H.R.36 - Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019

Photo of Congress member Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson

To provide for research to better understand the causes and consequences of sexual harassment affecting individuals in the scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics workforce and to examine policies to reduce the prevalence and negative impact of such harassment, and for other purposes.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe that a research program needs to be established examining the prevalence of and factors contributing to sexual harassment in the scientific workforce. Studies suggest 58% of women in the scientific community have been sexually harassed and this bill is the first step towards combatting this statistic.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that sexual harassment studies, even in the event of good intentions, can consequently increase the likelihood of sexual advances in the workplace because it may trigger gender biases. Some studies have suggested that sexual harassment policies can activate gender stereotypes instead of challenging them.
Introduced House Senate President Law

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act would establish a research program at the National Science Foundation to examine the prevalence of and factors contributing to sexual harassment in the scientific workforce.

Furthermore, the bill would direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy to issue uniform policy guidance to Federal science agencies to ensure every agency has clear policies and dedicated resources to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment at academic institutions receiving federal research funding.

This legislation also creates an interagency working group to improve coordination and communication among agencies in addressing sexual harassment by federally funded scientists.

"Sexual harassment is driving some of our brightest minds away from careers in research at a time when we need them most. If we are to tackle the scientific and technological challenges ahead of us, we must do more to ensure women are free to conduct their research without being degraded, harassed, or abused because of their gender," said Rep. Johnson, Chairwoman of the Science, Space, and Technology House Committee."The Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 is an important first step in that direction, and I hope Members on both sides of the aisle will support this legislation."

“The academic workplace, when compared to the military, private sector, and government, has the second-highest rate of sexual harassment, with 58% of women in academia experiencing sexual harassment," wrote Rep.Johnson on a separate statement. "This behavior undermines career advancement for women in critical STEM fields, and many women report leaving promising careers in academic research due to sexual harassment. Women of color are even more likely to experience sexual harassment and to feel unsafe at work."

The legislation has been endorsed by several Science organizations, including the American Educational Research Association, the American Mathematical Society, the Computing Research Association, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and the Society of Women Engineers, among others.

Karen Horting, Executive Director & CEO of the Society of Women Engineers wrote, “The Society of Women Engineers is committed to the advancement of women in engineering, and that means supporting women in science and academia. A report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine confirmed what women in science have long known—not only is sexual harassment pervasive on the campuses of research institutions, it can be cruelly subtle for women scientists. Better understanding the causes and consequences of sexual harassment and reducing its incidence and impact, as the bill proposes, will support the endeavors of current and future female scientists and create a richer research enterprise in the United States.”

Other studies, such as the 2007 Social Psychology Quarterly study by Stanford University, suggest that after men learned about harassment rules, it triggered implicit gender biases, effectively making it more likely for men to stereotype women, and possibly increasing the likelihood of other sexual harassment advances.

Justine Tinkler, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Georgia and co-author of the study wrote that "the purpose of sexual harassment policy is to make men and women more equal in the workplace, if the policies are sort of activating gender stereotypes rather than challenging them, they may not be promoting that broader goal.”


Sponsored by: Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30].

Cosponsored by: 2 Rep / 25 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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