Sexual Harassment in the Military: It’s Getting Worse for Women

The American military has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the last ten years in sexual harassment prevention and education, but the problem is getting worse for women. Dave Philipps of the New York Times reports several alarming statistics:

  • Sexual assaults in the military have increased by 50 percent in the last two years against women in uniform.
  • The Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimates 20,500 instances of “unwanted sexual contact” in 2018, based on a survey of women and men across all branches of the military.
  • Assaults on men remained flat while assaults on women recorded the biggest increase in years.
  • Women make up 20 percent of the military but are the targets of 63 percent of the assaults.
  • Active military personnel are experiencing more assaults, but despite significant increases in the availability of sexual assault specialists and victim advocates, they are less likely than before to report the assaults.
  • Philipps notes that a separate report in January 2019 showed that the number of sexual assaults at the service academies has also risen by 50 percent for women since 2016, showing that the problem is just as rampant among the military’s future leaders as for the current ones.

Representative Jackie Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are each leading two different concerted efforts to pass legislation that would create an independent prosecutor for sexual harassment cases in the military, but the military has lobbied against this legislation. Under the current system, only military commanders have the authority to determine whether an assault has occurred and to impose punishment. The commanders do not want to relinquish any of their authority. Even Senator Martha McSally, who came forward last year to reveal that she had been raped by a superior officer and suffered numerous other sexual assaults, opposes shifting authority over assault cases away from commanding officers. McSally even admits that she never reported her assaults for fear of retaliation.

The current system is not working. While the survey found that more assaults are occurring, fewer are being reported: fewer than 30 percent were reported in 2018, down from 32 percent in 2016. Philipps notes, “A large majority of victims do not trust the system” to handle the cases well or protect them from retaliation. Structural change is needed.

Please encourage your congressional representatives to support legislation that protects women in the military.


Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

New Approaches to Ending Harassment in Economics and Science

Exciting breakthroughs are happening in both policy initiatives and research findings that may lead to real changes in access to opportunity for women and minorities in the fields of economics and science. Starting with the field of economics, Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley of the New York Times report that Ben Bernanke, the current president of the American Economic Association (AEA), has acknowledged that “unfortunately, [the field of economics has] a reputation for hostility toward women and minorities.” This acknowledgment is a big deal because leaders at the highest levels will have to be the ones to make and implement real change. Janet Yellen, next year’s president of the AEA, agrees that change is needed. Casselman and Tankersley note that economics has had a diversity problem for a long time:

  • Only about a third of economics doctorates went to women, and the gender gap is wider at senior levels.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities are also underrepresented.
  • Barely 10 percent of tenured finance professors and 16 percent of tenure-track faculty are women in an AEA branch in Atlanta.

Casselman and Tankersley note in another article that a recent survey jolted Bernanke and the AEA into taking action. The authors report that a far-reaching survey conducted by the AEA involving 9,000 current and past members, both women and men, found an alarming rate of discrimination and harassment:

  • Half of the women reported being treated unfairly because of their sex compared to 3 percent of men.
  • Half of the women avoided speaking at a conference to guard against harassment or “disrespectful treatment.”
  • Hundreds of female economists say they have been stalked, touched inappropriately, or sexually assaulted. Overall, one in five reported being subjected to unwanted sexual advances.

As a result of this survey, the AEA has appointed an ombudsman empowered to investigate and establish professional consequences for those found to violate a new antiharassment code. This structural change is significant because until now, women and men in economics experiencing harassment and discrimination had nowhere to go to report it except to their own institutions, which have a vested interest in protecting those in powerful positions. Professional sanctions, including the loss of prestigious awards, will be made public if misbehavior is established—an important step in holding powerful people accountable.

The AEA survey also found high levels of alienation among black economists who have long felt their ideas are dismissed. Gay and lesbian economists were also far more likely to report discrimination and disrespect than their straight colleagues.

Other recent research by Alice Wu and, separately, Heather Sarsons found that women in economics face a toxic culture of discrimination in hiring, publications, and promotion. Sarsons’s research specifically found that women get less credit for work they do with male colleagues.

Switching now to the field of science, Amy Harmon writes that in 2018, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), France Córdova, decided that “enough is enough” after she kept learning of yet another male scientist whose work she supported with public funds had sexually harassed a student, staff member, or colleague. Córdova, a woman who controls a $5 billion research budget, put in place a new sexual harassment policy that makes structural changes that could increase the number of female scientists in senior faculty positions. Specifically, institutions that accept an NSF grant must now go through this process:

  • They must notify the NSF of any finding related to harassment by the leading scientist working on the grant.
  • In case they do not report it, individuals may now report harassment directly to the NSF, which may conduct its own investigation; this is crucial if real accountability is to occur.

Both individuals and institutions face the possibility of losing coveted funds if sexual harassment is not reported, responded to with appropriate consequences, or stopped.

The fact that Córdova’s new policy was put in place by a woman in this #MeToo moment is not an accident. Córdova, 71, reports being sexually harassed herself as a graduate student by a professor. As Córdova and a few other senior female scientists have listened to stories from younger scientists in the context of the #MeToo movement and reviewed recent research on gender discrimination in science, they came to realize that the problem they thought would be a thing of the past is still widespread. Recent studies document that gender bias in science favors male scientists in hiring, salary, start-up funds for laboratories, credit for authorships, letters of recommendation, and invitations to speak at universities and on conference panels (a.k.a. “manels”).

Harmon says that a major report on harassment in science, published in 2018, offers a new term, “gender harassment,” defined as “verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status.” Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins, notes that gender harassment may explain as much or more than sexual harassment when it comes to what drives women out of the field. She states, “We’ve been talking about the ‘leaky pipeline’ for years, and this may turn out to be the big gushing hole” that drains women and minorities from the field.

In summary, new sexual harassment policies in economics and science that include multiple reporting channels, professional consequences, and transparency for bad behavior may finally result in change. New research and the #MeToo movement is increasing awareness and motivation to bring about change.


Photo courtesy of Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash.

How Women Pay A Price for #MeToo

I remember the 1990s when the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate confirmation hearings brought the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the light of day and gave the name sexual harassment to a set of behaviors that were previously undiscussable. Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted behaviors of a sexual nature perpetrated by a powerful person (like a boss) against a less powerful person (like an employee) as an abuse of power. In what was the precursor to the #MeToo movement, after Anita Hill’s testimony about Thomas’s behavior toward her as her boss, women began to speak out, name their abusers, and win big lawsuits against the companies that failed to protect them. Men complained that they had to “walk on eggshells” around the office to ensure they were not wrongfully accused of sexual harassment by female colleagues, especially younger female colleagues. They argued that the best way to protect themselves was to stop mentoring younger women altogether. This was BS, of course—but now it is happening again. Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times reports that many high-powered men at the recent World Economics Forum in Davos, Switzerland acknowledged concern about the #MeToo movement which, she explains, “has empowered women to speak up about harassment in the workplace.” As was true in the 1990s, these senior men are deciding to reduce their risk by minimizing contact with female employees, thereby depriving women of mentorship, sponsorship, and valuable exposure to influential networks. Two online surveys conducted in 2018 on the effects of #MeToo in the workplace found the following:

  • Almost half of male managers were uncomfortable engaging in one or more common work activities with women, such as working one-on-one or socializing.
  • One in six male managers was uncomfortable mentoring a female colleague.
  • Men reported being afraid of “saying or doing the wrong thing.”
  • Research by Sylvia Ann Hewlett found that two-thirds of male executives hesitate to hold one-on-one meetings with junior women.
Bennhold cites Pat Milligan, a researcher on female leadership at Mercer, as noting that “if we allow this to happen, it will set us back decades. Women have to be sponsored by leaders, and leaders are still mostly men.” We learned some things in the 1990s about how to reduce the risk men felt when working with women and how men can create respectful work relationships with women, thereby ensuring that they will not be accused of sexual harassment. Here are some examples:
  • Education on preventing sexual harassment and assault is important to help men know what is and is not appropriate workplace behavior. This education is especially effective in male-only group settings. Bennhold cites Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble as explaining, “Men also need ‘safe spaces’ to air their confusion and concerns about what behavior might qualify as bad. We need something like Lean In circles for men.”
  • Male leaders can meet one-on-one with young female colleagues in a nonthreatening environment by leaving the office door open for meetings, socializing over dinner with multiple colleagues, and not inviting female colleagues to their hotel rooms for meetings when on business travel out of town. These strategies are examples of ways to continue supporting the careers of female colleagues with less risk of misunderstanding for male leaders.
Alexandra Robbins of the New York Times notes that redefining masculinity from toxic to productive is being encouraged on college campuses in some fraternities. Productive masculinity is defined as conscious action to disrupt sexism, racism, and homophobia by men confronting disrespectful behavior in other men, which involves having open conversations with other men about masculinity and developing respectful and platonic relationships with women. In their recent ad addressing toxic masculinity, Gillette explains that they hope to influence the next generation of men to show respect, hold each other accountable for bad behavior, and be role models to show the best in men. Jennifer Wright of Harper’s Bazaar notes that the firestorm unleashed by the two-minute Gillette ad, which many people labeled as a “war on men,” shows how far we have to go. Perhaps senior male leaders in companies can learn from younger men on college campuses about productive masculinity and from Gillette about what respect, accountability, and role modeling look like. We really do know how to do this—but powerful men need to be willing to do things differently. Do you see examples of productive masculinity at work? We would love to hear your stories.   Photo courtesy of thetaxhaven (CC BY 2.0)  ]]>

Signs of Change for Women in the Auto Industry

Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times writes that Debbie Manzano “holds the rare status of being a woman at the helm of a major U.S. production facility,” overseeing the manufacturing of Ford’s F-150 truck at a large plant in Dearborn, Michigan. A Ford employee for twenty-four years with broad education and experience, Manzano faces typical challenges. She reports the following:

  • People who have never had a female boss are skeptical of her abilities.
  • People who have always wanted a female boss have very high expectations.
  • Her desire to hire more women goes against Ford’s reputation as a hostile work environment for women, as described in a 2017 Times article.

Manzano acknowledges that sexual harassment has been pervasive in many Ford factories but she notes that she is now “in a position to do something different about it.”

Hsu writes that women are underrepresented in every level of manufacturing because of prejudice, pay inequities, and lack of supportive family-leave policies. This is an old story, so why does the representation of women in manufacturing matter at this time in history? In addition to the demand for more opportunities for women, the current tight labor market in combination with an aging factory workforce means many skilled jobs are vacant and in coming years millions may potentially go unfilled.

            Manzano acknowledges that the dearth of women in manufacturing, especially at the leadership level, means that women do not have enough “safe spaces.” She explains that while men can be excellent mentors, women, especially those working in male-dominated industries, need other women to go to with concerns, like harassment, that they may not feel comfortable bringing to a male boss. They also need to be able to share their successful experiences with other women in male-dominated industries as a form of support. To encourage women to hire on at Ford and stay, Manzano has:

  • Provided more networking opportunities for female workers.
  • Pushed managers to incorporate women into succession planning to prepare more female leaders.
  • Developed initiatives to encourage women and girls to get the skills and education for advanced operations and manufacturing positions becoming available.

Manzano agrees that Ford’s internal culture needs to continue to improve and that pressure from the #MeToo movement is helping.

The process of change may truly be underway.

Photo courtesy of Long Zheng (CC BY-SA 2.0)


How #MeToo Has Helped Women Get Promotions

One year after publication of the detailed report on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults and harassment, a study found that women are replacing the powerful men forced to step down after accusations of sexual misconduct. A recent New York Times article notes that during the past year “200 prominent men have lost their jobs after public allegations of sexual harassment. A few, including Mr. Weinstein, face criminal charges.” Women have replaced nearly half of these high-profile men:

  • One-third are in news media.
  • One-quarter are in government.
  • One-fifth are in entertainment and the arts.
The article explains that many challenges still remain in eradicating sexual harassment in the workplace:
  • Federal law still does not fully protect many groups of working women.
  • A strong backlash against the #MeToo movement, as seen in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, has emerged. Americans disagree on how people should be held accountable and what the standards of evidence should be.
  • New workplace policies have little effect without deeper cultural change.
  • Appointing a woman does not guarantee change. Women have also been accused of harassment.
  • Women are still vastly underrepresented in leadership at American institutions.
As women get promoted into positions of power thanks to the #MeToo movement, they have the potential to change their workplace cultures. The New York Times article summarizes research and experiences showing that women lead differently:
  • Women tend to create more respectful work environments where sexual harassment is less likely to happen and where women are more comfortable reporting it.
  • Women leaders tend to hire and promote more women and pay them more equitably.
  • Research shows that having women in leadership makes companies more profitable. Women bring life experience and perspective to decision making that better reflects the majority of consumers, resulting in higher profits.
  • In government, women are more collaborative and bipartisan. Senator Tina Smith, who replaced Al Franken in the Senate when he was forced to step down by the #MeToo movement, reports that all twenty-three female senators meet for dinner monthly. They find that their success depends upon being able to work together to sponsor bipartisan legislation.
  • In the news media and entertainment, the tone and substance of programming has changed significantly when women stepped into leadership.
  • Women’s personal experiences, including as mothers, can make workplaces more welcoming to other women.
There is a lot of potential for change resulting from the #MeToo movement started by Tarana Burke. But we must remain vigilant. The backlash is strong from both women and men. Some men accused of sexual harassment and forced to step down are reappearing without making amends or taking responsibility for what they did or the organizational cultures they created. All of our gains could be lost if we do not stay focused on creating more respectful, equitable, and inclusive workplaces that hold people accountable for bad behavior. What has worked in your organization?     Photo courtesy of VisualHunt (CC0 1.0)]]>

The Google Walkout to Protest Sexual Harassment: How Change Is Happening in Silicon Valley

Daisuke Wakabayashi, Erin Griffith, Amie Tsang, and Kate Conger of the New York Times report that Google employees organized the walkout in less than one week to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment. Employee discontent had been simmering for quite some time over the inequitable treatment of female employees, but it boiled over when the New York Times reported that Google had given an executive, Andy Rubin, a $90 million exit package after finding sexual harassment claims against him credible. The release of this information led to calls for a walkout. Demands for change in how Google handles sexual harassment included the following:

  • End the use of forced arbitration, which silences victims and protects abusers.
  • Publish a transparency report on cases of sexual harassment.
  • Further disclose salaries and compensation.
  • Ensure employee representation on the company board.
  • Appoint a chief diversity officer who speaks directly to the board.
Noam Scheiber writes that the most remarkable aspect of the Google walkout was the way the organizers identified their action with a broader movement throughout the United States including teachers, fast-food workers, and others. The tech sector has never before identified with unions or unionized workers because compensation in the field is relatively high. While Google has methods in place to allow employees to communicate with senior management, Scheiber notes that some tech employees have come to realize that having a platform for the unregulated exchange of ideas does not result in lasting change. They have now experienced the sense of agency and power to affect decision making that can come when twenty thousand people walk out of a company together, impacting productivity and the organization’s reputation. Because competition for talent is fierce in Silicon Valley, a walkout can negatively impact an organization’s ability to recruit, putting other tech companies on notice as well. Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times notes that protests are now an important avenue for pressure that is likely to create lasting change in Silicon Valley and the technology sector. On November 8, 2018, Conger and Wakabayashi reported ( that Google agreed to the following:
  • End the practice of forced arbitration.
  • Overhaul reporting practices for sexual harassment.
  • Provide more transparency.
Facebook followed Google’s lead and dropped mandatory arbitration clauses one day after the Google walkout. Why do these changes matter? Wakabayashi and Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times explain that until now, harassment has often gone unpunished due to forced arbitration clauses included in the fine print of most employment contracts. As a result, claims are kept secret to protect the abusers and the company’s reputation. Victims receive smaller settlements than would be the case in open court, and harassers can easily move to other jobs without warning to future victims. In this way, companies keep their employees and the public in the dark about bad behavior. Arbitration clauses were put in place to prevent employees and customers from banding together in class-action lawsuits to fight deep-pocketed corporations over unfair business and labor practices. While the focus at the moment is on sexual harassment and assault claims, these arbitration clauses exist in the fine print of contracts of all sorts. But class-action lawsuits and protests are the best ways to bring pressure for change. Microsoft and Uber both changed their policies on forced arbitration clauses earlier this year after facing proposed class-action suits from women. Apple, reading the tea leaves of change, also eliminated the clause from employment contracts a few months ago. Collective action is an important avenue for change. It is good to see Silicon Valley employees discovering the power that they have to create more ethical and inclusive organizations.   Photo courtesy of Yoel.]]>

The #MeToo Anniversary: After One Year, Has Anything Changed?

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published the first story on Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times on October 5, 2017. Their story gave much-needed momentum to the #MeToo movement launched by Tarana Burke more than a decade earlier, which brought to light African American women’s experiences of abuse. The Weinstein accusations started a public outpouring of abuse stories from women, and some men, around the globe and exposed the pervasiveness of this problem. Kantor and Twohey note that it has become clear over the past year that nothing is going to change for women unless we keep speaking out. They state that a reckoning “wide and deep” was reignited one year ago and is likely to continue. In fact, the voicing of sexual assault experiences needs to continue if there is any hope of societal change. The recent Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation process added new fuel to the #MeToo fire by revealing that not much has changed. Women witnessed the demeaning mockery and dismissal of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford by the president and several GOP senators after her public testimony about her assault experience. Kantor and Twohey note that we must continue to tell our stories, in public and in private, because honest sharing of previously hidden traumatic experiences causes subtle adjustments in our collective understanding of the line between right and wrong. They explain, “Progress requires a correct accounting of what women have really faced.” But is anything different after a year of #MeToo? While societal attitudes do not seem to have changed much yet, Zoe Greenberg of the New York Times writes that some laws have changed at the state level and some industry practices are changing as well. For example, since October 2017

  • Some states have passed laws banning or limiting nondisclosure or other confidentiality agreements as a condition of employment.
  • A few states expanded sexual harassment protections to apply to more workers.
  • Certain private companies, including Microsoft, Uber, and Lyft, eliminated forced arbitration agreements when settling sexual harassment claims.
  • Some private companies are including “morality clauses” or “Weinstein clauses” in merger deals or book contracts requiring full disclosure of accusations of sexual harassment.
  • The Screen Actors Guild has published a code of conduct that calls for an end to auditions and professional meetings in homes and hotel rooms.
  • Several women, including Christiane Amanpour, Jennifer Salke, Hoda Kotb, Jennifer Lee, and Tina Smith, have been elevated to replace powerful men like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer who were forced out by multiple sexual harassment accusations.
In another New York Times article, several prominent authors offer warnings and suggestions about what lies ahead:
  • Sarah Polley urges us to notice “how quickly we went from looking openly at the challenges women face to how the conversation about misogyny affects men.” She urges us to stay focused on unearthing women’s experiences.
  • Catharine A. MacKinnon, a legal scholar, notes that the norms of rape culture still permeate the law. She points out that the burden of proof for sexual assault in criminal law are difficult for survivors to meet and statutes of limitation are too short to allow victims of sexual violation to get past their trauma enough to report the event.
  • Stephen Marche writes that men are largely absent from the conversation. He notes that “the only way out of the intractable problems of gender—harassment, the pay gap—will involve robust male participation.”
  • Shanita Hubbard states that race and class have always been the deciding factors in whose pain is prioritized. She explains that “research indicates that African-American women experience higher rates of rape and sexual assault than white, Asian and Latina women. At the same time, their reports of sexual violence are less likely to be recognized by the legal system.”
  • Katie J. M. Baker writes that it is unrealistic to think that men accused of sexual misconduct won’t try to reappear as though nothing happened. She points out that there is a big difference between shunning and effective gatekeeping. The industry gatekeepers must facilitate these comebacks responsibly and with public accountability.
In conclusion, MacKinnon notes, “#MeToo may be the first change toward women achieving human status since the vote.” Our rage and our stories are moving us forward, and we must not be silenced again.   Photo courtesy of GGAADD (CC BY-SA 2.0)]]>

Sexual Harassment at McDonald’s: Workers Demand Protection

Sexual assaults perpetrated by men in high-profile positions have garnered a lot of attention in the news lately. Acknowledging and supporting efforts by low-wage restaurant workers to draw awareness to the lack of safe working conditions is also important. Rachel Abrams of the New York Times reports that for the first time in more than a century, hundreds of restaurant workers employed by McDonald’s went on strike in several cities to demand that the largest fast-food chain in the country do more to combat sexual harassment. Shouting “Hold your burgers, hold your fries, keep your hands off my thighs” or covering their mouths with blue duct tape with “MeToo” written on it, workers protested hostile work environments. Employees described being “trapped” by managers making unwanted advances, being groped by customers, and facing retaliation from supervisors when they complained. Abrams explains that low wage restaurant workers represent a large segment of the US workforce and are typically young people and women, groups that are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. Fight for $15, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, is working to organize and advocate for better pay and working conditions for low-wage workers. The striking employees want McDonald’s to institute stronger policies to protect workers in their fourteen thousand stores in the United States. Their demands include

  • Better training programs for all workers on sexual harassment laws and policies
  • More effective mechanisms to report complaints
  • A corporate committee dedicated to addressing sexual harassment issues
These demands seem basic and reasonable, but Abrams explains that major companies in the fast-food industry often do not feel responsible for bad behavior at individual locations operated by independent franchisees. She cites Mary Joyce Carlson, a Fight for $15 lawyer, who noted that McDonald’s dictates everything from menu boards to hiring practices, so the company can also adopt and enforce policies to identify and prevent sexual harassment. Five steps that McDonald’s can take immediately are
  1. Provide training to workers, and not just to supervisors, on the laws so they know their rights.
  2. Establish multiple mechanisms for reporting sexual harassment, and commit resources to ensure complaints are responded to quickly, making sure that sexual harassment complaint hotlines are staffed and that people who call get help.
  3. Create policies and procedures to protect workers from retaliation.
  4. Train workers on company policies and procedures to prevent harassment of all types.
  5. Listen to workers. Involve them in designing policies and procedures.
Sexual harassment is not about sex—it is about the abuse of power. We must do more as a society to protect vulnerable workers.     Photo courtesy of virginiaretail (CC BY 2.0)]]>

What Happens after #MeToo? Will Anything Change for Women?

The #MeToo movement over the past year opened up a wound in our society and allowed women (and some men) to exhale—to tell their stories of sexual abuse by powerful men and be believed—and see powerful men be held accountable by losing their jobs. But many of these powerful men are starting to reemerge as though nothing happened. Is this going to be like the Catholic Church moving predator-priests around from parish to parish to protect them at the expense of vulnerable parishioners? Is society going to continue to fail women and go back to protecting powerful men? Jennifer Weiner of the New York Times notes that “one by one, like bad dreams, the #MeToo men have come back from the allegations against them, having suffered . . . the equivalent of a misbehaving child’s timeout.” Here are some examples of #MeToo men reemerging:

  • Aparna Nancherla of the New York Times writes about comedian Louis C. K., accused by five women of sexual misconduct by masturbating in front of them, who decided that enough time had passed for his second chance when he appeared, unannounced, at a comedy club in New York City roughly nine months after the accusations. Once on stage, he never mentioned the allegations against him or apologized to his victims. Nancherla notes, “The women who came forward as victims of Louis C. K. had nothing to gain except to be bullied, ridiculed, and insulted.” In many cases, their careers were damaged and they did not get a second chance.
  • Nathaniel Popper writes that in the tech industry, the founder of Social Finance (SoFi), Mike Cagney, was ousted in September 2017, by his board for committing sexual misconduct, lying to his board, and fostering a pervasive hostile work environment in his company. Just four months later, two SoFi board members invested $17 million in his new start-up company. Popper notes that other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors who lost their jobs in the #MeToo movement have also rebounded. He cites Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, as saying that investors only care about making money and not about the employees who will be hurt by the toxic cultures these abusers create.
  • Accused harassers who also hold public office are hoping that voters will forget and will reelect them for office. Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder of the New York Times write about sexual harassers running for state office in Arizona, Washington state, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who have been accused by long lists of women. All of them are running again. The authors note that while some have apologized, others have not. Even those who apologized feel that all should be forgiven and the slate wiped clean—even though in some cases behaviors have not changed.
  • In the case of retired federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski, more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and other misconduct. Leah Litman, Emily Murphy, and Katherine H. Ku, writing for the New York Times report that the judge retired before the investigation could be completed and the investigation was dropped. Because no formal finding of guilt occurred, the retired judge discounts the allegations and has never addressed them. He receives his federal pension and is now planning to teach—where vulnerable law students will be easy prey for him.
Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times notes that for the most part, the powerful men who are reemerging have not grappled with the pain and embarrassment they have caused to women. She notes, “I feel sorry for a lot of these men, but I don’t think they feel sorry for women or think about women’s experience much at all.” I agree. I fear that nothing is really going to change in our society unless these actions are taken:
  • Men need to do some serious reflection together about why women are so furious with them.
  • Men must offer ideas about how to make things better and play an active role in confronting other men (young and old) about their disrespectful behavior toward women.
  • All of us need to take action when we hear rumors about inappropriate behavior by a friend or colleague. Confront your friend or colleague about what you have heard.
  • Men who have been accused of serious misconduct must be held accountable and reckon with the past as they move forward.
  • Institutions must consistently acknowledge the past accusations against a person who has been given a public platform, or we risk failing women again.
We must not go back to silencing women and sweeping sexual harassment under the rug.   Photo by Concha Rodrigo on Unsplash]]>

Universities Must Do More to Stop Harassment: New Report

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, highly respected independent agencies, issued their first-ever report on sexual harassment and found that universities have failed to prevent sexual harassment. Pam Belluck of the New York Times writes that the conclusions of the 311-page report are the result of a two-year study started before the #MeToo movement began. Belluck notes that “academic workplaces are second only to the military in the rate of sexual harassment.” One study cited in the report found that 58 percent of academic employees report experiencing sexual harassment. The report also cited a 2017 survey by the University of Texas system of students in scientific fields that found the following rates of sexual harassment:

  • 20 percent of female science students.
  • More than 25 percent of female engineering students.
  • More than 40 percent of female medical students experience sexual harassment from faculty or staff members. In addition, female medical students experience sexual harassment from patients.
Belluck notes that the report identified three types of sexual harassment in universities:
  • Sexual coercion
  • Unwanted sexual attention
  • Gender harassment, described as “verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion or second-class status.”
Gender harassment was by far the most common type women experienced. The National Academies report notes that the cost of any form of sexual harassment for women is high and can “undermine work and well-being in a whole host of ways.” For example, the experience can trigger depression, sleep disruption, cardiac stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Lilia Cortina, a member of the study team. Cortina, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, notes that sexual harassment experiences can be even worse for women of color and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. The cost to the scientific fields themselves is also high because women leave and the fields are not able to retain a full range of talent. The National Academies report states that universities must stop focusing on “symbolic compliance with current law” and on avoiding liability for their institutions and instead focus on preventing sexual harassment. Belluck notes that the report offers fifteen detailed recommendations, including
  • Overhauling academic advising systems so that students and junior researchers are not at the mercy of one senior researcher for advancement and access to grants.
  • Establishing informal ways for students and staff to report sexual harassment.
  • Urging legislators to pass laws so people can file harassment lawsuits directly against faculty and not just the university.
  • Abolishing nondisclosure agreements where settlements are made. These agreements currently allow a perpetrator to move on to other academic institutions without disclosure of their inappropriate behavior.
  • Adopting training programs that focus on changing behavior, not beliefs.
Ultimately, the cultures of academic institutions have to change if sexual harassment is to be prevented. Power structures, policies, and procedures that protect powerful faculty and prioritize protecting the institution from liability will never be able to create safe and respectful work environments for students and staff.   Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash]]>