One in two women scientists worldwide has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace during their career, reveals an international Ipsos survey for the L'Oréal Foundation published Thursday.

According to this consultation of about 5,000 researchers in 117 countries, including the France, 49% of women scientists say they have "personally faced at least one situation of sexual harassment during their career". Almost half of them after the emergence of the #MeToo movement in 2017. For 65% of them, these situations have had a negative impact on their careers, on five continents.

Yet only one victim in five reported it within his institution, details this survey conducted in the fields of science (excluding social sciences), technology, engineering and mathematics, within 50 public and private institutions.

Higher risk early in the career

Several situations are described: 25% testify to people addressing them "inappropriately and repeatedly", with nicknames ("doll", "baby", "kitty", "nana"...) or insults; 24% report "intrusive and repeated questions" about their private or sexual life that "make them uncomfortable."

A majority of the events occurred at the beginning of their careers. As a result, there was a negative impact on scientific careers, with 52% of victims saying they had "avoided certain staff members", 25% felt "in danger in the workplace". 64% of the scientists surveyed (women and men) regret the insufficient action to combat sexual harassment at work.

"Zero tolerance policy"

"This survey confirms that science has not made its revolution enough since the #MeToo movement," Alexandra Palt, CEO of the L'Oréal Foundation, told AFP.

The Foundation, which supports with UNESCO the careers of women scientists around the world, calls on institutions to "take responsibility and change behaviour". It advocates a "zero tolerance policy" and a "budgetary commitment". "There needs to be an effective and transparent internal reporting system," Palt said.

Only 33% of science researchers are women in the world and less than 4% receive Nobel Prizes, the Foundation said. "If we want to fully exploit the potential of women in research, they must feel safe," said Alexandra Palt.

The study was conducted by Ipsos using the consultation method, from July 26 to September 16, 2022.

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