A Very Public Apology

My last post castigated Biology Online for the actions of an employee who was totally wrong in making a slur against a woman who declined a project. This morning, I was glad to learn that Biology Online has done the right thing. It has apologized to Danielle Lee by email. It has posted a very public apology on its website. And it has fired the employee who made the slur.

Sexist remarks and slurs are serious. They insult the women at whom they are directed. They create a hostile work environment–even when that work environment is spread out among a network of freelancers and remote employees.

In a broader sense, sexist remarks and slurs hinder the general advancement of women among the ranks of professionals. People don’t often talk about the “glass ceiling” these days–the idea that professions may let most women rise only so high, but no higher. And as Elaine Wherry recently pointed out in a Wall Street Journal blog, people are often more subtle now.

Consequently, when slurs do surface, they cannot be tolerated. Otherwise, they reinforce the unseen barriers.

Biology Online’s response was the proper one from a legal perspective. It was also the right thing to do. I’d like to hope they’d have done the right thing even if the case hadn’t become very public. And we should all hope incidents like this don’t happen again.

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