Rampant gender-based harassment and discrimination are recognized problems that negatively impact efforts to diversify science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. We explored the particularities of this phenomenon in the geosciences, via focus groups conducted at STEM professional society meetings, with the goal of informing interventions specific to the discipline. Using grounded theory analysis, two primary drivers for the persistence and perpetuation of gender-based harassment in the geosciences were identified: a particular history of power dynamics and maintenance of dominant stereotypes, and a pattern of ineffective responses to incidents of harassment and discrimination. Informed by intersectional feminist scholarship by women of color that illustrates how efforts to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM without attending to the overlapping impacts of racism, colonialism, ableism, and classism will not succeed, we view harassment and discrimination as structural problems that require collective solutions. Continuing to recruit individuals into a discipline without changing its fundamental nature can tokenize and isolate them or encourage assimilation and acceptance of deep-seated traditions no matter how damaging. It is the responsibility of those in power, and especially those who hold more privileged status due to their social identities, to contribute to the dismantling of current structures that reinforce inequity. By providing explanatory illustrative examples drawn from first-person accounts we aim to humanize the numbers reported in workplace climate surveys, address gaps in knowledge specific to the geosciences, and identify interventions aligned with an intersectional framework that aim to disrupt discriminatory practices endemic to the geosciences and larger STEM community.
Mattheis A, Marín-Spiotta E, Nandihalli S, Schneider B, Barnes RT. "Maybe this is just not the place for me:" Gender harassment and discrimination in the geosciences. PLoS One. 2022 May 18;17(5):e0268562. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0268562. PMID: 35584104; PMCID: PMC9116675.