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posted by janrinok on Monday September 22 2014, @04:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the ashamed dept.

Margaret C. Hardy reports that the life sciences have recently come under fire with a study that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments and found that 71% of women and 41% of men respondents experienced sexual harassment, while 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault. The research team also found that within the hierarchy of academic field sites surveyed, the majority of incidents were perpetrated by peers and supervisors. "More often it is the men of one’s own field team, one’s co-workers, who violate their female colleagues," writes A. Hope Jahren:

There is a fundamental and culturally learned power imbalance between men and women, and it follows us into the workplace. The violence born of this imbalance follows us also. We would like to believe that it stops short of following us into the laboratory and into the field — but it does not. I listen to my colleagues talk endlessly about recruiting more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, and postulate what the barriers might be. Sexual assault is a pernicious and formidable barrier to women in science, partly because we have consistently gifted to it our silence. I have given it 18 years of my silence and I will not give it one day more.

Many of us work in fields related to this study - what are your experiences?

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bradley13 on Monday September 22 2014, @07:53AM

    by bradley13 (3053) on Monday September 22 2014, @07:53AM (#96645) Homepage Journal

    What a crappy study. This kind of nonsense is counterproductive: it exaggerates the problems, and discredits efforts to address the (much smaller) problems that actually do exist.

    First, consider how they recruited participants: "Researchers distributed the link to the survey to potential respondents through e-mail and online social networks. ... These links were then shared and retweeted by colleagues and disseminated using chain referral." So what we have is a self-selected group, rather than any sort of neutral, representative survey.

    Then we get the questions. The first questions are background; we get to the first of the relevant questions is question 30, which asks if the field site was "gender differentiated". It then equates the two following situations: "men and women do separate activities with their leisure time" (so what, it may just be the preference of that particular team) and "bureaucratic or cleaning tasks get allocated disproportionately between genders" (which could be a real problem, unless the gender difference also matches a difference in seniority).

    Then we get question 32, which asks about "inappropriate or sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, cognitive sex differences, or other jokes". Do those things have anything common? Note the sloppy wording "inappropriate or sexual remarks" - how is one supposed to understand that? Is "you look nice today" over the line, or does it depend on context? Why would a factual discussion of cognitive sex differences be a problem? What's the deal with "other jokes"? A biologist, a chemist and a physicist get in a plane...

    Credit where credit is due: question 39, about physical harassment, is well-written and to the point. The answers to this question do indicate a problem. Sadly, these results are destroyed by the self-selecting nature of the survey. The fancy graphs in the paper make it visually obvious that many more women than men experienced such harassment...but it turns out that the vast majority of the respondents were women. Showing proportional numbers would have been more honest, but the paper shows absolute numbers for dramatic effect.

    Worse, the authors admit that they had no controls in place to prevent one person from completing the survey multiple times. They did a retrospective analysis based on the (optional) entry of an email address, but a person seeking to sway the results could reply as often as they wanted anonymously as well as once each for as many (non-verified!) email addresses as they wanted. Given the relatively small number of participants, a few pissed off people would have a substantial impact on the results.

    What a crappy study...

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  • (Score: 2) by buswolley on Monday September 22 2014, @08:47AM

    by buswolley (848) on Monday September 22 2014, @08:47AM (#96658)

    Indeed.
    However, look again at Figure 1. It is % of respondents.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23 2014, @02:25PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 23 2014, @02:25PM (#97162)

    Woah woah woah...... did you just say this study was garbage because a STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMYN created it?

    YOU JUST TRIGGERED ME!!!!!!!!

    I need feminism because comments like these from hetero-normative cis-gendered SCUM are *LITERALLY* WORSE THAN RAPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!