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Women of color in science fields face more discrimination

Women of color in California and across the country who work in some of the most advanced scientific fields continue to experience hostile environments based on their race and gender, a study has found. Their experience in the workplace underlies some of the key theories through which scholars understand discrimination, particularly the "double jeopardy" of both racial and gender harassment.

The study, published in the "Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets," surveyed 474 planetary scientists and astronomers. Of the responses received between 2011 and 2015, women of color participants experienced the highest rates of verbal harassment, assault and other forms of discrimination.

A full 40 percent of women of color working in these fields reported a lack of safety on the job due to gender, and 28 percent reported the same due to race. One of the more complex aspects of employment discrimination is the intersectional form, in which two or more protected issues combine in a case of harassment or discrimination. For example, Black women may experience harassment even in cases when white women or black men do not.

The report also noted that women generally are strongly underrepresented in astronomy, planetary science and other physical sciences. Gender and racial harassment can also play a key role in maintaining the glass ceiling. Promotion discrimination can help to create an environment that fosters sexual harassment and racism on the job. Harassment can also work to keep women of color out of the professional networks that can lead to promotions.

People who are subject to racial or gender discrimination can seek redress through several methods. An employment attorney can provide important advice to people facing discrimination on the job, including planning next steps such as internal complaints, EEOC filings or other potential legal actions. A lawyer can assist victims of discrimination to take meaningful action to bring these practices to an end and seek redress for damages.

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