Sexual Harassment In Academic Science, Engineering, Medicine Needs Systemwide Change

By Bradley J. Fikes
The San Diego Union-Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A new report regarding sexual harassment in the fields of science, engineering and medicine is disturbing. The harassment reportedly includes not only open demands for sex with the risk of retaliation for refusal, but other demeaning treatment that places women at a disadvantage to men.

The San Diego Union-Tribune

The nation’s top body on science issues made it official Tuesday: sexual harassment isn’t just a problem in Hollywood, politics and the corporate world.

Maltreatment of women is about as common in science, engineering and medicine as in more publicized fields, according to a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

This not only harms the women involved, but also the fields they work in, by driving out qualified people. A free copy of the nearly 300-page report can be obtained at j.mp/sxhreport.

The harassment includes not only open demands for sex with the risk of retaliation for refusal, but other demeaning treatment that places women at a disadvantage to men. Legal remedies are an insufficient to deterrent, the report stated.

To stop this, the climate and culture in science, medical and engineering need to be changed to penalize harassers, the report said. This includes changing federal funding incentives and imposing requirements that faculty and leadership openly pledge to oppose harassment and support diversity policies.

Sexual harassment scandals in these disciplines have taken place around the world, including San Diego.

-Noted Salk Institute scientist Inder Verma has just resigned after the institute investigated charges against him that included sexual harassment of females. Meanwhile, the institute grapples with ongoing sexual discrimination litigation.

-UC Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy left his faculty position in 2015 after reports that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with female students.

-At the United Nations, engineer Rajendra Pachauri resigned as chair of a climate change panel in 2015 after he was accused of sexual harassment of women.

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