Harassment in geoscience

At the AGU Fall Meeting 2017, I liked to see AGU’s renewed emphasis against harassment. Career-ending harassment stories are peppered through North America and perhaps even more so the world. However, beyond the headline-grabbing really disgusting behaviors, there appears to be far more common workplace “harassment-lite”. This is where some in professional/engineering/science positions wrongly feel it’s fine to comment on female coworkers’ appearance, etc. Part of the problem is others not taking appropriate action to discourage such behavior.

Mitigation

For example, one can show disapproval in non-verbal ways if the behavior is merely less desirable, but not to the level of harassment. It can feel difficult if the one making the comment is your boss or person responsible for your contract. Part of the solution is staying far away from any sort of discussion or comments that deviate from professional. This should create an atmosphere where it’s implicit such unwelcome comments would never be accepted. More ideally, the person should not even think such things, so that the work environment is healthier in all regards.

AGU conferences are addressing bad behavior more front and center via numerous designated POC, signs and pins in abundance. Perhaps AGU’s year-round messaging via EOS, email, etc. could work in snippets about how lower-grade forms of “harassment-lite” and other behaviors creating hostile environments is far too widespread and detrimental. These “milder” forms of harassment mustn’t be minimized or laughed off. The cumulative effect is very damaging, in creating a toxic environment that eventually pushes people away from their rightful advancement and enjoyment of their career.