RSNA2023 Leading Through Change
Daily Bulletin

Identifying And Mitigating Aggressive Behavior Among Female Physicians

Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023

By Mary Henderson

Ami Gokli, MD, MSED, reported on a little-studied workplace behavior known as female-to-female, aggression among physicians in a Tuesday afternoon session.



This type of aggression occurs when a woman with higher power status exerts behavior in a way that is intended to degrade or undermine a woman with less power status. The perpetrators may or may not be aware of how their behavior affects others.

"This type of aggression has been studied in other health care settings, but it hasn't received much attention among physicians," said Dr. Gokli, division chief of pediatric radiology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York.

Survey Highlights Need For Awareness

After learning that several colleagues had experienced this type of aggression, Dr. Gokli and her co-researchers adapted a validated survey used in a nursing setting and sent it to 1,694 members of the Society for Pediatric Radiology.

Of 199 respondents (12% response rate), 73% were female and 0.5% were non-binary. The age of respondents ranged from 25 to 66 and included radiologists in training to physicians with 21+ years of experience.

"The majority of respondents said they had witnessed female-to-female aggression," Dr. Gokli said. "Forty-seven percent said they had personally been the recipient of this behavior."

The researchers were especially struck by the number of physicians who admitted perpetrating this: more than 600 (36%) of respondents.

On a positive note, 68% of the respondents thought this type of aggression was limited to a small group of individuals. However, 39% reported that it was a cause of stress and tension for them in the workplace. And for women on the receiving end, the consequences were significant: 46% reported that it had changed or affected their career path.

"When asked about the possible causes for female-to-female aggression, respondents reported jealousy, insecurity, and personality clashes," Dr. Gokli said.

Both male and female respondents said they were hesitant to report this type of behavior for fear of retaliation or being perceived as a person with 'issues.' She theorizes that the behavior is the product of inequality.

"The women who have experienced gender bias, particularly in a male-dominated field, individuate from other women and even begin to apply the same gender stereotypes to female subordinates," she said.

Addressing Concerns Requires Teamwork And Mentorship

Dr. Gokli offered several steps to take to begin to create change in the workplace.

"We can't control other people's behavior, we can only control ourselves," she said. "If you see a woman struggling at work, don't judge them. Ask if you can help through mentorship or creating opportunities for them."

Dr. Gokli stressed the importance of amplifying other women by giving them credit for their work and reinforcing their ideas in meetings and public arenas. She also suggested joining or creating a women's forum where women can talk to each other.

"I want to promote positive conversations, not necessarily around female misbehavior, but about the obligations that women have to one another and how both men and women can work to instill change," she said.

Access the presentation, "Pink on Pink Aggression," (T7-SSNPM02-01) on demand at