Obstacles


Christie Aschwanden in the NY Times a few days ago on sexual harassment in science.

She and some colleagues sent an online questionnaire to science writers.

We received responses from 502 writers, mostly women, and presented our results at M.I.T. in June during Solutions Summit 2014: Women in Science Writing, a conference funded by the National Association of Science Writers.

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.

Obstacles, handicaps, impediments.

…our survey of writers grew out of well-publicized harassment accusations against a prominent male editor who was a mentor to many female writers. Those incidents led women to come forward with their stories of discrimination throughout the profession.

In academia, accusations of sexual harassment or assault are usually handled internally, Dr. Clancy says, and this can create powerful incentives to cover up bad behavior, especially among perpetrators with tenure and power. “I’ve heard too many stories about the professor who isn’t allowed to be in a room with X, Y and Z anymore,” she said. Sometimes perpetrators even benefit by getting out of dreaded teaching assignments while keeping their jobs.

Harassment among science writers spawned a hashtag, #ripplesofdoubt, to describe how harassment undermines women. Some women who had been passed over for jobs wondered if they had been rejected for their looks rather than their work. Others worried that they might not have attained their positions on merit.

You see that’s not the way to achieve equality. Creating extra obstacles for one kind of person doesn’t promote equality.

Whether harassment or discrimination takes place at a field site in Costa Rica or in a conference room, the problem will not be solved with new rules archived on unread websites. The responsibility for pushing back should not rest solely with the victims. Solutions require a change of culture that can happen only from within.

It will take chief executives, department heads, laboratory directors, professors, publishers and editors in chief to take a stand and say: Not on my watch. I don’t care if you’re my friend or my favorite colleague; we don’t treat women like that.

I would like to see that happen more, and then more again.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … well-publicized harassment accusations against a prominent male editor …

    B. Z., or did I miss another deplorable episode?

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