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Scientist Says Women in STEM 'Vulnerable to Mistreatment'
by Lauren Bradley
Tuesday Nov 9th, 2021 3:03 AM
In a post to her website, an environmental scientist and science educator, who goes by the handle of 'Biologist Ellie', drew a focus to the plight of women in STEM, suggesting a lack of 'visibility of women in the sciences' made the industry vulnerable to instances of harassment, mistreatment and inequalities.
"In the male dominated STEM sectors, in which I work and operate, sexual harassment is a significant issue," writes Biologist Ellie, an Australian scientist and environmentalist, who uses a nickname on the social media platform Instagram to advocate for the climate, politics and environmental rights.

In a post to her professional blog, the scientist said:

"In a voluntary survey of Australian STEM professionals in 2019, half of all female respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Conducted to inform a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the survey had nearly 300 responses from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals from across the country."

She said the figures show that 'STEM sectors have a lot of work to do to address sexual harassment' and suggested insufficient workplace policies, including those targeted at preventing sexual harassment "must be immediately improved."

In her own experience, the biologist recalled feeling 'ashamed' when she misread the intentions of a male superior with whom she volunteered for an environmental organisation. Describing him as 'powerful', she said the declined advances were met with hostility and retaliation. She said there were few options to report the conduct.

"I really suffered as a result," she said.

The science enthusiast, whose real name is Ellie S Eddy, said that whilst the world of STEM was changing for women, there was still much to do to close the gaps between male and female scientists, especially in terms of the gender wage gap.

"Initiatives to attract women to STEM fields must be met with measures to protect them as well," her blog post said.

In a post championing women in STEM, the Advancing Earth and Space Sciences (AGU), a non-profit scientific association, wrote, “attracting and retaining women in the sciences require action on all fronts: stopping outright harassment, changing institutional cultures, and ensuring that women are included, recognised, and heard.”

Similarly, Ellie said, "In order to address sexual harassment and break the cycle, a cultural shift is required, and men in STEM must step up and share the burden of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts if we are to make STEM and environmental campaigning diverse, equitable and inclusive for women."

The biologist said that men are of her greatest allies in science, and that there had been a positive reaction to her post.

"My experience of harassment occurred years ago, back in 2012 or 2013. It was a different climate then. These days there are good resources available to anyone impacted by violence, and I would say the experiences are generally taken more seriously."

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