The institute said in its statement that some of its regulations prohibited wearing work or “sport clothing” in public areas. Such rules were intended to ensure people adhered to hygiene and safety standards in public areas like the mess halls and the ship’s bridge, it said. The dress code was discussed again in the context of other rules, the institute said, adding that there was no connection between harassment and “repeated admonitions to adhere to the dress code.”
The institute added, “Women and men participate in our polar expeditions as equals, and are equally supported in their work by the ship’s crews and aircraft crews that we employ.”
As Ms. Harvey’s account spread on social media, it drew outrage among scientists and science journalists, who said it fit with a broader, longstanding pattern of unequal treatment.
Although the inequities faced by women in science-related fields are widely recognized, there is not much research on the topic. A 2019 study on how gender bias affects women in science by the American Society for Microbiology found that, in 2015, women made up half of the college-educated U.S. work force in science but held 28 percent of jobs in those occupations.
A 2014 survey of academic field experiences published in Plos One, a peer-reviewed open access journal, found that, of the more than 500 women who participated, 71 percent had been sexually harassed and 26 percent had been sexually assaulted. Female trainees were the primary targets, the survey said, and perpetrators were usually senior to them within a research team. Not many participants were aware of how to report such episodes, it said, and most who did report episodes were unsatisfied with the outcome.
Erin Pettit, a glaciologist at Oregon State University, said she was “flabbergasted” after hearing about the dress-code policy aboard the Fedorov. “Normally, the kind of dress code that’s a safety issue is not wearing scarves that would catch in something, not wearing loose clothing, having your hair down instead of your hair up,” she said. “Things that will cause physical damage to you when they get caught in a winch or something like that.”
Women in science are often battling microaggressions from their peers, Dr. Pettit said. “It’s exhausting to have to put out the extra energy to make sure you’re not forgotten as a co-author on a paper or make sure you’re getting a voice at the table, making sure you’re not passed over.”