Event Harassment Survey
Meetings, programs, and events are core activities of both OSA and SPIE and serve two key goals: advancing the field and advancing individuals in their careers. However, negative experiences can become obstacles, and even barriers, to those goals. Rather than spurring advancement, these experiences discourage and hold individuals back from full participation in events, and consequently reduce their ability to contribute to the field.
Harassment, bullying, and retaliation create divisive and exclusionary environments. Providing a professional and safe conference environment, as well as raising awareness of harassing behaviors, are priorities for OSA and SPIE. To better understand the attendee experiences, OSA and SPIE jointly distributed a survey to their combined global membership in December 2018. The survey results will help us understand the scale of any issues at our events and to look for critical areas of focus for improvement.
“At every conference I attend, there is always at least one person who acts inappropriately towards me. It’s hard to stand up for myself and tell the offender that their behavior is unwelcome because there is no backup, and often these incidents occur without witnesses.”
More Work To Be Done
The good news is that the majority of attendees at OSA and SPIE meetings have not experienced or witnessed harassment at our events. However, the survey illustrated that problems do exist and highlighted the need for both organizations to continue their efforts to provide safe and diverse meeting experiences that focus on advancing the science and application of light.
OSA and SPIE have worked to address this problem through the adoption of an anti-harassment policy and a code of conduct and by establishing procedures for implementing and enforcing this policy. Each organization also has programs, events, and activities designed to recognize, celebrate, and support the diversity that helps to make our interdisciplinary, global community thrive.
“Fortunately, I have not been sexually bullied, but the harassment I have experienced is common throughout optical science. It is the more subtle kind of discrimination that occurs without people even being aware of it. For example, a woman might ask a question at a conference talk and it gets ignored, overlooked, or discounted as foolish/irrelevant. It is not always obvious that this is going on, but after repeated experiences such as these, women feel less welcomed, even if they weren’t the person asking the question.”