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CEO DATELINE – Entomological society condemns ‘inappropriate’ imagery in science newsletter

July 20, 2018
By Walt Williams

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The Entomological Society of America recently issued a statement saying the group was “disturbed” about what some viewed as sexist imagery in a newsletter about scarab beetles—and in the process waded into a larger debate about sexism in the sciences.

The newsletter Scarabs recently featured photos of women in tight-fitting clothing with the publication’s name prominently emblazoned on their chests. The photos were accompanied with text suggesting the models were “assistants” chosen only for their appearance.

The publication is produced by The Coleopterists Society and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, according to an anonymous post about the controversy on the website Medium. The newsletter has been taken offline and The Coleopterists Society has apologized for its content. However, some view the incident as part of a greater problem with how women are treated and represented in the sciences.

In a statement, ESA President Michael Parrella condemned the “highly inappropriate imagery and language” used in the newsletter.

“Such communication that objectifies and demeans people has no place in science and runs counter to ESA’s stated principles and commitment to advancing inclusion and equality within the entomological profession,” Parrella said.

He noted ESA has taken several steps to address sexism and sexual harassment, including instituting a new code of conducts for its events, establishing a protocol for event attendees to report harassment and launching a diversity and inclusion intuitive.

ESA is not the only group representing scientists and academics to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in its profession. The Medium post noted the American Geophysical Union last year defined sexual harassment as a form of scientific misconduct. And in May, AGU rescinded an award to a University of Southern California seismologist after investigating a conduct complaint against him, although the group didn’t detail the nature of the complaint. http://bit.ly/2uEaAml

Other science and academic groups—including the American Political Science Association, American Astronomical Society and American Historical Association—also have adopted policies addressing sexism and sexual harassment. And in June, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization—an industry group—strongly condemned a party featuring topless female dancers held in conjunction with its annual meeting.

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