Ending Sexual Harassment in STEM

Dr Kathryn Clancy and colleagues conducted a study that finds sexual harassment is a widespread occurrence amongst researchers in the field. Women are especially likely to be harassed by a senior colleague. The study makes reference to three broad existing approaches that may be used to manage sexual harassment: “codes of conduct, principles of community, and sexual harassment policies.” The researchers note that despite these avenues, few of the participants in the study reported their experience of harassment. Few people knew how to report harassment. It is also likely that both victims and bystanders feared the immediate career repercussions of reporting harassment, as well as the after effects, such as ongoing trauma and career performance. The researchers note that of the minority who did report on sexual harassment, they were predominantly unsatisfied with the outcomes.

This post picks up on the existing avenues of action, centred on the principles of community approach. Continue reading Ending Sexual Harassment in STEM

What is Fair? A Cultural Perspective

Two people's hands are seen holding each end of a paper that says, "Unity? Truth?"

In an excellent post for our Science on Google+ community, Cheryl Ann MacDonald details three concepts central to the idea of fairness: social justice; personal freedom; and equal opportunity of outcome. (Make sure you watch the video at the end on the moral behaviour of animals!) I wanted to elaborate on some of the cultural variations of fairness.

Psychology Professor Jessica Sommerville’s research is intriguing. She looks at how babies react to fairness issues when they notice someone is the same “race” as them. Children will gravitate towards people who look like them, even if others have exhibited more equitable sharing behaviour. I see this shows how children learn to associate pro-social behaviour with people who remind them of their caregivers. To put it another way, babies learn to see the behaviour of people like themselves as being fair, even if they see outsiders being more fair and equal. This goes to the heart of positive stereotypes (“our” group is really kind!), and learned bias (“our” group is more fair than others).

There was also great New York Times article by Professor Paul Bloom on how babies learn about morality. He’s argued that babies are “hard-wired” to be moral, but of course socialisation matters. We know this because different cultures look at ideas of fairness in very distinct ways. Let’s start by looking at interpersonal ideas of what it means to be “fair.” Continue reading What is Fair? A Cultural Perspective

STEM Women in Anthropology: Erin Kane

In 25 minutes, I’ll be co-hosting a discussion with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe for STEM Women. We interview physical anthropologist Erin Kane who has recently returned from doing fieldwork in Cote d’Ivoire where she was studying monkey behaviour. She’ll tell us about her research and her inspired career path as a woman scientist. 

We’ll also talk about a recent study that finds 59% of anthropologists face sexual harassment in the field. Women are three times at risk, and over half of the harassment comes from senior researchers on junior women. Erin will talk about how we might increase women’s safety in the field. So much to talk about!

A write-up of this discussion is now on STEM Women.

Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

This post focuses on a 2013 United Nations  report on population trends to 2050. Our planet will be home to 9.3 billion people by then, which raises various ecological, humanitarian and sustainable planning issues. The UN argues that sustainable growth is a matter of human rights.

Continue reading Sustainable Growth is a Human Right

Colonialist Categorisation of ‘Tribes’

Stylised drawing of a Tausug family standing in front of their home in black and white

The concept of a “tribe” reflects how some Indigenous groups think of themselves in some parts of the world. At the same time, this term has also been used by researchers (such as anthropologists and sociologists) as well as state forces who wish to categorise groups into ethnic hierarchies that reflect colonialist ideas. Western governments rely on the label ‘tribe’ to classify groups unfamiliar to them, especially during political conflicts. In its latter use, when the term is imposed rather than fitting the subjective reality of individuals, this classification can be problematic. My post focuses only on the latter categorisation not on Indigenous or other people who identify with a tribe.

When the term “tribe” is imposed, especially during times of political conflict, war and colonisation, it is often muddled up with notions of culture, language, religion and ethnic identity. The notion of tribe hides these overlapping but distinct social relations. It makes social groups seem as if they fit into neat groups, but in reality, the imposed concept of tribes has led to many policy problems.

Let’s take a look at the complex identities of the Tausug and how the notion of ‘tribe,’ as imposed by Spanish and American colonialists, at different points in time, is problematic. Continue reading Colonialist Categorisation of ‘Tribes’

Public Anthropology

So one of the questions we need to reflect on as anthropologists interested in engaging the public is: Who is our audience, and how can we best reach them? Is blogging the key? If so, what platform, what format, what language do we use? …de Koning notes that it’s somewhat ironic that anthropology blogs largely focus on a Western audience and topics related to Western ideologies, when we’re the primary field that prides itself on a cross-cultural and often non-Western focus. I endorse his call to create “a more global and plural anthropological community” (2013:397). We need more anthropologists writing in a variety of languages about a variety of cultures and topics, specifically engaging the public in our attempts to explain the fascinating biocultural nature of humans around the world.

Kristina Killgrove reflects on the use of blogging and social media to extend public outreach amongst anthropologists. Read her whole post, it’s terrific and there are lessons for sociologists and other social scientists.

Gender and the Study of Scientists at Sea

I started watching this 2012 UK documentary series a couple of nights a go, Orbit: Earth’s Extraordinary Journey. It was an interesting look at the Earth’s orbit as well as extreme weather patterns. I especially enjoyed seeing a science show hosted by women. Co-presenter Dr Helen Czerski discussed science with great passion. Reading more about Czerski’s research led to other interesting projects about women in science, science education and social scientists who study other scientists at sea. 

Continue reading Gender and the Study of Scientists at Sea

Memory, Time and Habitus

On Google+, M. Laura Moazedi shared a post on the connection between memory and movement. She discusses chronesthesia, the process by which we ‘travel through time mentally.’ Aging and mental illness have an impact on our sensory perception and memories associated with the past and present. In a healthy state, remembering the past affects our bodily movements and sense of space. How might this link with the sociological concept of habitus?

Continue reading Memory, Time and Habitus

Hangout with Scientists on Google Plus

Want to learn more about what other scientists on Google+ are doing? Check out the Science Engager Circle on our Science on Google+ community. I curate the social science stream! Read an interesting and lively discussion about different research projects and the types of Googel Hangouts people are interested in as part of our community. You can still contribute to the conversation by telling us about your research. If you’re a scientist, add your name to our database to be included in discipline-specific circles that are shared by our community.

Sexual Harassment in Anthropology

A preliminary survey of 98 women and 23 male anthropologists finds 30% have been verbally abused whilst carrying out field work. A further 63% of women and 39% of men have faced sexualised comments in the field and 21% of women have been physically harassed – mostly by senior researchers in their field team. The study is being extended as more field researchers come forward and share their stories.

One of the study’s researchers, Professor Kathryn Clancy, says that as more people complete the survey, it is apparent that sexual abuse in the field is more common, but women researchers do not speak up fearing the consequences on their academic careers:

“Taken together, these factors result in a particularly vulnerable population of victims and witnesses powerless to intervene. As a discipline, we need to recognize and remedy that an appreciable non-zero number of our junior colleagues, particularly women, are having to endure harassment and a hostile work environment in order to be scientists.”