Sexual and gender-based harassment is common at scientific meetings, according to a recent survey by Sherry Marts, Ph.D., a speaker, facilitator, consultant and CEO of S*Marts Consulting. The survey polled attendees on the frequency and nature of harassment that occurs at conferences, and how such incidents influence the behavior of those who experience or witness harassment. Marts summarized the findings in her report, Open Secrets and Missing Stairs.
"Pretty much every time I have brought up the issue of harassment at meetings, I'd get a response along the lines of, 'Well, that never happens at our meetings. We've never had anyone report an incident,'•" said Marts, whose doctorate is in physiology. "So I decided to collect some data."
Marks focused the questions on what kinds of harassment people experienced, what effect it had on those targeted, why they didn't report it and what they want their associations to do about this issue. More than 200 people completed the survey, 87 percent of them women. Among the findings:
• Sixty percent have experienced harassment at a scientific meeting at some point in their careers.
• Of those who were harassed at least once, 84 percent said the harasser commented on his or her appearance; 49 percent were asked for sex; and 39 percent were touched, groped or grabbed.
• Such incidents caused 52 percent of the targets surveyed to give greater thought to what they wear, 49 percent to worry more about their personal safety at meetings, 33 percent to avoid the social or networking events at the conference, and 13 percent to stop attending the meeting at which they were harassed.