Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago found that real-world sexism and harassment against female physicians also exists in online networking spaces. There are many perks to social media networking for men, but these perks are not as plentiful for women.

The team’s findings mirror the struggle that women face in person when trying to advance their careers. This phenomenon not only exists in the medical field, but it also happens in traditionally male-dominated fields. This is concerning because the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted many interpersonal interactions to the online space.Source: UnsplashSource: Unsplash

During the study, 577 participants completed a survey sent via a traceable link on Twitter from February 6 to March 20, 2019. Participants were asked to identify as male, female, non-binary/third gender or "prefer to self describe". None of the participants chose non-binary/third gender or prefer to self describe. Those who chose "prefer not to say" were excluded. The survey asked participants if they agree or disagree with questions on social media and their interactions.

The results confirmed that sexism exists online, too. Both men and women reported that they used social media to expand their professional network. But men were more likely to receive requests to give talks (39% of men versus 30% of women) and were also more likely to participate in other scholarly activities (25% of men versus 21% of women). Men reported being more likely to use social media for research and educational purposes (83% of men versus 68% of women). Women were more motivated to use social media for additional social support (73% of women versus 55% of men). Men in academic medicine do not face the same sexual and verbal harassment and gender discrimination as women and do not use social media as an outlet for advice and the council of their peers. Women are not offered the same luxury of just browsing social media for scholarly purposes.

There are some organizations in operation that are focusing on combatting these inequalities, like the Women of Impact and Women in Medicine Summit groups.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.