Australian women working on research bases in Antarctica have been plagued by a widespread culture of sexual harassment, a recently released report found.
The report, commissioned by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), notes that the women reported unwelcome requests for sex, inappropriate sexual comments and displays of offensive or pornographic material.
“Given the underrepresentation of women in the AAP (Australian Antarctica Program) (especially during winter) some women also described the culture as ‘predatory’ and objectifying,” the report said, while other participants described a homophobic culture on stations.
The report, conducted by associate professor Meredith Nash from the University of Tasmania, also revealed female expeditioners feel they “must go to great lengths to make their menstruation invisible” and go through “additional psychological and physical labor to manage” menstruation, including changing their menstrual products without privacy or adequate sanitation.
Australia’s Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said in an interview with Australian public broadcaster ABC she was “gobsmacked” to read the report.
“Let me be absolutely clear: there is no place for sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in any workplace,” Plibersek said in a statement Thursday, calling the treatment described in the report as “unacceptable.”
The report made recommendations on how to change the culture at the stations, including the creation of an “equity and inclusion task force.”
Plibersek said Australia’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is working through the recommendations.
Australia is not alone in combating these issues.
The report on the Australian research bases in Antarctica comes a month after the US National Science Foundation (NSF) released an assessment of the US Antarctic Program which found that “sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual assault are ongoing, continuing problems in the USAP community.”