On this page, the CSWA has compiled resources on the problem of sexual harassment, which seems to continue despite the good intentions of many people. Here, each link is accompanied by a short quotation or a short summary. Resources originating with government agencies and nonprofit organizations are emphasized in our selection. Also please see the relevant section on our Advice page. The webmaster would welcome suggestions of additional resources.
This page is organized according to content related to: (1) Employees; (2) Students; (3) Anyone
The executive summary includes a powerfully written list of key findings and a long list of recommendations for ameliorating and preventing workplace harassment.
One item from the list of key findings:
It's On Us. Harassment in the workplace will not stop on its own - it's on all of us to be part of the fight to stop workplace harassment. We cannot be complacent bystanders and expect our workplace cultures to change themselves. For this reason, we suggest exploring the launch of an It's on Us campaign for the workplace. Originally developed to reduce sexual violence in educational settings, the It's on Us campaign is premised on the idea that students, faculty, and campus staff should be empowered to be part of the solution to sexual assault, and should be provided the tools and resources to prevent sexual assault as engaged bystanders. Launching a similar It's on Us campaign in workplaces across the nation - large and small, urban and rural - is an audacious goal. But doing so could transform the problem of workplace harassment from being about targets, harassers, and legal compliance, into one in which co-workers, supervisors, clients, and customers all have roles to play in stopping such harassment.
The full report: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/upload/report.pdf
Includes a summary of the legal issues, contact information for relevant government agencies, and a "What to do" section.
"When you are deciding what to do, remember that every situation is different. There is no one best thing to do. You should always report the sexual harassment to your employer. You then have the option to use your company's sexual harassment complaint process, file a charge with a state or federal agency, and/or go to court."
This scholarly article presents an apparently thorough review of the legal issues as they pertain to the business setting, complete with discussions of court rulings and of case studies. Originally published in Akron Law Review, Vol 29:2 (1996) p. 269
A thoughtful article about the legal issues, mainly aimed at employers, but useful for affected employees also. Includes a list of
the "elements of a proper sexual harassment policy." Makes especially cogent comments about the importance of reporting incidents of harassment and proper conduct of investigations.
"The practical advice for ... evaluating potentially harassing conduct is to be as conservative as possible. If conduct might be construed as harassing, it has no place in the workplace. If an employee (and especially a manager or a supervisor) is not sure whether or not conduct will be unwelcome, the best advice is to avoid such conduct. ... An employer's obligations with regard to sexual harassment arise before any act of sexual harassment occurs. ..."
Summarizes the psychological, medical, and financial effects on victims and witnesses and the financial effects on employers and the economy at large, with numerous references to the research literature.
At this writing, includes a checklist of workplace privileges that come with being male (suitable for our forthcoming page on unconscious bias), a nice video of a response by Tim Wise to a question, and some sexual harassment horror stories.
The news page includes several news items on sexual harassment lawsuits. In addition, the site has a section devoted to racial and sexual harassment.
" ... explains what sexual harassment is under federal law and what it is not, the kinds of behavior that may be interpreted as sexual harassment in the workplace, how a workplace environment can become 'sexually hostile,' how to avoid sexual harassment of co-workers, how to deal with sexual harassment if it arises, and what to do if you become involved in a sexual harassment investigation.
"This publication was prepared by David Kadue [who unfortunately appears not to have proofread it - Webmaster], an attorney with the Los Angeles office of Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson. It is current through December 31, 2000; includes new standards established by the Supreme Court; and emphasizes the unlawfulness of harassment that is not sexual in nature but is based on gender. ..."
Home page of the federal agency charged with enforcing the laws against sexual harassment. Includes a press release about one of their recent successful lawsuits.
'Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse.
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating
- Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.
'Employers react to laws with internal policies. The real value of a law, and the true purpose of the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill, is to get employers to prevent bullying with policies and procedures that apply to all employees. The Bill, crafted by law professor David Yamada for the Healthy Workplace Campaign, gives good employers incentives to do the right thing by avoiding expensive litigation.'
'We report a meta-analytic review of studies examining the relations among
harmful workplace experiences and women's occupational well-being. Based on
previous research, a classification of harmful workplace experiences affecting
women is proposed and then used in the analysis of 88 studies with 93
independent samples, containing 73,877 working women. We compare the
associations of different harmful workplace experiences and job stressors with
women's work attitudes and health. Random-effects meta-analysis and path
analysis showed that more intense yet less frequent harmful experiences (e.g.,
sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention) and less intense but more
frequent harmful experiences (e.g., sexist organizational climate and gender
harassment) had similar negative effects on women's well-being. Harmful
workplace experiences were independent from and as negative as job stressors in
their impact on women's occupational well-being. The power imbalance between the
target and the perpetrator appeared as a potential factor to explain the type
and impact of harmful workplace experiences affecting women's occupational
well-being. In the discussion, we identify several gaps in the literature,
suggest directions for future research, and suggest organizational policy
changes and interventions that could be effective at reducing the incidence of
harmful workplace experiences. ...'
Fed Up with Sexual Harassment: a series on the Women in Astronomy blog
- "Defining the Problem" by John Johnson
- "Survival of the Clueless" by Joan Schmelz
- "The Serial Harasser's Playbook" by John Johnson
- "Fed Up with Sexual Harassment" by Dara Norman
Sexual Harassment - Changing the System: a series by Joan Schmelz on the Women in Astronomy blog -
I - II
Kathryn B. H. Clancy, Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford, and Katie Hinde 2014, "Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault," PLoS ONE 9(7): e102172, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102172
'Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N = 666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. ...'
"Sexual Harassment: Update from Anon," by Joan Schmelz, from AASWomen for February 11, 2011
'The March 26, 2010 issue of AASWomen contained a request for advice from an
anonymous female Astronomy PhD student who was being sexually harassed by her
thesis advisor. This young woman, whom we refer to as "Anon," has come a long
way since she sent that message. She has graciously provided this update of her
This page includes links to the full report and to an executive summary.
'Based on findings from a nationally representative survey conducted in May and June, 2011, this report presents the most comprehensive research to date on sexual harassment in grades 7-12 and reveals some sobering statistics about the prevalence of sexual harassment and the negative impact it has on students' education.
'The report concludes with concrete recommendations and promising practices ... directed at school administrators, educators, parents, students and community members. We hope readers will be inspired to take new steps toward making schools free from sexual harassment.'
'The Supreme Court affirmed in 1992 that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title IX ...
'Determining what is sufficiently severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive [to be considered illegal behavior by students] can be complicated. As this research demonstrates, people disagree on the severity of the problem. What is a laughing matter for one student may be offensive to another and traumatic to yet another, especially in the campus community, which teems with students and staff from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. In this context the legal standard is limited in its ability to serve as a catalyst to change behavior.'
'The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.' It is charged with interpreting and enforcing Title IX.
This report is available as a 10-MB PDF or in HTML format. Outline of table of contents:
- Part One: Defining Sexual Harassment
- Part Two: Responding to Sexual Harassment
- Part Three: Reporting and Preventing Sexual Harassment
This MS Word document (96 KB) from Southern Illinois University Carbondale provides useful discussion of the definition of sexual harassment.
' ... The setting was an all-hands meeting of a university lab, where about 40 graduate students, postdocs, staff and faculty learned about laws and policies relating to harassment from an employment attorney. I summarize what I learned in hopes that others will find it useful. Nothing herein is legal advice, and you should consult an attorney on matters of the law.
'Harassment claims at a university are handled under three different broad
categories: federal law, state law, and employer policies. ...
'The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination publishes a very useful document, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Guidelines. Had I read it before our game show, I would have done better. Fortunately, my team included some very savvy postdocs and staff members who had a good sense of the law. In addition to sexual harassment, racial slurs and employer retaliation against complaints make good bases for legal action. I encourage you to check your own knowledge of harassment and anti-discrimination laws and policies, so that you will never make someone a multimillionaire.'
`Winning a sexual harassment complaint in academia is impossible. Not because universities never recognize loathsome abuses of power through decisive action, as in University of Miami philosophy Professor Colin McGinn's recent forced departure from his tenured position after a graduate student alleged harassment. But because there is no such thing as winning.
`No complaint outcome, on paper or in the form of material support, is going to undo the damage that harassment does.'
This page comprises 'links to various articles and resources related to harassment in the sciences, categorized by harassment experienced in the field, at conferences or meetings, and in the workplace.'
'As educators and science professionals, we have a social contract with our students, trainees, and staff to provide safe spaces for learning and employment where people are treated with dignity. We also have a social contract with society to pursue science for the benefit of humankind. If we break our social contract in the first, we can hardly expect to earn the trust of the public in the second.'
"Coming Out (of a Different Type of Closet),"
by Joan Schmelz, in the February 18, 2011 issue of our newsletter AASWomen
The chair of the CSWA tells her story. She provided an update based on the feedback she received in the issue of March 4, 2011.
Advice for students undergoing harassment from supervisors and for anyone in a professional setting
The above link is to a PowerPoint file (1.5 MB).
A good example of what universities should be doing. Look for a similar office and web page at your institution.
A different point of view: 'Sexual harassment policies assume that teachers have power and students don't, argues Michelle Miller. Such policies risk outlawing consensual relationships that are "delicious, frightening, unruly" and just might reflect the excitement, even eroticism, of learning.'
'This page lists some strategies you might want to consider when reporting harassment.'
'The authors of this page oppose coercion to report. Whether a target of harassment or abuse decides to report is their decision. We rather intend to give you some resources that might help you prepare a report if you decide to do so.'
The page goes on to give two key ingredients of a report, a sample report, and some ideas on to whom to report.
This extensive page gives advice on various aspects of responding to a report of sexual harassment, if one should occur at a professional conference. From the introduction:
'The key to responding to conference harassment is having a policy that forbids harassment. See the Conference anti-harassment pages for a sample policy and implementation resources, particularly, Conference anti-harassment/Policy resources for information about publicizing your policy, and educating event attendees.'
'Also prepare a list of emergency resources such as emergency services contact details and mental health and sexual assault hotlines. ...'
'Women judge others harshly for not standing up to sexual harassment, says a new study. That is, unless the woman has experienced sexual harassment herself.'
This news article reports on 'a recent study published in the journal Organization Science [that] says women are troubled by the lack of reporting. Peers who were aware of a colleague being harassed - but who said they had not been harassed themselves - believed they'd be more confrontational if placed in the same scenario. However, women who had experienced sexual harassment expressed more understanding and less judgment of victims who didn't report incidents.'
Summary of a presentation, with slides, by Christina Richey at the Women in Astronomy Discussion Hour at the AAS’s Division for Planetary Sciences Conference in Reno, NV. The author is a member of the steering committee for the Women in Astrophysics discussion group at NASA Goddard Spaceflight center.
'I was extremely grateful for all those who listened and responded positively to the event at DPS. However, I was a bit dismayed at the number of women, especially younger scientists, who came to me and shared their own stories of harassment, and I hope the information I presented will guide you to ways to resolve issues you have faced. Please note that you are not alone, and I am but one women in this field who is willing to assist you and stand strong beside you, as this is an issue that should have long ago become a much, much smaller concern within our field. Here is a quick summary, with the slideshow attached, of my talk. I am writing what was stated out loud at the presentation, in case there was something of importance not on the slides, and for those who were unable to attend the meeting.'
'Sexual harassment is a stain on science — and we must all take a stand against it.'
The author relates personal experiences. Then:
' ... The experience changed the way I interact with men in professional settings. I am ready to tell them immediately if they step over a line. And if that does not work, then I will simply walk away. The situation has provided me a sort of shield, too, in the way that men may interact with me. If I am labelled as the 'woman who writes about sexual harassment' and kept at arm's length, then so be it.
'The law in the United States now is simple enough: “Harassment can include 'sexual harassment' or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” states the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on its website. The real work begins when a woman is confronted with a situation and must define it. (I focus on women here because, out of the nearly 11,400 sexual-harassment complaints filed to the commission in 2011, only about 2,000 came from men.) That definition can be boiled down to a simple rule that men must follow when they interact with female colleagues. Ask the question: "Would I say this to a man?"'
'The following is an anonymous guest post from a regular reader of the Women in Astronomy Blog. The below is a description of an individual's experience with sexual harassment. What worked for her, might not work for everyone. If you are being sexually harassed, please contact the sexual harassment officer at your institution for guidance on your particular situation:
'... I wanted to share my 'successful' experience with sexual harassment. Now perhaps successful it not the proper word to use here, but the below is a description of an experience where I was being sexually harassed, I did something about it, it all turned out ok, and I learned quite a bit from the process.'
Strategies for calling out bigotry. Not specifically aimed at sexism, but the strategies should be useful in this setting as well.
Information for students, schools, and anyone interested in finding resources on how to respond to and prevent sexual assault on college and university campuses and in our schools. Click explore to find a crisis service, learn more about your rights and how to file a complaint, and view a map of resolved school-level enforcement activities.
Summarizes recent surveys revealing the incidence of sexual harassment among scientists. Includes list of tips on prevention and on making an effective response.