Report calls for systemic changes to address sexual harassment in academia
- Sexual harassment thrives within academic institutions, and it may take a cultural and climatic change by those institutions to curb it, according to the authors of a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Researchers found no evidence that sexual harassment training, policies or procedures have successfully curtailed sexual harassment in academia.
- The most common form of sexual harassment cited in the study is gender harassment, the effect of which suggests that women don't belong in an organization or deserve respect, researchers said. One study, conducted by the University of Texas System, found 20% of female science students and more than 40% of female medical students had been sexually harassed by faculty or staff.
- The report recommends that academic leaders make sexual harassment reduction and prevention integral to their tenure, especially with respect to gender harassment. Other suggestions included: holding members of the academic community accountable for behavioral standards; creating diverse and inclusive environments; and providing targets of harassment with support, such as access to healthcare, legal services and information on preventing retaliation.
The incidence of perceived gender bias in academia is well-documented, and a 2018 Pew Research Report showed that women in these fields are more likely to feel hostility than their male counterparts. Pew also found that women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs are more likely to have experienced discrimination at work than women in non-STEM jobs.
Employers are still assessing the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace months after it began in earnest. Some training firms are reporting higher demand from employers for anti-sexual harassment training since #MeToo gained traction, but only a third of workers in a recent American Physiological Association survey said their employers had changed their sexual harassment prevention efforts in the wake of the movement.
Organizations must be willing to make concrete system changes to make meaningful change. Conventional training sessions haven't significantly improved the problem — something the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission identified nearly two years ago. There are a myriad of other approaches, ranging from improving the presence of women in leadership roles to stricter managerial escalation and detection training, but increasingly, debate on the issue is turning to the role of arbitration and non-disclosure agreements and whether they chill reporting at a base level.