The results of a new survey of astronomers and geophysicists show that these sciences have a problem of systematic bullying; Disproportionately worse for women and those from minority groups. In a survey conducted by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) last year of more than 650 people in the field, 44% of respondents had experienced bullying and harassment in the workplace in the previous 12 months. RAS Diversity Officer Ian O’Brien will present the key findings in a talk at the Virtual National Astronomy Meeting Thursday, July 22.
The main preliminary results show:
- Astronomers and geophysicists with disabilities and ethnic minorities are 40% more likely to be bullied than their white and non-disabled colleagues, respectively.
- Women and non-binary people in this area are 50% more likely than men to be bullied and harassed.
- 50% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer astronomers and geophysicists have been bullied in the past 12 months, and 12% of bisexual astronomers report being bullied at least once a week.
The RAS Committee on Diversity in Astronomy and Geophysics commissioned the survey, and O’Brien and Dr Sheila Kenani, the Royal Astronomical Society’s Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer, conducted the survey for the community and analyzed its findings.
O’Brien said, “This is the first time such data has been collected in our field. It is grim, unfortunately somewhat unsurprising, but definitive evidence to show that we need to improve workplace culture in academia. We have a good report on the diversity problem in STEM and that doesn’t help anything. Women and minorities feel the pressure.”
Professor Emma Ponce, President of RAS, said, “The survey results are already very worrying, and we must work to change this unacceptable situation. RAS is doing important work to uncover these facts, and we are committed to working alongside the community to urgently improve the environment in astronomy and geophysics. “.
Dr. Natasha Stephen, Chair of the RAS Committee on Diversity in Astronomy and Geophysics (CDAG), said, “Our RAS community is increasingly diverse, but far from fair. This survey highlights the disparity in lived experience across our global community, and paints a disturbing picture of the way in which by treating those from often marginalized communities. We recognize that these largely overlapping issues cannot be resolved overnight, but CDAG will work with RAS colleagues and the broader field to understand and address these systemic problems.”
The data was collected as part of a broader survey covering experiences of suffering and witnessing bullying and harassment, as well as workplace culture, in astronomy and geophysics. The full survey results will be published by RAS later this summer.
Bullying ‘follows’ gays from school to work
Presented by the Royal Astronomical Society
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