Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Speaking of Science: Science, too

Speaking of Science
Sarah Kaplan and Ben Guarino on Science

People hold signs of pioneering women in science in front of the Environmental Protection Agency during the March for Science in Washington on April 22, 2017. (Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP)

On Tuesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine unveiled a sweeping two-year study on women's experiences of sexual harassment in academia.

The results were sobering: More than half of all female faculty in STEM fields have experienced harassment, as have 20 to 50 percent of all students. Gender harassment — inappropriate remarks, sexist put-downs and gender-based hostility — is the most common form, but it's often not recognized by law or by university rules, even though persistent gender harassment can be just as harmful to women's mental and physical health as overt sexual coercion. Meanwhile, the report's authors said, there's "no evidence" that current policies on harassment are at all effective in reducing harmful behavior. As a result of harassment, women might avoid certain classes and conferences, change fields of study or drop out of science altogether.

This is harmful for research. Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, called it a "shameful waste" of women's expertise and talent.

But it's also devastating for women. The report includes interviews with women who recalled feeling isolated and afraid to go to work. On Twitter and blogs such as #MeTooSTEM, people have been sharing stories about the effects of harassment on their lives and careers.

If you work in a STEM field and sexual harassment and gender discrimination has hurt you, Speaking of Science wants to hear your story. We're also curious what changes you'd like to see — from your institutions, from professional societies, and from your colleagues — that might improve the culture of science. You can share your thoughts with us at this link.

Thank you.

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