Women of color in California and around the country often find themselves struggling to achieve professional parity with their white and male colleagues. Unfortunately, the reality of sexual harassment and racial bias can hamper these women’s efforts. Harassment and bias are realities in all occupations, including scientific fields.

In a study, planetary scientists and astronomers who are also women of color reported high rates of harassment in their workplaces. The nature of the harassment varied, but 28 percent of the women interviewed said they felt unsafe at work because of their race, and 40 percent indicated feeling unsafe due to their gender.

Another disturbing statistic is that 18 percent of women scientists of color and 12 percent of white women scientists decided to not attend professional events because they felt it was unsafe to do so. Not attending such events can have a negative impact on the trajectory of an individual’s career.

The law is clear that everyone, regardless of gender, race, or disability has a right to seek professional opportunities in an atmosphere free of discrimination and harassment. Victims of a hostile work environment have the right to report the problem to human resources. These individuals also have protection against retaliation from an employer over filing a report.

Workers in any field who believe that they have experienced illegal workplace discrimination or harassment may benefit from speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. Legal counsel can review the client’s case and make recommendations regarding the next steps to take. If the matter cannot be resolved internally, then it might be advisable to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.


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