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Content Warning: Sexual Harassment

by Janjan Sun, Program Associate, Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls

On October 30, 2019 the American Geophysical Union (AGU) hosted a one-day forum at its headquarters to share best practices and identify gaps in research surrounding sexual harassment in STEM. The forum, “Best Practices and Approaches for Addressing Harassment in the Stem Workplace: How to Lead in Today’s Environment,” was a collaboration between the Rockefeller Family Fund, Urban Institute, National Women’s Law Center, and the Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls. It was developed as a result of an earlier Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls roundtable held in October 2018 that convened leaders across sectors to share insights, strategies, and ideas on changing the culture of sexual harassment.

Anne Mosle, Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls and Vice President at the Aspen Institution, led the keynote discussion with leaders from the field that set the stage for the day’s discussions. These leaders, Frazier Benya, Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Sciences; Erin Cech, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan; Stephanie Goodwin, Director of Faculty Development and Leadership at Wright State University; and Teresa Hutson, Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, discussed today’s challenges pertaining to sexual harassment in STEM spaces and gave an overview of the current  research and innovative practices to combat these problems.

Conversations throughout the day built upon this theme of innovation. Several discussions focused on how technology can be a part of the solution and leveraged to combat sexual harassment. Lisa Gelobter from tEQuitable shared how her tech startup, which is aimed towards giving employees tools to address and combat sexual harassment, provides informal conflict resolution utilizing technology. Other discussions at the Forum focused on organization accountability, including an-depth look at the metrics and strategies needed to hold employers accountable. Ally Coll, President and Co-Founder of the Purple Campaign, shared the work of her organization to prevent workplace harassment by encouraging strong corporate policies, establishing more effective laws and empowering people to create lasting change.

The forum concluded with breakout sessions in which participants were given the opportunity to reflect on the day’s conversations as it related to their own practices. As part of the follow-up work, the conveners will be issuing a brief report in 2020 about the findings and areas for further learning, including case studies of promising practices in the field. The best practices and research presented at the AGU Forum and captured in this upcoming report will serve as a powerful guide for employers and organizations across all sectors who seek to create and implement effective policies on sexual harassment in the workplace.

For more information on the findings of this roundtable event, read the April roundtable report, Promising Practices for Addressing Harassment in the STEM Workplace