Though this survey of more than 600 anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, zoologists, and other scientists wasn’t nationally representative, it suggests that sexual harassment and assault could be one of the reasons contributing to the dearth of women pursing careers in the sciences.
The report found that 70 percent of women had experienced inappropriate sexual comments while working at field sites–and were 3.5 times more likely to report sexual harassment than men. And over a quarter said they had been victims of sexual assault, compared to 6 percent of men. Men were more likely to be harassed or assaulted by peers, while women were more likely to be a younger trainee, like a student, and more likely to be targeted by a superior–a dynamic that, the researchers note, can be especially psychologically damaging. Only about 20 percent of the respondents knew of any policies in place or mechanism to report their abuse.
“We are the first researchers to characterize the experiences of scientists at field sites, and our findings are troubling,” explained lead researcher Kate Clancy. “If you are on constant high alert because you have been harassed or you are at a site where you know it happens regularly, it drains your cognitive reserves and makes you less effective at your job. No one can work well under those conditions, and we can’t ask trainees to keep doing so. Field sciences are intellectually impoverished when hostile field sites drive out underrepresented scientists.”
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.