NOLA Symposium - Science of Sexual Harassment
The two part session on Science of Sexual Harassment at the NOLA meeting was co-sponsored by WCC, C&EN, D&I, CMA, PROF and YCC. Both Session I titled “The psychology and sociology of sexual harassment” and Session II titled “Working to Stop Harassment in Departments & at Meetings” were well attended. Women chemists presented personal stories of harassment and how they dealt with it. Experts explored the psychology and sociology of harassment what organizations can do to prevent harassment and why many people hesitate to come forward to report incidences. Panel discussion in both sessions engaged the audience in Q&A.
Professor of Psychology at U-Conn, Vicki Magley, presented valuable insight on how gender harassment impacts organizational climate. She defined climate as the observed habits in organizations and culture as the deeper values and beliefs in organizations. Gender harassment impacts occupational health, well-being, and mental health of employees. This includes not only the person being harassed but also their coworkers who observe the harassment. By definition –“harassment derogates, demeans or humiliates an individual based on that individual’s sex”. Many organizations recently implemented policies and frequent training of employees on consequences and prevention of sexual harassment. Prof. Magley went over what organizations should and shouldn’t do to deal with an incidence of harassment.
What To Do –
- Mission statements should include “employee well-being” and that it is impacted by harassment
- Ensure presence of women at all levels of the organization in parity
- Review routinely and distribute policies against harassment
- Management needs to genuinely support the mission and encourage positive behavior
- Keep working towards changing the culture to get gender equality - it is a slow process
What Not To Do –
- Don’t assume you fully understand what’s happened until you ask questions. If you have any report at all, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper to find out more information.
- Under-staff HR. Speedy investigation would require HR support/involvement
- Fear of retaliation is the #1 reason of why people don’t report harassment. Having a non-retaliation policy would go a long way in encouraging people to report incidents of harassment
In Session II, Nancy Ryan Gray, CEO of Gordon Research Conference presented a list of effective steps that GRC has taken to prevent harassment at conferences –
- GRC has a strict policy on appropriate behavior at conferences that attendees sign-off when they register for the conference
- “Zero Tolerance Period” Behavior Policy is displayed at the conference
- Policy is described at each meeting including steps to report an incident
- GRC preferentially places women chairs and invites women presenters at symposia – women leaders are visible on GRC Board
- GRC limits the number of social hours, funds for hosting social hours and the number of drinks at social hours
- Violator is required to apologize to the harassed individual, failure to do so results in removal from future GRC
- GRC Power Hour – open discussion between members about topics of gender inequality
These are some food for thoughts for ACS for future national and regional meetings.