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Not the Best Advice, Maybe?

A column appearing briefly at Science Careers yesterday — it has since been removed after the outcry it sparked — advised a postdoc who complained that her adviser was looking down her shirt that she put up with it. (The article is archived here.)

The columnist, Alice Huang, writes that the ogling doesn't meet the definition of sexual harassment and basically says the student should grit her teeth. "As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can," she says. "Just make sure that he is listening to you and your ideas, taking in the results you are presenting, and taking your science seriously. His attention on your chest may be unwelcome, but you need his attention on your science and his best advice."

This, clearly, has raised some eyebrows. On Twitter, Dr Becca, PhD, writes, "I cannot un-drop my jaw after reading this 'advice,'" while Pamela Gay adds that she's received advice like this before and it "is part of why women leave science." At her blog, Isis the Scientist adds that she disagrees with the advice dispensed, but is not surprised by it.

Isis also discusses the options the trainee has — taking Huang's advice and "dealing with it" or reporting it — neither of which may be ideal. Isis notes that her university says that reporting a harasser is always the "right" move and offers protections for the complainant, but the risk is that those protections might not come through.

"What I don't recommend is operating under the assumption that there is anything that a woman can do to 'change her harasser's behavior," Isis adds. "These behaviors come from a place of entitlement and privilege and I don't believe that these are ever single occurrences."

She also encourages the postdoc to document, with a timestamp, everything that makes her uncomfortable.

In a message where the article used to be, Science says it was removed as it "did not meet our editorial standards, was inconsistent with our extensive institutional efforts to promote the role of women in science, and had not been reviewed by experts knowledgeable about laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace."