Sexual Harassment Common in the Science Fields

The fields of science and math have long been dominated by men. Science fields, in particular, are disproportionately male-dominated.  However, from the outside, the science field has always been considered a haven of academic research and scientific discovery. No more, no less, until now. In a recent study, researchers have discovered that upwards of 65% of men and women taking part in field studies may experience sexual harassment or sexual assault.

The study took surveys from 142 men and 516 women working in science fields, including anthropology, geology and archaeology; fields which the participants are more likely to spend extended periods of time “in the field” and away from home.

According to the study, conducted by researchers from three colleges, 64% of respondents reported sexual harassment while on the job. 20 percent of respondents reported sexual assault on the job. Sexual harassment was defined as unwanted advances and lewd remarks. Sexual assault was defined unwanted touching, physical threats and rape.

The research also found that young, trainee women, were more likely to experience such harassment and assault. They reported feeling powerless, as they were far from home and were not provided with any avenue to report the incidents.

“Trainees” in the study, were defined as any individual who was new to the job. Students at the undergraduate and graduate level were equally targeted. 90% of women who reported unwanted attention were trainees at the time, and 70% of men who reported unwanted attention were trainees at the time of the incident.

There was another major difference in the targeting between women and men. Women were most often the target of unwanted sexual advances by superiors, most often teachers and head researchers. Men, on the other hand, were most often targeted by their peers.

Researchers note that there may be a few reasons for the number of sexual harassment claims in science fields. First and foremost, the field is still largely dominated by men. Women are being sent into a situation where they are largely outnumbered and their presence is somewhat “unwanted”. Secondly, field work often takes young workers far from home, and everyone they know. This makes them more vulnerable to sexual harassment.

Have you worked in a science field and experienced sexual harassment? Tell us what you think by contacting us

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