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Scientists Suggest Measures to End Sexual Harassment in STEM Labs

A group of scientists has released a number of recommendations to combat sexual harassment and gender bias in STEM labs and the workforce.

The recommendations, which were in response to a 2018 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS, called for treating sexual misconduct using the same protocols and serious repercussions as scientific misconduct. The NAS report had studied the influence of sexual harassment in academia on the career advancement of women in STEM.

The recommendations compiled by 23 scientists pitched for requiring investigators to disclose harassment findings and settlements to funding agencies and potential employers.

“I think the solutions to sexual harassment and gender bias problems cannot solely rest with individual actors and their good intentions,” Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of social psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said.

“There have to be structural solutions, policies, procedures, incentives to be fair and checks in the system to ensure that the solutions are working as intended.”

It also urges the establishment of mechanisms to protect careers of harassment victims by expanding the “career reentry” grants program of National Institutes of Health (NIH), which allows individuals pushed out of science to resume their research.

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Physical Society, nearly three-quarters of the 471 undergraduate women who attended Society’s 2017 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) had experienced sexual harassment at some point over the last two years.

The study also found that 73 percent of respondents experienced gender harassment, which is often not categorized as a case of sexual harassment. The report observed significant professional and personal consequences on the victims as well.

Scientists also called on breaking the power of bias by ensuing transparency in start-up packages, salaries, and internal grant funding and promoting family-friendly policies that is based on work-life balance.

Earlier this year, Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act, seeks to provide for research to better understand the causes and consequences of sexual harassment affecting individuals in the STEM workforce, and to examine policies to reduce the prevalence and negative impact of such harassment.

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