Efforts to combat sexual harassment in the sciences have been ineffective and may be leading women to leave the field, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
"If we are losing talent in science, engineering, and medicine, then that is something that is detrimental to our country and quite frankly to the world," report co-author Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College, tells the Associated Press.
The New York Times notes that sexual harassment has "long simmered in labs and classrooms." The National Academies report cites studies that found academia to be second only to the military in terms of the rate of sexual harassment and that 20 percent of female science students, more than a quarter of female engineering, and more than 40 percent of female medical students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff.
The report highlighted a number of factors that likely contribute to sexual harassment in the sciences: the work environment is often male-dominated; there is a perceived tolerance of sexual harassment; the power structure may hamper reporting; there is often only symbolic compliance with Title IX and Title VII policies; and campus leadership is often uninformed.
It also offers a number of recommendations to combat sexual harassment. For instance, it suggests that academic institutions strive to create diverse, inclusive, and respectful environments; improve transparency and accountability; and provide support for those targeted. Funding agencies, meanwhile, could consider sexual harassment on the same scale as research misconduct, it adds.
"We really have to move beyond a mind-set of legal compliance and liability and think about the ways we can change the climate," Johnson tells the Times.
Vox notes that the National Academies has itself been rocked by harassment issues. Inder Verma stepped down as the editor in chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month, and last week from his position at the Salk Institute, following sexual harassment allegations. But, there is no mechanism to remove Verma or others as members, something it says it is looking into.