Jul 9, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A new study from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine reveals some disheartening statistics: 58 percent of female academic faculty and staff and as many as 25 percent of female students have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Here’s a closer look at the findings, as recently reported by Vice News.

“Rampant Sexual Harassment”

Women in STEM trail only behind women in the military in terms of the percent who report sexual harassment. In addition to dealing with unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault, women also reported “lewd and demeaning” interactions and comments -- to the point where they’re opting out of professional opportunities, including everything from projects to meetings to jobs, to avoid the issue.

One woman cited a male colleague’s troubling behavior as “shutting her up in the workplace, demeaning her in front of other colleagues, telling her that she’s not as capable as others are, or telling others that she’s not [as] sincere.”

Areas for Improvement

The study also reveals that women suffer worse treatment in certain fields. While more than 25 percent of female engineering students have experienced sexual harassment from faculty and staff, this number spikes to 40 percent among medical students. All in all, 50 percent of med students have experienced sexual harassment. Meanwhile, an alarming 20 percent of female students in science report having been sexually assaulted.

Furthermore, sexual harassment was particularly bad for minorities, which experts attribute to lack of diversity.

All of which begs the question: What can be done to correct the situation? Four factors have been identified as fueling this phenomenon, including male-dominated environments, organizational tolerance for the behaviors, hierarchical and dependent faculty-trainee relationships, and isolating environments.

This may be easier said than done -- especially when the issue is widely known to be an “open secret.” Said one respondent,  “I felt like I had this type of plague or something...It’s forcing the person who was victimized to keep contronting and keep pushing.”



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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