How Sexual Harassment and Bias Undermine Women’s Access to Scientific Careers - Science Friday
n February, Science magazine reported that Brian Richmond, the American Museum of Natural History’s human origins curator, was under investigation for the sexual assault of a female research assistant at the museum. Last week, Richmond—who had been banned from setting foot in the museum but who was still on the payroll—resigned from his position. His story isn’t unique. Famed astronomer Geoff Marcy of UC-Berkeley, Ebola researcher Michael Katze of the University of Washington, biologist Miguel Pinto of the Smithsonian, and more have been implicated in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. A 2014 survey of field researchers found that 26 percent of female researchers had reported assault at field research sites, and another 71 percent reported harassment.
In response to the Marcy case and others, Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) introduced a bill this September requiring that universities report substantiated cases of sexual harassment to federal funding agencies, which would allow groups like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to consider behavior when awarding grants.
But sexual assault isn’t the only problem plaguing women who pursue careers in the sciences. Studies find a host of disadvantages to being female: Women get fewer paper citations and are less likely to be cited as first author. There’s evidence that hiring committees are biased toward men. Women get less funding. They’re earning more science degrees than ever, but remain a minority of tenured faculty.