A new report indicates that around two in three female scientists face sexual harassment at their workplace.
The researchers of the study suggest that field work, which involves working outside the universities, is often the most dangerous place where female scientists have encountered sexual abuse and harassment.
The latest research has been published in the online journal PLOS ONE and was initiated and led by Kate Clancy, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois.
Clancy surveyed around 650 field scientists that included just over 500 women and the rest were men. The scientists belonged to 32 different disciplines and most of them were either working in archaeology or anthropology fields.
The researchers of the study revealed that around 64 percent of the surveyed scientists said that they faced sexual harassment such as unsuitable sexual remarks, sexual jokes and more. Over 20 percent of the surveyed scientists also claimed to be sexually assaulted, which included unwanted physical contact, physical threat or even rape. About 41 percent of male field scientists came across physical harassment and 6 percent reported physical assault.
The study highlights that around 90 percent of the female scientists and nearly 70 percent of the male scientists were trainees when they experienced sexual harassment. Most of the female scientists were sexually harassed by senior scientists or research leaders. However, most of the male scientists experienced sexual harassment from their peers.
"Our main findings - that women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse and felt they had few avenues to report or resolve these problems - suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive," says Clancy. "We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science."
Clancy refers to previous work by researchers who have suggested that being targeted by superiors at workplace may have psychological implications and affect the job performance of an individual when compared to if the offender is a peer. This suggests that women scientists at field work are at a higher risk when compared to men.
Field research is a requirement for a degree in any scientific discipline. Clancy also points out that the finding of the research is concerning as such behavior may deter women from the science field.
The researchers suggest that this is just the first attempt to collect data regarding sexual assault and harassment faced by field scientists. Relevant authorities should put stricter punishments in place for offenders so that such behavior does not impact the performance of trainees.