ACD Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment
As stewards of the biomedical research workforce, NIH is deeply concerned about accounts of sexual harassment in scientific research settings.1,2 Sexual harassment is inexcusable, as are workplace cultures that promote harassment through gender discrimination. Pervasive harassment creates obstacles for women — who are particularly more likely to be subject to sexual harassment — at all stages of their scientific career.
A recent National Academies report1, which NIH funded along with other government science agencies, describes three forms of harassment: 1) Unwanted sexual attention (verbal or physical sexual advances), 2) Sexual coercion (when favorable treatment is conditioned on sexual activity), and 3) Gender harassment (sexist hostility, crude behavior). The report concludes there is no evidence that current policies, procedures, and approaches, have significantly reduced sexual harassment in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. As stated in the report,
…the cumulative effect of sexual harassment is a significant and costly loss of talent in academic science, engineering, and medicine, which has consequences for advancing the nation's economic and social well-being and its overall public health.
We must do better.
We have recently developed resources3,4 that comprehensively outline our policies, practices, and initiatives to address sexual harassment at NIH, at the institutions we support, and anywhere where NIH research activities take place. We have also made publicly available the policies developed by the NIH Anti-Sexual Harassment Steering Committee, and new initiatives for NIH staff, which include a new centralized process for managing reports of harassment, and administration of a survey this winter to all NIH staff, including contractors, to assess NIH workplace climate and harassment. As an additional step, the NIH Director has concluded that a high level working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director is essential to review the plans and recommend further action5.
This working group is charged to:
- Assess the current state of sexual harassment allegation investigation, reporting, remediation, and disciplinary procedures at NIH-funded organizations.
- Advise on oversight, accountability, and reporting measures for awardee institutions, that will encourage a reduction in, and prevention of, sexual harassment in biomedical research laboratories.
- Propose actions and policies that would promote a safe and inclusive culture at NIH-supported research conferences.
- Suggest systemwide changes to culture and climate to prevent harassment and gender discrimination through diffusion of hierarchical environments by mentoring networks and committee-based advisement, and strong and diverse leadership.
- Develop strategies for encouraging research on anti-harassment policies, procedures, and training; and measures and evaluations of their effectiveness.
- Jagsi R, et al. Gender Differences in the Salaries of Physician Researchers. JAMA. 2012;307(22):2410–2417. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6183