Sexual Harassment in the Sciences

Representatives and Senators should co-sponsor the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019.

A 2018 National Academies report titled “Sexual Harassment of Women” shows that sexual harassment in the sciences has been an ongoing issue for decades. As an example, according to a 2003 study, 58% of women faculty across all fields experience or encounter sexual harassment in academia.

In particular, female faculty in science, engineering, and medicine who experience sexual harassment most commonly report three negative professional outcomes. They step down from leadership positions to avoid the perpetrator, leave their institution, or leave their field altogether. These consequences are damaging to the scientific community as a whole.

The bipartisan Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act will create avenues to address and prevent sexual harassment. It establishes an Interagency Working Group to coordinate efforts to reduce sexual harassment, it directs the NSF to award grants to institutions researching sexual harassment in the sciences with the goal of prevention and reduction, and it necessitates updates to the Academies report “On Being A Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research”.

“Sexual harassment is driving some of our brightest minds away from careers in research at a time when we need them most. If we are to tackle the scientific and technological challenges ahead of us, we must do more to ensure women are free to conduct their research without being degraded, harassed, or abused because of their gender.”

–Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

“As the daughter of a barrier breaking woman in STEM research, I know the importance of ensuring more women enter and excel in this field. As more women enter STEM fields, we must do more to ensure appropriate steps are taken to change the workplace climate and prevent sexual harassment. By shining a light on sexual harassment in STEM, this legislation is a step in the right direction to fostering an environment across STEM where everyone is safe and able to achieve their full potential.” –Sen. Kamala Harris

Contact your lawmaker and make your voice heard by mail, tweet, or phone.

Take Action on Sexual Harassment in the Sciences


The Impact of Personalized Emails

Although personalizing your email with your own experiences and anecdotes may take a few extra minutes, research shows that it is well worth the time. According to a Congressional Management Foundation survey, individualized emails are the second most effective method overall for positively influencing a member’s decision on an issue. Individualized email messages are also 64% more effective than form email messages.

Congress member decision issue graph

Furthermore, 83% of congressional staff surveyed said that it would take more than 50 form emails for them to consider taking the action requested. On the other hand, 70% of staff said that it would take less than 50 personalized emails for them to consider taking action. We encourage you to personalize your emails to Congressional members in order to maximize the impact of your voice.

Emails needed before action graph