Improving Health Through Medical Physics

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Lauren Courlas Long, MS | Tacoma, WA

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No. 6 — November | December 2018

The 2018 Women Physicist Luncheon was held during the AAPM Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN. Similar to previous years, it was a sold-out event with over 200 attendees and many on the waitlist. This year's luncheon focused on sexual harassment in the workplace and featured an invited speaker. To promote audience participation and make the session more interactive, the Social Q&A web app was used by the audience to ask questions and give live feedback during the keynote presentation.

Jaclyn Marcel, a member of the Women's Professional Subcommittee (WPSC) and Chair of the Luncheon Working Group, kicked off the luncheon by acknowledging and thanking our generous sponsors, who are listed at the end of this article. Laura Cerviño, the WPSC Chair, then gave an update on some of the work coming out of the WPSC and other groups within AAPM. She highlighted the new AAPM events harassment policy published by the Ethics Committee, which all meeting attendees must acknowledge and sign, as well as the new AAPM Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) strategic goal. She also noted the Unconscious Bias SAM session, the Med Phyz Wiz Kidz outreach program, and the AAPM childcare program featured at this year's Annual Meeting. Lastly, Dr. Cervino recognized the accomplishments of the attendees by asking AAPM fellows and award recipients to stand, along with those attendees who had made contributions to the organization by serving as committee chairs and members. It was pointed out later in the luncheon that women hold over half of the AAPM EXCOM positions for 2018, including President-Elect (Cynthia McCollough), Secretary (Susan Richardson), and Chair of the Board (Melissa Martin).

AAPM President, Bruce Thomadsen, followed with his President's Address. Dr. Thomadsen discussed two of his female mentors, including Lucille Du Sault, who shaped his early medical physics experience and career and influenced what he thought a medical physicist should be, and Dolores Buchler, MD. Dr. Thomadsen stressed that AAPM takes diversity very seriously and considers it a top priority, as demonstrated by the new EDI strategic goal that was approved at the last board meeting, but acknowledged that we still have a long way to go.

After the opening remarks, Jaclyn Marcel introduced the keynote speaker for the event, Corbette Doyle, EdD. Dr. Doyle is a senior lecturer in organizational leadership in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University. Her areas of expertise include diversity in the workplace and women's leadership.

Dr. Doyle's talk focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, and what women individually and organizations as a whole can do to combat it. She began her presentation by defining sexual harassment and explaining why sexual harassment definitions matter. She highlighted the large difference between the percentage of women who report that they have been a victim of “sexual harassment” (25%) and the percentage of women who report experiencing sexual harassment behaviors or activities when given a specific list, eg. crude jokes or sexist hostility (60%). Dr. Doyle noted that women in the military and academia, and in the STEM and medical fields specifically, are subject to the most sexual harassment. One big factor in whether sexual harassment remains an issue in a workplace is if the organization has a culture of tolerating or downplaying the seriousness of such behavior.

Prior to the luncheon, a survey had been sent to attendees polling them on their experience with sexual harassment in the workplace, to help guide the presentation. Dr. Doyle reported the results of the survey during the luncheon. It was interesting to note that the respondents were much more likely to tell a friend/family member or a colleague than to take formal action in reporting sexual harassment, indicating a need to make reporting and taking formal action safer in our organizations.

The luncheon presentation highlighted suggestions for what women medical physicists can do for themselves and for their colleagues who experience sexual harassment. The suggestions included keeping detailed records of any incidents, discussing it with a trusted confidant in the workplace, and formally reporting it. Both men and women physicists must participate in changing the culture by taking notice and taking action. This can include speaking out if they observe sexual harassment, calling attention to women's contributions in the workplace, or by speaking up against and not participating in gender hostility (e.g., laughing along to crude jokes).

Employers and organizations must have clearly communicated policies on civility and effective training on sexual harassment in place with a focus on changing behaviors and culture. Dr. Doyle suggested that AAPM needs to make sure there are “teeth” to the new harassment policy and ethics guidelines; as an example, by revoking one's Fellow status for violations. Dr. Doyle ended the presentation by asking attendees to come up with one action item they want to work on with their AAPM colleagues.

This successful luncheon was organized by Jaclyn Marcel, with contributions from other members of the Luncheon Working Group and WPSC, as well as our AAPM staff. It would not have been possible without support from the following luncheon sponsors: at the Platinum level, Fluke Biomedical, Landauer, and RaySafe; at the Gold level, LAP Laser and Nelco Worldwide; at the Silver level, LifeLine Software Inc., MD Anderson Cancer Center, Northwest Medical Physics Center, Radcal, and RIT; at the Bronze level, the American Board of Medical Physics, American College of Radiology, CivaTech Oncology, Modus QA, Sun Nuclear Corporation, and The Phantom Laboratory + Image Owl.

Please consider joining us for the WPSC luncheon at next year's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. It is a great opportunity to network and connect with women medical physicists from different backgrounds and in various stages of their careers. The Luncheon Working Group and WPSC are investigating ways to increase luncheon capacity to allow for more attendees, but as always, be sure to register early!

Attendees of the 2018 WPSC luncheon at the AAPM Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN, are welcomed by WPSC Luncheon Working Group Chair Jaclyn Marcel.
WPSC Chair Laura Cervino gave an update on WPSC activities and the AAPM Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strategic goal to luncheon attendees.

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