Nearly one-third of female healthcare executives who participated in a new study say they have been the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The unexpected finding of the study, a survey of healthcare executives on sex-related issues in the workplace, was so startling that the study's lead sponsor, the American College of Healthcare Executives, passed an emergency resolution condemning sexual harassment. It also recommended several measures to guard against such problems.
"I was shocked and appalled at the sexual harassment findings," said ACHE President Thomas Dolan, who characterized the results as "real" rather than a fluke of the survey. "I hope our membership is just as appalled. I hope they do everything they can to combat sexual harassment."
Dolan said the ACHE never had a sexual harassment policy for its membership because "we didn't know the magnitude of the problem."
The Chicago-based ACHE will publish the results of the study and the new policy statement in the November/December edition of the ACHE's journal, Healthcare Executive. The study's co-sponsors are the health services administration department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Chicago office of Lamalie Amrop International, a search firm.
MODERN HEALTHCARE obtained a copy of the study and the ACHE's new policy statement late last week.
The study is based on a survey of about 700 healthcare executives. Some 54% of the respondents were female; 46% were men. By comparison, approximately 68% of the ACHE's 27,477 members are male; 32% are female.
The pool of surveyed executives included chief executive officers, chief operating officers, vice presidents and department heads. The survey queried the executives about general employment issues and specific sexual issues in their places of employment.
While healthcare executives continue to publicly talk about promoting sexual and racial equality in their management ranks, the survey revealed that female executives believe little progress has been made in what is often characterized as an "old boys" network.
Some 29% of the female health-care executives surveyed said they had been sexually harassed by a co-worker within the past five years. By comparison, only 5% of the male executives said they were victims of sexual harassment during the same period.
On key employment issues, female executives also said they were shortchanged because of their sex. For example, some 48% of the female respondents said they failed to be paid fairly for their work. No male respondent said he was underpaid because of his sex.
A statistical anal-ysis by the researchers uncovered evidence supporting the female executives' views. The study said female healthcare executives earned an average of 16% less than their male counterparts with similar jobs, experience and education levels.
Also, 33% of the female respondents said they failed to be promoted because they were women, and 12% said they weren't hired for a job because they were women. Only 4% of the male respondents cited their sex as the reason for not getting a job or a promotion.
The views of the female healthcare executives were so dramatic that they prompted the executive committee of the ACHE's board of governors to adopt an emergency public policy statement on sexual harassment. The ACHE says healthcare executives must maintain "zero tolerance" of sexual harassment and demonstrate that with specific actions.
The ACHE's full board of governors is expected to adopt the policy at its meeting next month.