April 27, 2021

Wyden Joins Colleagues to Introduce Legislation to Stop Sexual Harassment in STEM

Wyden: “[Harassment] deprives survivors of the careers they should have had… curbing scientific and technological advances”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today joined colleagues to introduce legislation that would improve the understanding of factors contributing to sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, examine impacts of harassment on individuals and policies to reduce it, and spur interagency efforts to mitigate this harassment.

“As the #MeToo movement continues to spotlight, sexual harassment remains all too prevalent in the workplace. Too often, women, people of color and non-binary people are forced out of academic work due to this very kind of harassment. This is a travesty on two fronts—it deprives survivors of the careers they should have had and it causes brain drain in critical STEM disciplines, curbing scientific and technological advances,” said Wyden. “Congress must figure out how to stop sexual harassment in STEM, and this bill is the start we need.”

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act follows a landmark 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that sexual harassment is wide-spread in higher education institutions and contributes to loss of talented, highly-trained individuals in STEM. U.S. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, and Frank Lucas, R-OK, introduced a similar version of the bill in the House last week.

Among its provisions, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act would award grants through the National Science Foundation (NSF) to better understand the factors contributing to and consequences of sexual harassment across institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations and to examine interventions to reduce its frequency and impact. The bill would also direct federal statistical agencies to collect national data on the prevalence, nature, and implications of sexual harassment in institutions of higher education, direct NSF to enter into an agreement with the Academies to update the Academies’ research conduct report to include more detailed data points, and establish an interagency working group chaired by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate the efforts of federal science agencies.

Along with Wyden, the legislation introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., has been cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act has been endorsed by the American Educational Research Association, American Mathematical Society, American Physical Society, Society of Women Engineers, and American Geophysical Union.

The text of the Senate legislation can be found here and the summary of the bill can be found here.