SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN STEM
Sexual harassment is illegal in Australia, yet it is common in every industry, location and level in Australian workplaces.
Almost two in five women (39%) have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years, with higher rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.*
In STEM workplaces, these rates are even higher. A recent study showed 1 in 2 women and respondents 1 in 10 men had experienced sexual harassment in their STEM workplace. In the US, the rate of sexual harassment in academia is 58%, second only to the military’s 69%, and outpaces that of industry and government. In all studies, women of colour and minority groups experience even higher rates of sexual harassment.
The rates of sexual harassment in STEM are perhaps unsurprising as workplace settings with the highest sexual harassment rates have been found to be: male-dominated; considered ‘non-traditional’ for women; and have an over-representation of men in senior leadership roles.
Whether individual women have experienced it or not, sexual harassment can influence the recruitment, retention, experience and productivity of all women. Potential solutions for STEM contexts include treating sexual harassment in a manner parallel to scientific misconduct; recognising sexual harassment as a heath and safety issue; requiring workplaces to disclose harassment findings to prospective funders and employees;and establishing better mechanisms to protect the careers of harassment victims. Male allies must also champion cultural and systemic change.
For more recommendations about what can be done to combat sexual harassment in STEM and beyond see this report.
*Read this legal definition of sexual harassment in Australia or check out this video explainer.