sexual Harassment & Gender Equity - most female doctors have experienced sexual harassment at work


A big thanks to all our members who participated in ASMOF’s survey on Sexual Harassment and Gender Equity in Medicine and shared their ideas for how these issues can be addressed in the workplace.

Our findings are alarming, revealing that most female doctors have been sexually harassed in their workplace. Whilst 35% of 301 respondents overall had experienced sexual harassment, 55% of female doctors reported that they were sexually harassed in their workplace. Female Doctors in Training were even more likely to have experienced sexual harassment (61%).

A significant proportion of doctors (29%) also reported that they had witnessed sexual harassment in their workplace, with male and female respondents reporting that they had witnessed sexual harassment at equal rates.

Respondents most commonly reported that the perpetrator of sexual harassment were fellow doctors (70%). A significant proportion (43%) identified a patient or service user as perpetrating sexual harassment, and a further 35% of doctors identified another colleague as the perpetrator.

The internal and external processes around reporting sexual harassment and outcomes for doctors are of a significant concern for ASMOF. Comments in the survey highlight the fear surrounding reporting, particularly the impact this may have on a doctor’s careers.

It is extremely important that fair reporting systems are put in place and that there are consequences for perpetrators.However considering the widespread under-reporting of sexual harassment, we also believe employers must be proactive about creating safe and equitable work environments, and act before complaints are made. Our members commonly wanted to see cultural change in their workplace, through education, policies and strong leadership from senior medical staff.

The findings of our survey also reveal that sex-based discrimination continues to occur, and that there are significant challenges for doctors in balancing their work with parenting and caring responsibilities which must be urgently addressed. Better access to parental leave and flexibility in training and work arrangements were commonly requested by our members.

The full results of the survey are detailed in our Federal submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Workplaces which is attached below. Comments and insights from our members are included in this submission.

ASMOF has recommended the following to the Australian Human Rights Commission:

  1. Reform the legal framework (including Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Fair Work Act 2009 and WHS legislation) and resource regulators, as per ACTU’s recommendations, to ensure sexual harassment and gender inequities are actively addressed in doctors’ workplaces.
  2. Embed doctors’ rights to harassment free workplace and equitable conditions within their industrial agreements, as outlined in ASMOF and AMA’s Bargaining Framework.
  3. Initiate a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to addressing all forms of sexual harassment in health services which is tailored to our medical workforce. This should incorporate the following key measures:

            •Strong leadership and support for future female leaders

            •Education and awareness which includes bystander education

            •Safe, transparent and independent internal reporting mechanisms with meaningful action following identified misconduct

            •Clear guidelines and policy

We will continue to analyse the results of the survey and advocate for harassment-free workplaces and more equitable conditions for all our members.

If you have comments or questions get in touch with our Policy Officer, Carolina Simpson: