Originally posted on Marie-Claire Shanahan’s personal blog, Boundary Vision, on 27 August 2014.
The submission deadline for provisional topics and titles is 10 September 2014.
Diving headlong into motherhood this year has meant less blogging (obvious to anyone who subscribes here…), but it has also made me think a lot more about the scientific life that I would hope for my new daughter and girls like her. Currently her research interests include ceiling fans, her toes, her soother, the dogs and the penguins at the Calgary Zoo. But should she be interested in pursuing science as a career, what would I want her to know? Continue reading
In an depressingly similar story to those found in the SAFE13 study reported by Kathryn Clancy, Robin Nelson, Julienne Rutherford, and Katie Hinde, respected science writer Christie Aschwanden wrote up the results of a survey of science writers for the New York Times:
More than half of the female respondents said they weren’t taken seriously because of their gender, one in three had experienced delayed career advancement, and nearly half said they had not received credit for their ideas. Almost half said they had encountered flirtatious or sexual remarks, and one in five had experienced uninvited physical contact. – Christie Aschwanden
The results and additional information are available as part of the plenary presentation from the Women in Science Writing: Solutions Summit 2014.
Based on these surveys, it is hard to compare scientific field work or science writing to any other professions. It is disturbing that every time we actually take a look under this particular rock we find similar results.
The failure to look for the problem does not mean that you don’t have a problem.
Doing it right. UC Davis microbiome researcher Jonathon Eisen not only turned down an endowed lectureship because the series was too male dominated, but also engaged the lecture series leadership and suggested replacements (hat tip to Evelyn Padilla).
For a more journalistic account, check out Elizabeth Case (hat tip to Jonathon Eisen).
Figure 1. Proportion of survey respondents, by gender, who indicated that inappropriate or sexual comments occurred never, rarely, regularly, or frequently at their most recent or most notable field site (N).
Important conversations are best addressed with good data. Science has a sexism problem and not all of it is of the passive, unconscious variety. As Kathryn Clancy, Robin Nelson, Julienne Rutherford, and Katie Hinde show in a new paper in PLoS One (“Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault”), sexual harassment and assault is disturbingly common at scientific field sites. They find that when women are the victims it is most likely that the perpetrator is a superior, which allows abuse of the hierarchical power dynamic. They also find that codes of conduct are absent or unknown, that clear reporting systems are often unknown, and that the existing reporting systems often fail to address the issues satisfactorily.
Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N = 666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. These findings suggest that policies emphasizing safety, inclusivity, and collegiality have the potential to improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages. These include better awareness of mechanisms for direct and oblique reporting of harassment and assault and, the implementation of productive response mechanisms when such behaviors are reported. Principal investigators are particularly well positioned to influence workplace culture at their field sites.
Posted in Follies of the Human Condition
Tagged Feminism, Julienne Rutherford, Kathryn Clancy, Katie Hinde, Linkonomicon, PLoS, PLoS ONE, Robin Nelson, science, Sexism, sexual harassment