Last month, an article in the prestigious journal Science dealt with a very important issue – the ongoing problem of sexual harassment in academia – in particular, but not only by senior scholars against junior women scientists. In the article, the case of Christian Ott from CalTech was noted, but it also mentioned Geoffrey Marcy from UC Berkeley. And to add to this, the well-known anthropologist, Brian Richmond (from the American Museum of Natural History) has been accused of sexual harassment as well (see here).
The only good thing about this is, that finally, it seems that the institutions involved are beginning to take action, as well the beginnings of boycotts of these harassers by other senior academics.
And if this is not enough, last summer, a study was published (and see here an overview of this) that documented how many junior women scientists have reported that they have been sexually harassed when working in field projects.
As the director of a large field project, I can only join in with a categorical statement of disgust at these examples of sexual harassment – and state that as far as I’m concerned, the safety of all team members, in the broadest sense, including protection from any kind of harassment – is my top priority.
Harassment of any kind is simply unacceptable – whether sexual, emotional or other – and whether by a senior colleague, boss, lecturer, or team member. Unfortunately, as the articles demonstrated – this seems to be an all-too-common problem – and it must be dealt with without any hesitation!
It is our responsibility, as team leaders, to show zero tolerance to such behavior – and have clear-cut and immediate reactions and consequences towards the harassers – when such things are seen or reported. And at the same time, to be supportive and understanding to the person who is being harassed.
It is also the important that any member of a team who knows of such behavior – should report it immediately – and most importantly, for the person experiencing harassment – not to be ashamed, or afraid, and report this immediately as well.
Let us all try and work to make our work environments safer and friendlier places!