Ending Sexual Harassment in STEM

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

Stop sexual harassment

A 2018 National Academies report titled “Sexual Harassment of Women” shows that sexual harassment in the sciences has been an ongoing issue for decades. A recent survey of undergraduate women in physics found that nearly 75% of respondents experienced at least one type of sexual harassment.

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

The Combating Sexual Harassment in STEM Act, which passed the House in a bipartisan manner in 2019, will create avenues to address and prevent sexual harassment. It establishes an Interagency Working Group to coordinate efforts to reduce sexual harassment, directs the NSF to award grants to institutions researching sexual harassment in the sciences with the goal of prevention and reduction, and 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

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.

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.

If your Congress member has not already arrived at a firm decision on an issue, which of the following advocacy strategies might have a positive influence on his/her decision?

How many emails are needed before you consider taking the requested action?