Washington Update

National Academies Convocation Seeks to Eliminate Sexual Harassment in Academia

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, November 15, 2018

On November 9, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened leaders from academia, funding agencies, industry, and scientific societies in Washington to discuss collective strategies for combating sexual harassment in academia. Cited as the “next chapter” of the groundbreaking report, “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,” the action-oriented agenda emphasized implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The morning consisted of three plenaries. The first challenged common misperceptions about sexual harassment: types of behaviors considered harassment, the impact of harassing behaviors on job satisfaction, overstated fears of false reports, and the false security of training and reporting mechanisms. For each of these misconceptions, data-driven corrections were presented.

Plenary two explored institutional strategies to move beyond mere collection and reporting of sexual harassment, to establishing environments where harassing behaviors are not tolerated. The final plenary highlighted the unique roles of federal agencies in fostering hospitable and harassment-free research environments.

During lunch, participants networked and discussed promising practices adopted by several institutions during a poster session. This hands-on approach continued into the afternoon’s five concurrent sessions. Topics ranged from fostering diversity and inclusion on campus to campus climate surveys; from strategies for accountability and transparency to meaningful training practices. Participants regrouped for a “debrief” session at the end of day, with NASEM staff reporting highlights from each plenary.

Although the day’s discussions highlighted areas in need of focused effort and strategies, many participants commented on how much had already been accomplished in the nearly six months since the report’s release, a result of broad stakeholder engagement around the day’s theme, “together we can do better.”