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Harassment or just clean “fun”?

March 14, 2014

As a member of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), I probably think more often now about issues involving women in the sciences, from the “leaky pipeline” to hiring to mentoring to retention to visibility at conferences, etc.  (I’ll admit to counting the number of female speakers and session chairs at LPSC.)  I wonder if (or how often) any of my colleagues are personally affected by stereotype threat, unconscious bias, impostor syndrome, or just plain outright discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

What I don’t usually think about is harassment at conferences, whether it be the touchy-feely/standing-too-close type or something like epitaphs, racial slurs, or derogatory comments, though it probably happens.  These recent Women in Astronomy posts about socializing at conferences and meeting known offenders made me think that, perhaps, not all of our colleagues understand what “conference etiquette” means.  I don’t mean to offend anyone or to imply that any of our male colleagues are prone to this kind of behavior, but I think we all need to be aware. Says one member of the planetary science community, “For better or worse I don’t know of any ‘serial harassers’ in particular in our community but that absolutely does not mean they aren’t there.”

This year’s Susan Niebur Women’s Networking Event (Wednesday, 5-6 pm, Montgomery Ballroom) will focus on anti-harassment policies.  You can see the agenda here.  Senior members of our community who are in positions to deal with harassment claims will be in attendance, including Dr. Tim Swindle (LPL), Dr. Steven Mackwell (LPI), Dr. Mark Sykes (PSI), Dr. Eileen Stansbury (NASA JSC), and Dr. Bonnie Buratti (JPL).  If you have any questions that you’d like to see addressed, please submit them on this Google form or feel free to comment below.  Please know that men are welcome to attend.
If you are unable to attend the LPSC event and would like more information about NASA’s anti-harassment policies, please see the transcript of the talk by Christina Richey, who summarized them at the 2012 DPS WIPS lunch.
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