Survey says sexual harassment also a problem in the sciences

Posted in Sexual Harassment on August 11, 2014

It would be nice to believe that endeavors “of the mind” would be free from the threat of sexual harassment. But working in various scientific fields may not be as safe for women as one might assume.

According to a recent survey of 516 women and 142 men who work as scientists, approximately 64 percent reported that they have experienced sexual harassment behaviors from colleagues while doing field work. Unsurprisingly, women were far more likely to be victims of sexual harassment than men.

The survey revealed that 26 percent of female respondents had experienced sexual harassment, whereas only 6 percent of men reported the same. The study’s authors found that female victims were most likely to be harassed by older men of senior authority.

Some of the reported behaviors included sexual jokes and comments, remarks about “cognitive differences” between men and women and unwanted touching or other physical contact. More than 20 percent of respondents reported that they had been victims of unwanted physical contact that was sexual in nature.

The survey relied on opt-in responses, which at least partially accounts for the differences between male and female responses. Because it was opt-in, the survey likely does not accurately reflect the prevalence of sexual harassment within the sciences. It does, however, show that sexual harassment is a pervasive problem.

There may be no area of adult work that is completely free of the threat of sexual harassment. As such, fighting and preventing this illegal behavior needs to be a priority in every workplace setting.

Source: CNN, “Male scientists, don’t harass young female colleagues,” Meg Urry, Aug. 9, 2014