Welcome to the E-discussion

Welcome everyone to this e-discussion on Addressing Sexual Harassment in Research Organizations. We will discuss the occurrence of, response to and prevention of sexual harassment in research performing and research funding organizations, and the higher education sector more broadly.

My name is Claartje Vinkenburg, I am an in-house consultant with Portia ltd, and in the ACT project I am leading the ERA priority group on careers. This e-discussion is the first activity that this group holds. Next to questions to our experts, we welcome and encourage any lessons learned and practice examples of "what works".

Before we begin I would like to repeat four simple rules of engagement to keep the conversation going and flowing.

−    use the "reply" button to respond directly to posts in the thread;
−    refresh the page regularly, using buttons in the address bar or the bottom of the page;
−    do not worry about spelling and grammar - we will polish the final version later;
−    do not mention names or details of sexual harassment cases, respect privacy.

I will start a new comment when we move to the next topic on the agenda. Looking forward!

 

Comments

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

I invite our experts to shortly introduce themselves and their epxertise on the topic of sexual harassment

Susuana Amoah's picture

My name is Susuana Amoah and I am a Gender and Media Masters Graduate. I have previously led on anti-sexual harassment and consent education projects at the University of London Union, National Union of Students, University of Sussex Students Union and King's College London. Using my experience of woking on sexual harassment in Higher Education I designed the University Sexual Misconduct Response & Prevention Maturity Matrix (which I like to call The Phoenix Matrix Model), which is a self-assessment tool to measure the progress of university institutional responses to sexual misconduct. 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Good to have you here!

Marijke Naezer's picture

Hello all, thank you Claartje for opening this meeting!

I’m Marijke Naezer, a cultural anthropologist and genderstudies researcher. I participate in this discussion mostly because of a study I conducted in 2018-2019 together with prof. Marieke van den Brink and prof. Yvonne Benschop, about harassment against women in Dutch academia (commissioned by the Dutch Network of Women Professors).

In this study, we analysed 53 women academics’ own experiences with harassment. Results were published in the report “Harassment in Dutch academia: Exploring manifestations, facilitating factors, effects and solutions”. In the report, we distinguish six different manifestations of harassment in academia: scientific sabotage, sexual harassment, physical and verbal threats, denigration, exclusion, and problematising “special needs”.

This is facilitated by at least four structural and cultural factors: hierarchies within and outside of academia, the competitive and individualistic culture of contemporary academia, inadequate responses to incidents and “self-silencing” among victims.

We describe the effects of harassment and suggest interventions at different levels: creating awareness, creating support structures and creating a culture of care.

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Good to have you here!

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

Here´s a short bio on me:

Fredrik Bondestam is currently the Director of the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg (www.genus.gu.se). He holds a PhD in Sociology (2004, Uppsala University) with a focus on gender equality and gender mainstreaming in academia. His research focus is on higher education in various respects, primarily organizational change, feminist pedagogy, sexual harassment, and gender mainstreaming in theory and practice. As research leader at the Center for Gender Research, Uppsala University, he developed new gender perspectives on the management, governance and organization of higher education within the framework of an excellence program financed by the Swedish Research Council. Since 2013, Fredrik has worked at the University of Gothenburg with several tasks, for example managing the government assignment on gender mainstreaming Swedish universities during 2016-2017. He has a long experience from various expert assignments within research and higher education policy, with a special focus on gender equality in academia, and is involved in several EU networks on gender in research and education.

 

 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Good to have you here and thanks to Maja Lundqvist also for helping prepare!

lzakowsk's picture

I am Lidia from Poland, Cracow University of Technology - congratulation! how great experience you have , especially as a men!

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

Life-long experience of feminist experience, just as it should be ;-)

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

The first topic is the occurrence of sexual harassment in research organizations and higher education. What is it about this setting that makes sexual harassment (especially) likely to occur?

 

 

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

Difficult to summarize, but we found in our research reviews that a majority of studies argued for e few specific concerns in the HE-sector: asymmetric power relations, strong dependence on senior staff, toxic masculinities,  insecure/precarious employment conditions, high levels of mobility, uninformed/passive leadership  

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

I think this really captures the specifics of the sector - especially the dependencies and toxic masculinities. Do you also find that hypercompetition plays a separate role, or is that part of toxic masculinity?

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

What is important is, I guess, there are no longitudinal studies on prevalence actually targeting causality in the sense explaing the occurence of SH in HE. Instead, theoretical claims are made on the masis of disciplinary background etc. Thus, what actually causes SH is a matter of theory, but on the other hand there are instead several studies pointing out severe consequences on many levels for individualsm groups and organisations, but this is yet another subject for today. As for toxic masculinities and hypercompetitiveness, these are "long term" explanations used in the research field (at least since the early 1980s').

 

Ewa Krzaklewska's picture

Do we have a good data on occurence of sexual harrassment in relation to discipline/study field? 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Do we have any data on this?

agodfroy's picture

I confirm toxic masculinity is a huge problem. 

lzakowsk's picture

what do you mean by TOXIC masculinity?

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Could one of our experts (Fredrik you brought this up) please explain?

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

I like this definition https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Toxic%20Masculinity

It is different from (and more extreme than) masculinity and it makes workplaces inhospitable and sometimes literally poisonous, for men too

 

Marijke Naezer's picture

I like it too, but I'm not sure whether it is useful to say that toxic masculinity is different from masculinity. I would say it is one type of masculinity, next to other masculinities (see the great work on this by Raewyn Connell).

Susuana Amoah's picture

When I worked at the National Union of Students we researched this topic and what we found to be the root cause was the normalisation of sexism on university campuses 

"Respondents described university education as ‘gendered’ and cited issues such as the characterisation/status of particular subjects, classroom interactions, and negative attitudes towards feminism and gender-related topics."

While this culture does not just exist in higher education, the structual inequality, toxic masculinity and the elitism that many of these spaces habour, makes them furtile ground for sexual harassment.

Also it is very difficult to report sexual harassment in some institutions, which makes it easier to get away with. 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

This is a very important point and also why saying "that is just what academia / campus / research is like" a part of perpetuating the problem.

Marijke Naezer's picture

In our study, factors that came up were

(1) the hierarchical culture&structure of the academy (with intersecting hierarchies playing a role, such as organisational hierarchies, gender hierarchies, etc). One person can have a lot of power over another person's career. Because of that, people tolerate behaviour which they would not accept otherwise. Moreover, it enables perpetrators to behave as they wish without being held accountable (especially if they are academic "stars").

(2) The competitive and individualistic culture&structure of the academy, which turns academics into competiitors rather than team players. This facilitates harassment in that it divides people, making  it hard to stand up against (sexual) harassment.

(3) Inadequate responses to harassment, because of which perpetrators can continue their behaviour for sometimes very long times.

(4) "Self-silencing" of victims, because they do not feel supported and don't feel safe to speak up. And because of this, leaders don't know/ are able to deny that there is a problem...

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

This is painful in itself, indeed a huge part of the problem and what makes it hard to tackle effectively

Ewa Krzaklewska's picture

To what extent self-silencing come from the lack of procedures or from the fact that procedures do not protect victims? If there was a transparent and safe way to pose a case and also psychological support in such endevour, that could be a potential solution to this issue? 

Marijke Naezer's picture

Yes, definitely! That is also why I used quotation marks: in fact, this silence is caused by external factors. 

I would use this concept like feminist researchers have done before, where “self-silencing” is regarded as the result of someone not “having the ability, the means, and the right to express oneself, one's mind, and one's will” (Reinharz 1994, 180), a definition that emphasises the socio-cultural and political nature of silence (Ahrens 2006, 263).

Indeed, our data demonstrate that research participants decided to remain silent under the influence of the other systemic factors that we described (hierarchies, competion&individualism, inadequate responses to incidents).

tvkirova's picture

A lot of times self-silencing comes from lack of knowledge where to report the incident, as well as from the experience of previous victims who did report but their case was dismissed and they received no protection.

agodfroy's picture

This problem may be addressed with a specific service, a sort of task force you reach through an email (in my university stop-violence@u-pec.fr). It needs to be regularly advertised in the communication of the university. 
To me, the most difficult part is what comes next. We are usually rather good to offer protection (but very often we move the victim to another group or place, not the harasser, not always, we recently forbid a harassing academic the access to the university). We are able to stop the facts, but then comes the inquiry (both internal and in some cases judiciary) and we are not so good there. During internal procedures, the hierarchy is always there and it is the same who have covered facts. But the worse problem is after the inquiry. We do not know how to deal with harassers, especially when they are full professors. 

agodfroy's picture

Yes hierarchies are a problem, at the origin of harassment and also preventing adequate responses. Very often, the inquiry must include the director of the lab, for hierarchical reasons, but he/she is the person who covered the facts during years in many cases. So he/she is both judge and party. Which is crazy. When I write he or she, it is mostly he (toxic masculinity) 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Marijke do you think the strength of the stereotype of the ideal academic matters? Where the stereotype is very strong (e.g. philosophy, mathematics, physics perhaps), would that make a difference? It is much more difficult to fit the stereotype if you do not look like it and "othering" through micro-agressions etc will be stronger

Marijke Naezer's picture

Yes, I think that stereotypes of the ideal academic definitely matter! This also came up in our study. Stereotypical ideas about who can be a scientist, and how scientists behave, influence how people are treated: who are protected (and made powerful), who are marginalised? People belonging to one or more minority groups often reported micro-agressions related to their minority position (e.g. gender, race, religion, geographical background, sexuality, ability, etc). 

tvkirova's picture

As women in natural sciences sometimes we are told that we don't look like  "a real scientist" ot that we should "be less emotional".

Susuana Amoah's picture

I'm not sure about the term “self-silencing” as it sounds a bit victim-blamey - it attributes the fault of the action to the person who has experience the harassment. Would rather say a root cause was frame it as a lack of victim support and the result of this was the silencing of victims. It sounds like you mean this - but I think that framing is important. 

Marijke Naezer's picture

Yes to all of this, see my earlier remark! That's why it's between quotation marks. But maybe another term might be better, to avoid misinterpretations.  

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

Bondestam F. & Lundqvist, M. 2018. Sexual Harassment in Academia. An International Research Review. Research Report 2018:15. Stockholm: The Swedish Research Council.**

Bondestam, F. & Lundqvist, M. 2020a. Efforts to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Academia. An International Research Review. Stockholm: Swedish Council for Higher Education.

Bondestam, F. & Lundqvist, M. 2020b. Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. A Systematic Review. European Journal of Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/21568235.2020.1729833.

Aretiti's picture

Hi everyone, glad to be here. I am one of the ACT EU project community of practice facilitators representing France and the CNRS, working with Anne-Sophie Godfroy. I have extensive professional and research experience on Cultural Studies, audience research, participatory design methods, evaluation and impact assessment. I am new to the topic we are discussing today, even if I feel directly preoccupied and concerned.  

agodfroy's picture

I am gender equality officer in my university, so I am involved in the prevention and in the inquiries about sexual harassment. We have a specific email to receive complaints. I have the impression that remote and isolated campus or departments have more affairs. Other recurrent places are the companies where students perform internships and the students parties. 

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

Yes that is an important point - remoteness, isolation, parties (part of lad-culture, as they would call it in the UK) and indeed internship companies. Fieldwork also, I hear

agodfroy's picture

At the moment we have 2 affairs under investigation. 
And a potential 3rd one. 
Sadly, because of lockdown, everything is more or less stopped 

agodfroy's picture

We have often affairs mixing sexual harassment and othe4 discrimination as racism or antisemitism.  

Marijke Naezer's picture

I definitely recognise this from our study! Based on our data, we distinguish 6 different manifestations of harassment, one of them being sexual harassment. We noticed that many times, one person experienced several types of harassment simultanuously. E.g. sexual harassment and scientific sabotage, and/or denigration, exclusion, etc. 

Olga Kotowska's picture

If I may ask a question to your post - how do You measure/ describe denigration- as it seems to be very delicate to prove?

agodfroy's picture

We have a document to help describing harassment. When somebody complains, we have a discussion to help the person filing a form (fiche de signalement in French) and describe facts in the most possible objective way. We have discussed common terms among the network of French GE officers in universities, so we can be sure we are discussing the same facts. 
Beyond this, there are some surveys, but the answering rate is often very poor. Generally speaking, it is very difficult to reach persons who are not already aware of the topic. 

Marijke Naezer's picture

We defined denigration as follows: "all behaviours that have the aim and/or effect of humiliating or belittling people, and that are overtly expressed in the direct presence of those people". Our study was aimed at analysing victim's experiences, and we took victims’ interpretations and evaluations of incidents as our starting point.

We do not expect this focus on victims’ perspectives to have resulted in overreporting, since previous studies as well as our own study demonstrated that harassment tends to be underreported rather than overreported (McDonald 2012, Clodfelter et al. 2010, Magley and Shupe 2005, Littleton, Axsom, and Yoder 2006, Ilies et al. 2003). Victims are reluctant rather than over-enthusiastic to label their experiences as harassment, for instance because they question the seriousness of an incident, because the incident does not match their definition of harassment or violence, or because they do not want to label themselves as victims.

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

I agree completely. Also, a lot of racist harassment are strongly linked to sexual harassment, and vice cersa, the importance of an intersectional perspetvie cannot be stressed enough

Marijke Naezer's picture

Yes, I strongly agree!

Aretiti's picture

That is very interesting. Is there a document/report publicly available with this categorisation (i.e. all six types you have identified)?

c.j.vinkenburg's picture

This 2019 report by Marijke Naezer is in the resource list for this discussion

agodfroy's picture

We have harassment between students, between staff (especially non academic) and between students and academics. All three types seem as frequent (but the data is limited to self report we encourage, we do not know everything) 

Fredrik Bondestam's picture

Looking in to research on prevalence, it seems as if admin staff and students experience the highest levels of SH in HE, but it varies to a large degree. More exposure definitively on minorities (racial, sexual), younger women (both in terms of age and time spent in academia), and during internship for example. More research needed, hopefully, the ongpoing call in H2020, SwafS-25-2020 will enable a consortia to perform an in-depth study on prevalence in member states in order to clarify similarities and differences in HE-systems nationally. To my mind, underreportingstill remains the main problem gaining true knowledge on actual prevalence and its effects.

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2020-Apr-16

1 year 7 months ago
Posted by: c.j.vinkenburg
Welcome everyone to this e-discussion on Addressing Sexual Harassment in Research Organizations. We will discuss the occurrence of, response to and prevention of sexual harassment in research performing and research funding organizations, and the higher education sector more broadly.My name is Claartje Vinkenburg, I am an in-house consultant with Portia ltd, and in the ACT project I am leading...
Comments: 93

2020-Apr-10

1 year 7 months ago
Posted by: c.j.vinkenburg
In preparation to the discussion, please take a look at these links to reports and other resources our experts worked on. Profiles of experts on sexual harassment in research organizations and higher education: Dr Fredrik Bondestam & Maja Lundqvist work at the Swedish Secretariate for Gender Research and have prepared a literature review on sexual harassment in academia in 2018 for...
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