Survey Finds Widespread Racial and Sexual Harassment in Astronomy and Planet Science

A new study led by researchers at the University of Illinois finds a high level of sexual and racial harassment in the field of astronomy and planet science. Researchers surveyed a large group of professionals in the field. They found that 39 percent of all respondents reported that they had been verbally harassed and 9 percent stated that they have been physically harassed at work within the past five years.

Women, and particularly women from underrepresented groups, were the most likely to report harassment. About 40 percent of women of color in the profession reported that they had felt unsafe in the workplace as a result of racial or sexual harassment. Some 13 percent of all women professionals said they had chosen not to attend class, fieldwork, or some other work-related event because they did not feel safe attending. A full third of all White men who responded to the survey reported that they had head sexist and racist remarks while at work.

Kathryn Clancy, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and the lead author of the study, stated that “for 40 percent of women of color to say they felt unsafe in their workplace – not over the course of their lifetimes, but just in the last few years – that is probably one of the strongest pieces of evidence that something is terribly wrong. And the fact that something like a third of the white men are overhearing these remarks is more evidence that this is kind of a hostile environment in general. It appears that this is a discipline that has some bullying and intimidation issues.”

The full study, “Double Jeopardy in Astronomy and Planetary Science: Women of Color Face Greater Risks of Gendered and Racial Harassment,” was published on the website of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. It may be accessed here.

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