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ADV_GEO_1 Many factors play into the decisions of women to leave science, including overt and subtle forms of gender and racial discrimination. The proposed work addresses three related barriers to the retention of women in the geosciences: (1) Hostile climate due to the prevalence of sexual harassment, especially in areas with field training and research; (2) Perceptions that sexual harassment is infrequent and affects few individuals; and (3) Perceived and real lack of resources for responding to sexual harassment.

We propose to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment through development of tested workshops for department heads, chairs, and faculty and a survey of the geoscience community. Our work will address the culture of academic geoscience by empowering the earth and space science community to stop and prevent sexual harassment by developing strategies of bystander intervention and disseminating these through in-person and online workshops. We will enhance ethics training of current and future geoscientists by producing teaching modules that include sexual harassment. We will partner with professional societies for national dissemination and sustainability.

We take a multi-level approach to transform workplace climate (De Welde and Stepnick, 2015b): at the institutional level, by addressing academic cultures through the leadership of scientific societies and on campus efforts; structurally, through policies and processes that guide professional conduct and response to sexual harassment; and individually, through education and empowerment of women and men.

The aims of our research are to:

  1. Develop and test sexual harassment bystander intervention training programs with geoscience-relevant scenarios and that incorporate experiences of diverse women.
  2. Develop teaching modules on sexual harassment for geoscience faculty and instructors to use in research ethics training courses.
  3. Disseminate training workshops, webinars, and teaching modules via partnership with professional societies for sustainability.
  4. Develop a sustainable model that can be transferred to other STEM disciplines.

We focus on geoscientists because it is one of the least diverse of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Little data on how sexual harassment affects women with intersectional identities in the geosciences leads to a lack of awareness of the unique challenges faced by minority women and a lack of appropriate institutional response. The geosciences have an additional challenge: research and training at off-campus field sites where access to support networks and clear guidelines for conduct are weakened or absent.

Related work prior to this NSF award

  • AGU Board of Directors recently approved Ethics Task Force recommendations to include harassment, bullying and discrimination as research misconduct. Billy Williams co-led the Ethics Task Force and Marin-Spiotta was a member.
  • Science magazine article on AGU's new code of ethics.
  • Scientific societies speak out against sexual harassment – press release of a NSF-funded workshop convened by the American Geophysical Union and co-sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geosciences Institute, Association for Women Geoscientists, and Earth Science Women's Network. Billy Williams was Lead PI on the grant for the workshop and Erika Marin-Spiotta and Blair Schneider were on the steering committee that organized and led the workshop. Check out the first product of the workshop, an AGU website with resources for dealing with sexual harassment. (9/12/16) More on the workshop here. (9/20/16)
  • Marin-Spiotta and Schneider co-authored an invited opinion piece on the role of scientific societies in dealing with the problem of sexual harassment, published in EOS. (1/28/16)
  • AGU holds a special town hall on sexual harassment at the 2015 Fall Meeting organized by Billy Williams, Blair Schneider and Erika Marin-Spiotta.
  • Marin-Spiotta was quoted in a piece in Nature on field safety. This article has some very good tips for staying safe in the field and ensuring fieldwork is a welcoming environment for everyone. (3/12/15)