Reading the New York Times at breakfast this weekend we saw a few important items worthy of noting.
The Times reported on Saturday that “Current and former female firefighters of the United States Forest Service have filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture alleging that they suffered job discrimination, harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of male co-workers and that top agency officials failed to stop it. …
The complaint was the latest in a number of race and gender disputes in the Agriculture Department, the parent agency of the Forest Service.”
The Times also published an op-ed piece entitled “Science’s Sexual Assault Problem,” by A. Hope Jahren, a scientist who was sexually assaulted 20 years ago while she was a science graduate student.
She noted that: “My story is not unique. In July, Kathryn B. H. Clancy and her co-authors Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford and Katie Hinde published a survey of 666 field-based scientists in the journal PLoS One and reported that 26 percent of the female scientists surveyed had been sexually assaulted during fieldwork. Most of these women encountered this abuse very early in their careers, as trainees. The travel inherent to scientific fieldwork increases vulnerability as one struggles to work within unfamiliar and unpredictable conditions, but male respondents reported significantly less assault (6 percent).
I know several women with stories like mine, but more often it is the men of one’s own field team, one’s co-workers, who violate their female colleagues. The women surveyed by Dr. Clancy’s team stated that their ‘perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team.’”
Her story is certainly “not unique.” In fact, on August 12th we posted about another article, by Christie Aschwandenaug in the NYT, entitled “Harassment In Science: Replicated,” in which she wrote that “As an undergraduate student in biology, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica one summer with an older graduate student on a research project deep in the cloud forest. It was just the two of us, and upon arriving at our site, I discovered that he had arranged a single room for us, one bed. Mortified but afraid of being labeled prudish or difficult, I made no fuss. I took the lodge owner aside the next day and requested my own bed. The problem ended there, and my graduate student boss never made any physical advances. Reflecting back, I’m struck by how ill equipped I was to deal with this kind of situation, especially at 19.”
In our prior post we quoted Dr. Clancy: “We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science.”