Neil deGrasse Tyson said Wednesday that recent revelations of sexual harassment in science are not unique to that field, and may not stem from underrepresentation of women.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News science editor Virginia Hughes as part of the Breakfast with BuzzFeed series, the astrophysicist also declared that his field is “the most open” about sexual harassment.
Referencing the case of Geoff Marcy — one of the world’s most prominent astronomers who last year was found to have violated sexual harassment policies as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and for many years before — deGrasse Tyson said the issue was not a new one for physicists or society at large.
“If you went to anyone — the women — in the field, at conferences, everyone’s got a story,” he said. “I think if you part the curtains in any of the fields, you’ll find it.
“So the issue is not sexual harassment in science,” he continued. “The issue is sexual harassment in the workplace, which includes scientific workplaces. So I don’t see that there’s some special kind of solution to that problem needed to be invoked in a scientific community.”
He also said there is not necessarily a correlation between the frequency of sexual harassment incidents among women in science and their underrepresentation in their field.
“I bet you go to professions that might even be 50-50, it’s not going to be absent of sexual harassment,” he said.
While he has not personally experienced sexual harassment in his workplace, deGrasse Tyson said, “I know people, and I know their conduct, in public and in private, enough to guess that the percentage of women in a field is not gonna necessarily change the likelihood of sexual harassment.”
He mentioned, however, that the prevalence of sexual mistreatment among women in the science community could contribute to their reluctance to enter it in the first place.
“In the physical sciences, women are underrepresented relative to the population. Does this hostile harassment environment keep women away?”
Watch deGrasse Tyson's full interview here.