A new report from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that in the field of science, about 20 to 50 percent of women are still experiencing harassment, signifying that new policies still have a long way to go to prevent and reprimand sexual harassers.
The National Institute of Health (NIH), which funds scientific research, has issued a public apology for not bringing more attention to the issue in the past.
“We are sorry that it has taken so long to acknowledge and address the climate and culture that has caused such harm,” wrote Francis Collins, current Director of NIH, regarding the possibility that retention of women in science could suffer because of sexual harassment that drives them away.
It is “morally indefensible, it’s unacceptable, and it presents a major obstacle that is keeping women from achieving their rightful place in science,” he wrote.
In an interview with PBS, Collins explained that one of the reasons that women are likely experiencing this is even more in the field of science is because it is a space that is mostly made up of men. He discussed the problem with change happening too slowly and how it is driving women out of the field.
Collins further said that NIH is holding itself accountable for not doing more to fix that problem, and for many times perpetuating the problem by not supporting women in the field. NIH is now taking the issue more seriously, Collins explained.
“Just the last year, more than two dozen institutions have heard from us about circumstances where sexual harassment was going on, and we have insisted that they come forward and say what they’re doing about it,” he told PBS. He further added that many sexual harassers have been removed from their positions, some are no longer allowed as part of the institution, and others cannot take part in peer review.
Moving forward, Collins say NIH will be in touch with its institutions to ensure that steps are being taken “at every level” to create change in culture within the science field and to create more opportunity for women in leadership positions.
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