Harassment At Meetings May Be A Bigger Problem Than You Thought

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Harassment at meetings is a big problem, according to a recent survey. The report shows that 60% of respondents had experienced harassment at scientific meetings in the last 2 years. Only a handful reported it at the time.

The problem of harassment at meetings is worse than we thought, according to a recent report . A majority (60%) of respondents said that they had experienced harassment at meetings in the last 24 months. Only 18% of those that had experienced it reported it at the time.

What Is The Biggest Issue At Play?

Sherry A. Marts, Ph.D, President and CEO, S*Marts Consulting LLC, commented, “The biggest issue is that harassment and bullying at scientific meetings is one of the ways that women (and other underrepresented minorities) are discouraged from continuing to pursue a career in research. It contributes to the hostile climate for women and minorities, and it feeds into impostor syndrome and the sense that no matter how good you are at what you do, that alone is not enough.”

Harassment at Meetings Doesn’t Get Reported

Worryingly, over two-thirds of those targeted didn’t report it because they thought it was not serious enough. More than half didn’t know how to report the incident. Concerns for many included not being taken seriously and getting the blame themselves. Over half of those that didn’t report it, also said they would not report harassment in the future.

Why Are People Being Targeted?

90% of those who suffered harassment stated that it was because of gender. Comments about what the respondent was wearing affected around half of those targeted. Other key reasons included age discrimination and inappropriate conduct.

Reasons For Reporting Harassment

Nearly half said that they would report it if it happened again. A large majority said this was to ensure the safety of others.

The majority said that they would be more likely to report future incidents if they knew how. Several also said they would be more likely to act if there is an anti-harassment policy or code of conduct.

How Can Meeting Planners Fix These Issues?

When asked what meeting organisers can do to fix the issues, Marts replied, “Have, and publicize, a clear policy that harassment is not permitted, and enforce the policy. Treat harassment as a safety issue. Assume the target is telling the truth, prevent the harasser from further contact with the target (ask the harasser to leave the meeting if necessary), and handle any “appeals” of these decisions after the meeting ends. In essence, think of the harasser as suspected of carrying a highly contagious and nasty disease. Get them away from where they can do harm.”

In Conclusion

The report indicates serious issues in scientific meetings with gender being the biggest factor. Is harassment something you see in meetings? If you are, we’d like to hear what you’re doing about it.

Get the report here: Open Secrets and Missing Stairs: Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment at Scientific Meetings