NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Cover of Together We Can Do Better: A Gathering of Leaders in Academia to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Together We Can Do Better: A Gathering of Leaders in Academia to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

Authors: ; ; . Irene Hgun, Rapporteur.

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); .

March 2019

In recent decades, important gains have been made with respect to the participation of women in science, technology, engineering, and medical (STEM) disciplines at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the United States. More women than ever are joining faculty ranks in these fields and moving into leadership positions in higher education. While the “gender gap” is narrowing, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine1 argues that more rapid and sustained progress in closing the gap in science, engineering, and medicine is jeopardized by the persistence of sexual harassment and its adverse impact on women's careers at colleges and universities. In an effort to advance the discussion on implementing the report's recommendations, the National Academies held a convocation on November 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The event brought together academic leaders, Title IX and diversity officers, ombudsmen, researchers in sexual harassment, and leaders from professional societies, foundations, and federal agencies, to discuss strategies and share promising practices. The statements, recommendations, and opinions expressed here are those of individual presenters and participants and do not represent group consensus.

Frazier Benya, senior program officer at the National Academies, delivered the opening address on behalf of Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College and co-chair of the study committee. The report's release in June 2018 was a first step in the ongoing conversation and a collective effort across academic institutions, professional societies, and federal agencies to prevent sexual harassment. It demonstrates the important role funders of research play in preventing sexual harassment in higher education. She acknowledged the National Science Foundation as the lead sponsor and recognized the important contributions from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Luce Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Benya encouraged participants to engage in constructive and collaborative discussion, to think creatively, and to move beyond the fear of legal liability that many institutions have. “We should strive to create a culture that stops sexual harassment from occurring in the first place,” she stressed.

Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, offered his welcome remarks, noting that since the report's release in June 2018, many universities have begun to work on innovative policies, new approaches, and actions to address sexual harassment on campus. The report has spurred action at the National Academies as well. Dzau underscored that the leadership of all three Academies understands the trust that the scientific, engineering, and medical communities have placed in the Academies as champions of the research enterprise and advisors to the nation. “We drew upon this report to carefully reexamine our own policies and procedures. Each of our Academies is completing work on a code of conduct, which we are harmonizing across the institutions to make it explicitly clear that we expect our elected members to adhere to the highest professional standards,” Dzau said. The National Academies leadership councils are in the process of further defining these codes of conduct and will eventually be made available to the public. Dzau added how crucial it is to take action to preserve the integrity of the research enterprise. Sexual harassment incidents are not limited to a few bad actors, stating “we absolutely must change for women who are far too often bullied out of their career paths and are unable to reach their full potential.”

Dan Mote, president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), noted that the engineering profession has long struggled to find and retain talent. NAE has continued to work to change the underrepresentation of women, but progress has been too slow. Mote recognized that sexual harassment is more likely to occur in male-dominant fields such as engineering, adding, “in the United States, just 21 percent of engineering bachelor's degrees go to women, and only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women. Sexual harassment is a serious impediment to increasing the representation of women in engineering.” He called for system-wide changes that make it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated as well as meaningful change in the engineering enterprise's climate and culture. “[Change] is essential for the safety and well-being of women who are in engineering and for those who aspire to join our community. But it is also critical for the future success of our entire profession,” Mote said.


The welcome remarks were followed by a session describing some of the most common fallacies about sexual harassment, led by three members of the committee that authored the report. Lilia Cortina, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, introduced the session. She explained that there are many beliefs about sexual harassment that are pervasive in our culture but unfounded by scientific evidence. The most common form of sexual harassment behavior falls into the category of gender harassment, which includes verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of one gender. Sexual harassment is rarely about misplaced sexual desire, flirting, or romance gone awry, and there is not a continuum of severity among the types of sexual harassment.

According to Cortina, research cited in the Sexual Harassment of Women report shows that these beliefs do not hold up under scientific scrutiny. The evidence actually shows that the most common form of sexual harassment—gender harassment—is about putting women down, while the other two types that appear as come-ons—sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention—are the least common. She noted examples of gender harassment such as comments like “dumb blondes who can't cut it in engineering,” and emphasized that “gender harassment is not about romance or sex, or even about sexual conquest. It's about contempt.”

Cortina also described nuances in the prevalence of gender harassment in STEM and non-STEM fields. For example, female medical students experience gender harassment at higher rates than students in other fields. In addition, female engineering students experience higher rates of sexist forms of gender harassment compared to their peers in non-STEM fields.

Research cited in the report also refutes the assumption that physical forms of harassment are objectively worse for women's well-being than verbal forms of harassment. For example, gender harassment has at least as great, if not greater, impact on professional and personal health compared to unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion (NASEM 2018, p. 73). She urged audience members to consider whether institutional policies, reporting mechanisms, and penalties for harassment focus too heavily on unwanted sexual pursuit and sexual coercion. Those policies are indeed important, but are not sufficient. Cortina called on universities to reexamine how they address sexual harassment and what they are doing to deal with the slights and indignities that together relegate women to the margins of the academic enterprise.

Kathryn Clancy, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, reinforced Cortina's point that gender harassment can have a severe and significant impact on women's professional careers. One striking finding from a survey Clancy and her colleagues conducted on workplace safety in the astronomy and planetary science fields showed that women of color and white women will skip professional events when they feel unsafe at work. She also found that there was a correlation between numbers of withdrawals from professional events and the experiences of sexual harassment. Her research demonstrates that sexual harassment and the hostile work environments it produces can have a severe impact on women's career trajectories (Clancy et al, 2017).

Clancy stressed that “the trauma of being sexually harassed is not equivalent to the trauma of being accused of sexual harassment.” According to research, it is more likely for a man to be sexually harassed himself than to be falsely accused of sexually harassing someone; only 2-8 percent of reports are found to be false (NSVRC, 2009). In addition, data show that men also experience sexual harassment in the workplace.2 The issue is not that false reports never happen, but that society holds overwhelming skepticism towards credible claims of harassment and assault. Fear of false reporting leads to bad mentorship practices, such as refusing to have closed door meetings or having one-on-one conversations with female students and colleagues. Clancy cautioned against this type of behavior, as it perpetuates a culture of gender discrimination. “We need to shift the way we think about risk management,” she said.

Vicki Magley, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, spoke about the common fallacies around reporting sexual harassment. She pointed out that there is a prevalent belief that perfecting report-centered policies and procedures will solve an institution's problem with sexual harassment. Many also believe that filing a formal complaint is not risky; however, she explained that low reporting numbers do not necessarily translate to a campus free from sexual harassment. In fact, research shows that in sexual harassment cases, reporting is often the last resort and is rarely the victim's chosen solution. There are many ways that women respond to experiences of sexual harassment. These responses may range from behavioral (e.g. seeking organizational relief, active avoidance, seeking social support) to cognitive forms of responses (e.g. self-blame, appeasement, denial, detachment). Reporting tends to be the last resort for a variety of reasons, including fear of retaliation in the victim's professional and social circles.

Data from a 2016 study of graduate students within a large public university in the northwest showed that only 6.4 percent of women who had been sexually harassed took the formal reporting route (Rosenthal, Smidt, Freyd, 2016). Magley argued that reporting is not a silver bullet and while necessary, it alone is not sufficient. By focusing resources on perfecting formal reporting mechanisms, institutions are ignoring a victim's fears and often adding excessive burden. She encouraged institutions to dispel the belief that formal reporting is warranted only for the most egregious cases of sexual assault. She also called for institutions to use campus climate surveys to understand prevalence of sexual harassment rather than relying on formal reporting numbers.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session. Issues discussed included the gender pay gap as a form of discrimination, labelling behaviors as gender harassment, frequency of professional and social retaliation to deter victims from reporting, best practices in increasing awareness of sexual harassment, and effective training to change behaviors.


The Sexual Harassment of Women report emphasizes the need for sexual harassment to be addressed as a significant culture and climate issue. It also calls for institutional leaders to make reducing and preventing sexual harassment a priority. The opening panel featured leaders from higher education associations, discussing ways that academia can move beyond legal compliance toward an approach that is more focused on culture and climate. Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College and co-chair of the report, moderated the discussion. She began by asking the panel to comment on how higher education associations can work to help their member institutions move beyond legal compliance.

Lorelle Espinosa, vice president for research at the American Council on Education (ACE), explained that as an umbrella organization representing higher education institutions, ACE has aimed to make progress by increasing the representation of women leaders, particularly at the president level. According to Espinosa, the number of female presidents of higher education institutions has tripled in the last 30 years. There is still much work to be done, as only 5 percent of college and university presidents are held by women of color. She highlighted several initiatives ACE has used to address the problem of representation. The ACE's Women's Network, for example, is a state-based network started in the 1970s and comprised of women leaders in higher education. In 2010 ACE launched the “Moving the Needle” campaign, which aims to achieve gender parity among higher education chief executives by 2030. As a convener, ACE has advanced these discussions, though the challenge continues to be how to move from rhetoric to action.

Kacy Redd, assistant vice president of STEM education policy at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), highlighted the APLU INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) project, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored pilot project focused on expanding the diversity of STEM faculty. The first phase of this pilot program was aimed at developing a self-assessment tool that institutions can use to help them identify areas of strength and improvement, specifically in hiring and retaining diverse faculty. Redd also highlighted another APLU effort focused on broadening participation, called the ASPIRE Alliance, a five-year, $10 million NSF INCLUDES Alliance grant co-led by APLU and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). Ashley Finley, senior advisor to the president and secretary to the board at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), reiterated the importance of such programs in improving the culture. She noted that as an organization that values liberal thinking, AAC&U understands the role of faculty and education in communicating the commitment to ideas of respect and civility. Kimberlee Eberle-Sudre, director of policy research at the Association of American Universities (AAU), explained that its leadership has also made the issue of sexual harassment a priority at their institutions, and it was the impetus for the first AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which was released in 2015. Eberle-Sudre announced AAU's plan to launch another campus climate survey in spring 2019. A team of AAU leadership in collaboration with Westat, a social science research firm, will lead the design of the new survey instrument.


Federal agencies have been instrumental in funding academic research and spurring American innovation, and there is a potential for them to play a bigger role in helping academic institutions change their climate through new funding models and improved oversight. The Sexual Harassment of Women report recommended that federal agencies attend to sexual harassment with at least the same level of attention and resources as devoted to research misconduct. It also called for federal agencies to increase support for research and evaluation of the effectiveness of policies, procedures, and training on sexual harassment. The final morning plenary session featured representatives from federal funding agencies to discuss the role of government agencies in supporting academic institutions and holding them accountable. The discussion focused on ongoing efforts to address sexual harassment and prevent federal funds from being used by those who sexually harass.

David Chambers, civil rights program manager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), pointed to NASA's MissionSTEM website, which houses resources for staff and awardees to ensure equal opportunity and help address issues pertaining to all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. Chambers explained that in addition to using the website as a way to raise awareness about anti-harassment policies, NASA also uses MissionSTEM to highlight promising programs that help create a more diverse and inclusive environment. The MissionSTEM website collects information on promising practices from different awardee institutions that can be utilized as a resource by other colleges and universities. Rhonda Davis, head of the office of diversity and inclusion at NSF, highlighted its new terms and conditions for grant awardees, which went into effect in October 2018. It requires that awardee organizations notify NSF of any findings or determinations of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment, sexual assault involving a principal investigator or a co-principal investigator, or the imposition of any administrative action relating to harassment or sexual assault finding or investigation. In effort to bolster their policies and guidelines, NSF has revised its sexual harassment webpage to include promising practices on policies and effective codes of conduct that may be applied at NSF-funded workplaces. These resources may be accessed at Davis also highlighted the closely engaged role NSF director Francis Cordova is playing in ensuring that the agency addresses these issues.

Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), outlined the indirect and direct mechanisms NIH has implemented to address sexual harassment. The NIH Anti-Harassment program allows reporting to be done anonymously, and allegations and inquiries can be made through a centralized system. NIH has also launched a website to explain what their employees and grantees can do when sexual harassment incidents arise. As part of the Anti-Harassment Program, NIH plans to issue a survey on workplace climate and sexual harassment to all employees, including fellows and researchers in January 2019. In addition to these new and ongoing efforts, a working group under the Advisory Committee to the Director has been established to address this topic. He emphasized that it has long been NIH policy that institutions are obligated to report any allegations of sexual harassment committed by the principal investigator of an award. The NIH will work with the institution to determine whether the PI should be removed and replaced by an alternate. In some extreme cases, the grant can be withdrawn, but it is often not the first option, as the decision would jeopardize the livelihood and career of the rest of the researchers on the team. Tabak acknowledged that there is much more work to be done and NIH will continue to support this collective effort.

The event resumed in the afternoon and participants broke out into five concurrent sessions, each of which focused on strategies and models stemming from recommendations from the Sexual Harassment of Women report.


Enhancing gender parity at the faculty, staff, and student levels may help create a diverse and inclusive environment where sexual harassment doesn't thrive. As the report notes, diversity initiatives are promising models for creating academic environments where women are not disadvantaged—and where they are not seen as less valuable or capable because of their gender. The afternoon panel focused on potential initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion on campus and how it may contribute to reducing the occurrence of sexual harassment. The panel included faculty who have championed, studied, and implemented diversity and inclusion programs on their campus.

Abigail Stewart, the Sandra Schwartz Tangri distinguished university professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, opened the panel discussion by emphasizing the importance of diversity as a measure of excellence and high standards. Stewart stressed that actions that improve the environment for underrepresented groups benefit the community as a whole and must be coupled with continued monitoring. Stewart explained that all solutions aiming to improve the culture and environment must start from an analysis of the local climate. According to her experience, the success of these initiatives rely on the support of institutional leadership and must come with a solid commitment of financial resources. Stewart highlighted the University of Michigan's Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE) committee, which is a result of the institution's NSF ADVANCE program. The STRIDE committee offers faculty recruitment workshops and provides information and advice on practices that will maximize the likelihood that diverse, well-qualified candidates for faculty positions will be identified. STRIDE offers conceptual tools, empirical evidence, and procedural solutions to equip faculty members in charge of hiring to make the best possible decisions. Data show that the practices offered by the STRIDE committee were effective in increasing the proportion of female faculty and faculty of color at the University of Michigan.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of physics in the college of engineering and physical sciences at the University of New Hampshire, spoke about fostering diversity and inclusion on campus from the perspective of a post-doctoral student who had recently gone through the faculty hiring process. Prescod-Weinstein encouraged institutions to be intentional about the message their diversity programs convey. Diversity programs that focus heavily on numbers come off as superficial and may unintentionally cause disparities rather than eliminate them. While implicit bias is certainly a problem there is still a tremendous amount of explicit bias that persists in the campus community. She also emphasized that true inclusivity must embrace trans- and non-binary people of color. Being explicitly inclusive with the language used in messaging diversity initiatives signals to the community that everyone is welcome.


As the Sexual Harassment of Women report notes, significant power differentials between faculty and trainees worsen the impacts of sexual harassment on trainees (e.g., students, postdoctoral fellows, residents). Additionally, environments where perpetrators are not held accountable and/or the community is unaware of how reports of sexual harassment are being handled are likely to foster and sustain an environment of sexual harassment. The afternoon panel included university administrators who have experimented with innovative ways to diffuse power differentials and encourage transparency and accountability.

The first presenter, Aley Menon, secretary of the university-wide committee on sexual misconduct in the office of the provost at Yale University, focused on the topic of accountability and transparency. Menon described two initiatives established at Yale in 2011 that helped address sexual harassment on campus. These initiatives culminated in a centralized Title IX program within the provost's office and the formation of a university-wide committee on sexual misconduct that acts as a central body to adjudicate formal complaints. The Yale Title IX Office oversees and provides leadership on all Title IX matters, and is comprised of 24 coordinators. The office produces a semi-annual Title IX report that is made available to the public and published online. In July 2011, Yale began releasing semi-annual reports of complaints of sexual misconduct. The statistical reports include descriptive summaries of complaints made to the university-wide committee and Title IX office. These reports are an important tool in helping the institution identify trends and patterns and help the university improve processes and procedures to effectively prevent sexual harassment. The goal of the semi-annual report is to inform the community about types of complaints that come to the university's attention and how the university has responded. It is also used to raise awareness about procedures, processes, and resources, as well as to stimulate community conversation about campus culture and encourage community engagement in developing and implementing ways to prevent sexual misconduct.

Quinn Williams, general counsel of the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, followed Menon with a presentation on the University of Wisconsin Personnel File and Reference Check Policy. Williams credited the #MeToo movement along with new Wisconsin state laws3 and high profile sexual harassment cases in the media to have led the university system leadership to revisit its policies on sexual harassment. Williams also cited internal issues that compelled the institution to revise its reference check policies. On June 7, 2018, the Board of Regents of the UW System adopted a new resolution on employee personnel files and reference checks, which require the development or modification of certain human resource policies for all UW institutions regarding:


documenting sexual harassment allegations and investigations;


maintaining personnel files and conducting reference checks; and


exchanging personnel files between all UW institutions and state of Wisconsin agencies.

Williams noted that the success of these policy changes can be attributed to support of leadership, the willingness to overcome fear of criticism and legal risk, internal stakeholder support (faculty, staff, students, administrators), and the use of data to support the decision-making process. The session ended with a discussion on promising practices that can be shared and implemented across higher education institutions.


Providing targeted support is a crucial piece of changing the climate to one that does not allow sexual harassment to thrive. The Sexual Harassment of Women report recommends that institutions provide targeted support by offering options for confidential, anonymous, and informal reporting to prevent victims from experiencing or fearing retaliation in academic settings. In this session, the panel discussed online platforms for anonymous reporting and alternative mechanisms for resolving complaints.

Sara Dam, director of campus partnership success at Project Callisto, gave a brief overview of how their software can be used as an anonymous reporting tool on campuses. Launched in 2015, Callisto is a system for third parties to record and report sexual assaults. Its purpose is to support and empower victims of sexual harassment and improve their overall reporting experience. Dam explained that Callisto offers a safe option for victims to securely and anonymously enter information about an incident into an encrypted database. If more than one target names the same perpetrator, Callisto will connect the targets to an attorney who will help them understand their legal options. The information can only be released to the institution if the victim chooses to do so. It is currently used at 13 campuses across the country and can be customized based on institutional needs. Dam indicated that a new project phase will launch in August 2019.

David Karp, professor of sociology at Skidmore College, presented about Campus PRISM (Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on Campus), an initiative that involves administrators, restorative justice professionals, faculty, and students. Karp explained that most of the work on the Skidmore campus has focused on student sexual misconduct. PRISM seeks to shift the focus away from punishment and adjudication to identifying and responding to harm. “If we are only offering systems of adjudication, we are missing the vast number of students who are experiencing mental and physical harm,” Karp stressed. The Campus PRISM approach is a three-tiered model designed to address issues around trust after an incident. The approach involves the application of “circle dialogues” as a method to bring targets into a safe space to find support for the process of reentry into a community after an incident. According to Karp, the circle dialogue can also serve as safe space to build trust and strengthen relationships in a community. “You need a baseline of trust, otherwise people will not want to engage in conversations about their experience,” he said.

Confidential reporting systems such as Callisto and alternative mechanisms for resolving an incident such as Skidmore's PRISM offer targets of sexual harassment options outside of the formal reporting process, which can often be traumatic. These alternatives provide targets of sexual harassment with the agency to come forward, heal, and reintegrate into their community—and can reduce the fear of judgment and retaliation.


The Sexual Harassment of Women report recommends that institutions consider implementing bystander intervention training such as Confronting Prejudiced Response (CPR) and Behavior Modeling Training (BMT) to help people learn how to respond to problematic behaviors such as sexual harassment. During this panel, participants were encouraged to look beyond traditional sexual harassment training and explore potential interventions that can help change people's behaviors. Scholarship cited in the report noted that traditional sexual harassment training focused simply on increasing awareness of policy and reporting does not work as a prevention tool and many institutions use training to avoid legal liability. The panel also evaluated the value of other forms of training and the importance of pre-training and post-training evaluations to assess effectiveness.

Stephanie Goodwin, director for faculty development & leadership at Wright State University, led the first part of the session on bystander training intervention. Her session had two parts: the first focused on background research that demonstrates the effectiveness of bystander intervention training while the second part was an interactive demonstration of this training. Goodwin described research that shows bystanders are not likely to confront or intervene in a harassment incident—despite beliefs to the contrary—and they act this way for a variety of reasons, including fear of retaliation and fear of losing one's job. Bystander intervention training equips participants with intervention tools for how to stand up, take action, and stop harm in non-confrontational ways, thereby change attitudes and norms in a given environment. Bystander to Bias Intervention workshops allow individual trainees to learn evidence-based strategies and build self-efficacy through observing, interacting, and replaying scenarios in real-time. Goodwin's bystander intervention workshop is open to a variety of audiences including faculty, administrators, staff, and diversity leaders. The length of the workshop ranges from 90 minutes to 3 hours, and the scenarios incorporate professional actors and participant volunteers. After the first part of her presentation, Goodwin led a 30-minute demonstration with the assistance of David Kaye, professor of theater at the University of New Hampshire and founder of Power Play Interactive Development. The presentation demonstrated realistic workplace scenarios involving professional actors and trainee participation, allow participants to experience a conflict from a bystander's perspective. Following each scenario, Goodwin paused to let the participants assess the situation and intervene. She guided the process and provided trainees with evidence-based strategies for speaking up, including strategies that invite dialogue and minimize backlash.

Mindy Weinstein, acting director of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), presented another training approach. In October 2017, it began offering a new harassment prevention training program focused on creating respectful workplaces. The training program, which is available to all U.S. employers, focuses on acceptable workplace conduct and the types of behaviors that contribute to a respectful, inclusive workplace. In addition to being an interactive, skills-based training, the EEOC training module also includes bystander intervention tools. According to Weinstein, the difference between its training module and others is the focus on what employees “should do,” rather than what employees “should not do.” The training focuses less on legal compliance to protect one's self from harassment lawsuits and more on cultivating positive behaviors that create a respectful workplace.


Rigorous data collection is an important step in the effort to reduce and prevent sexual harassment. The Sexual Harassment of Women report called for academic institutions to work with researchers to evaluate and assess their efforts to create more inclusive, diverse, and respectful cultures. Information collected by campus-wide surveys can help institutions understand the frequency and nature of sexual harassment that is occurring and the progress they are making in reducing it.

The first presenter, Amanda Lenhart, deputy director of the Better Life Lab at the New America Foundation, discussed a recent report that examined sexual harassment prevalence across four sectors of industry—including academia (Durana et al 2018). Lenhart explained that much of the available data on sexual harassment has focused on students as targets and as being subjected to the power dynamics of faculty. She noted that there is a need for more data collection to understand academia as a workplace and for campus climate surveys to not only look at the experiences of students, but also of faculty and staff. One finding from the Better Life Lab report is that harassment can come from a variety of places, not just from peers or supervisors. It can also come from a third party, such as patients, clients, or vendors. Even “pink collar,” female-dominated sectors are not immune from sexual harassment incidents. Women in health and medical professions, for example, experience sexual harassment by patients or patients' family members. The report was consistent with the findings of the Sexual Harassment of Women report and reinforced the call for more rigorous data collection to better understand the culture in the academic workplaces.

Shirley Malcom, Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) SEA Change (STEM Equity Achievement) project, noted that the current science and engineering workforce does not reflect the current U.S. population and therefore the focus on diversity should be made a priority. Malcom stressed the importance of focusing on positive rather than punitive strategies to create an institutional climate that can support equity and inclusion. In response to the need for more positive strategies, AAAS launched SEA Change in January 2018. The initiative was inspired by the Athena SWAN program that has been used in the United Kingdom for 13 years. Central to the mission of the SEA Change initiative is removing structural barriers for women of color to advance in the STEM fields. SEA Change's self-assessment, metrics, and awards program enables institutions to develop an evidence-based action plan to support a more inclusive and diverse climate.

The Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey is one tool institutions can use to measure climate and the prevalence of sexual harassment among students). Kevin Swartout, chair of the ARC3 survey group, and associate professor of psychology at Georgia Tech University, spoke about the work and origins of the ARC3 survey group. Swartout was a contributor to the Sexual Harassment of Women report, for which he provided analysis of the data from the ARC3 survey conducted at the University Texas system. The ARC3 survey instrument was formed in response to the call to action from the 2014 White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which specifically called for campuses to assess their overall climate. The ARC3 group first convened in the fall of 2014 to develop a peer-reviewed survey instrument based on best practices in measuring assault and sexual harassment. The survey instrument was launched free of charge in 2015 and has been implemented at more than 250 U.S. campuses, with growing interest from academic institutions abroad. Currently, the ARC3 group is exploring the potential of developing a data repository that would allow data sharing across institutions. The ARC3 group is also developing a survey instrument that would capture the experiences of faculty and staff, and the LGBTQ+ communities, who are among the most vulnerable to sexual harassment.

He encouraged institutions to consider campus climate surveys a research activity that requires an ethical review process. Given the sensitivity of the questions being asked of students, some level of oversight by an institutional review board is required to ensure the integrity of the survey content and to prevent victims from reliving trauma. Swartout closed the session by noting that “campus climate surveys are just the beginning—universities should make their data public and accessible.” Data can serve as a roadmap for institutions to identify what needs to be improved.



Data cited in this proceedings are taken from NASEM, 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi​.org/10.17226/24994.


Data from the 1995 Department of Defense Sexual Harassment Survey shows that between 14-38 percent of active-duty military men reported one or more incidents of sexual harassment. Bastian, Lisa D., Anita R. Lancaster, and Heidi E. Reyst. Department of Defense 1995 Sexual Harassment Survey. Consortium of Universities, Washington, DC, 1996.


2017 WI Act 130 “Pass the Trash,” and California AB 2770.


This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Irene Ngun as a factual summary of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Patricia Taboada-Serrano, Kate Gleason College of Engineering and Sara Veblen-Mortensen, University of Minnesota. Marilyn Baker, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator.


This workshop was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

For additional information regarding the workshop, visit

Suggested citation:

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Together We Can Do Better: A Gathering of Leaders in Academia to Prevent Sexual Harassment: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:


Bastian, Lisa D., Anita R. Lancaster, and Heidi E. Reyst. Department of Defense 1995 Sexual Harassment Survey. Consortium of Universities, Washington, DC, 1996.

Clancy, Kathryn BH, Katharine MN Lee, Erica M. Rodgers, and Christina Richey. “Double jeopardy in astronomy and planetary science: Women of color face greater risks of gendered and racial harassment.” Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 122, no. 7 (2017): 1610-1623.

Durana, Alieza, Amanda Lenhart, Roselyn Miller, Brigid Schulte, and Elizabeth Weingarten. 2018. “Sexual Harassment: a severe and pervasive problem.” New America Foundation, Washington, DC.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center. 2009. False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault. Harrisburg, PA.

Rosenthal, Marina N., Alec M. Smidt, and Jennifer J. Freyd. “Still second class: Sexual harassment of graduate students.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 40, no. 3 (2016): 364-377.

Policy and Global Affairs


The nation turns to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for independent, objective advice on issues that affect people's lives worldwide.

Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK539324PMID: 30973687DOI: 10.17226/25413


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (113K)

Similar articles in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...