WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act to 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.

“This pandemic has proven how crucial STEM skills are to the future of our country and how important it is to support our STEM workforce,” said Brown. “American innovation in science and technology is made stronger when everyone is able to participate free from discrimination or harassment. This legislation takes important steps toward ensuring more inclusive, safe, and equitable opportunities are afforded to scholars in STEM fields, which were already underrepresented by women and especially women of color, well before the pandemic.”

This legislation 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.

The legislation has also been cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act has been endorsed by 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. 

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