Sexism and other forms of prejudice persist at the MUHC, report finds


Testimonial: “I have a colleague who was excluded from certain recruitment processes because she had maternity leave planned.”

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Despite the advancement of women in key positions at the McGill University Health Centre, sexism nevertheless persists in Quebec’s largest hospital network, with women reporting sexual harassment and facing barriers in promotions, according to a new report.

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Although the report focuses primarily on systemic racism at the MUHC, it devotes a section to sexism as well as discrimination against people from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The Montreal Gazette has obtained a 91-page draft of the report commissioned by the MUHC Board of Trustees amid public awareness of racism following the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in the United States in 2020.

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“Survey respondents and interview participants provided reports of sexism and/or sexual harassment,” the report said.

“They also reported gender bias and discrimination, such as differential treatment due to a person’s gender, primarily because they are female, perceived stereotypes within healthcare, and gender dynamics gendered power struggles (not being able to voice concerns and ideas due to male-dominated discussions), inequity in promotion and compensation, and inequity in power dynamics and hierarchical structure An ongoing common concern was that women reported facing barriers that prevent them from advancing to higher level positions in management and leadership due to male-dominated discussions and positions.

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In one of the most egregious examples, an MUHC employee revealed that a colleague was denied a promotion because she had just given birth.

“I have a co-worker who was passed over for some recruitment processes because she had maternity leave planned,” said the employee, whose identity was withheld by researchers to protect their lives. private, in testimony in the report.

“I find this completely absurd,” added the employee. “That shouldn’t happen. …Make room for women and don’t limit them in their careers because they start their families.

Female staff and patients have also often experienced verbal harassment, a reality that observers say is not limited to the MUHC.

“Listen, little girl,” recalled one adult employee who was told by someone. In another case, a staff member complained, “I don’t know why they keep hiring more women to take care of here.”

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In January 2020, the MUHC appointed Liane Feldman as its first female Surgeon-in-Chief. Martine Alfonso is the current Associate Director General of the MUHC and had served as Acting Chief prior to the appointment of Dr. Pierre Gfeller in April 2018. Julie Quenneville was appointed President of the MUHC Foundation in October 2015.

However, some study participants complained that women are still not paid fairly.

MUHC officials declined to comment on the sexism revelations in the report, saying it was not yet complete and would be tabled at the next board meeting on September 23. An anti-racism task force, co-chaired by two women of color — MUHC board member and longtime patient advocate Seeta Ramdass and Dr. Anita Brown-Johnson — was tasked with the report.

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The Ramdass-Brown-Johnson report was based on a survey of 712 staff and patients, focus groups and lengthy interviews with 34 participants. The task force also hired an independent researcher to conduct the focus groups and analyze the data. In focus groups, 5.8% of participants cited sexist incidents they had experienced or witnessed.

The report also found that “survey respondents reported experiences of homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of phobia against 2SLGBTQ+,” defined as “two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning , and more” and “related mistrust by employees and patients.

In relevant testimony, one participant lamented that many clinicians are not only insensitive to First Nations patients, but “know nothing about…the particular needs of non-binary and trans patients.”

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In a comment on homophobia, one study participant lamented that it’s “always…a gay man who has HIV. It’s never a homosexual who has a cold. And so, so… you’ve been training medical professionals who associate being gay with HIV and that’s not true.

Other forms of bias examined in the report include ageism and ableism, or discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.

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  1. The report was commissioned by the MUHC Board of Trustees following the asphyxiation death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020.

    Report on systemic racism at the MUHC includes chilling testimonies

  2. The wide-ranging report confirmed the existence of systemic racism at the MUHC, Quebec's largest hospital network, including systematic discrimination against Black staff and patients, Indigenous peoples, people of Asian descent and Muslims wearing the hijab.

    Survey on systemic racism that worries the MUHC

  3. The entrance to the Montreal Children's Hospital at the Glen site of the MUHC.

    ‘Troubling issues’ at Montreal Children’s Hospital probed by ombudsman

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