April 04, 2019

Harris, Rosen, Blumenthal Announce Legislation to Combat Sexual Harassment in STEM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on Thursday announced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, legislation to provide for research to better understand the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, examine policies to reduce harassment, and encourage interagency efforts in these matters. This bill follows a landmark report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that sexual harassment is pervasive in institutions of higher education and contributes to loss of talented, highly-trained individuals in the STEM workforce.

“As the daughter of a barrier breaking woman in STEM research, I know the importance of ensuring more women enter and excel in this field,” said Senator Harris. “As more women enter STEM fields, we must do more to ensure appropriate steps are taken to change the workplace climate and prevent sexual harassment. By shining a light on sexual harassment in STEM, this legislation is a step in the right direction to fostering an environment across STEM where everyone is safe and able to achieve their full potential.”

“Sexual harassment is an issue that affects every type of workplace – and it’s especially pervasive in academia and among those working in the sciences, a field that’s been traditionally male-dominated,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will take much needed steps to address this issue by directing the Office of Science and Technology Policy to issue uniform sexual harassment policies that will help empower survivors to come out from the shadows and share their stories.”

“Harassment and discrimination deprive our nation of great minds, and rob individuals of promising careers,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This legislation will help us directly confront a pervasive culture of sexual harassment that has been allowed to persist in STEM for far too long. STEM fields already suffer from gender inequality – we should be making it easier for women and other underrepresented groups to get into these industries, not turning a blind eye to the kind of unacceptable harassment and discrimination that make it even harder for them.”

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act is the Senate companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) on January 3, 2019.

“Sexual harassment in the academic workplace undermines the contributions of women in critical STEM fields and drives talented scientists away from careers in research,” said Representative Johnson. “Our nation’s scientific and technological leadership depends on ensuring our best and brightest are able to conduct their research free of harassment and abuse. I am glad to see my Senate colleagues introduce a companion to my Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act to tackle this problem. We must do more to empower and protect our increasingly diverse scientific workforce and this bill is an important step in that direction.”

The Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act would:

  • Create a new grant program through the National Science Foundation (NSF) to better understand the factors contributing to, and consequences of, sexual harassment, and examine interventions.


  • Direct Federal statistical agencies to gather national data on the prevalence, nature, and implications of harassment in higher education.


  • Direct NSF to enter into an agreement with the Academies and update professional standards of conduct in research, evidence-based practices for fostering a climate intolerant of harassment, and methods for identifying and addressing incidents.


  • Establish an Interagency Working Group for the purpose of coordinating Federal science agency efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment involving grant personnel.


  • Authorize $17.4 million a year to carry out the Act, following recommendations by NSF and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Supporters of the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act include The American Chemical Society, American Educational Research Association, American Geophysical Union, American Mathematical Society, American Physical Society, American Physiological Society, American Political Science Association, American Psychological Association, American Society for Microbiology, Association for Women Geoscientists, Association for Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing, Association for Women in Mathematics, Computing Research Association, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Endocrine Society, Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Society of Women Engineers, The Optical Society, The Paleontological Society, and the Association for Women in Science.

“The AGU community of 60,000 Earth and space scientists is proud to endorse the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, and we applaud Senator Harris's efforts to expand protection against sexual harassment,” said Chris McEntee, AGU Executive Director and CEO. “Harassment, bias, and discrimination undermine the scientific enterprise by interfering with critical discoveries and innovation. AGU looks forward to working with Senator Harris, Congress, and others in the scientific community to foster safe, inclusive working environments in which all scientists and researchers can thrive.”

“The Society of Women Engineers is dedicated to the success of women engineers in all stages and aspects of their academic, professional and personal lives,” said Karen Horting, Executive Director and CEO of the Society of Women Engineers. “Ascertaining and addressing sexual harassment and discrimination in academic and scientific workplaces is crucial. If this country is to meet the ever-increasing demand for STEM skills and knowledge, we must do all we can to keep females in STEM fields.  This bill and the steps it takes to addressing discrimination and harassment are much needed.  Thank you to Senator Kamala Harris and her colleagues for introducing the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act. SWE looks forward to supporting the measure through the legislative process.”

“Technological advancement thrives on a constant influx of new ideas from people with diverse perspectives and skills,” said Elizabeth A. Rogan, Chief Executive Officer of The Optical Society. “The Optical Society strongly supports Sen. Kamala Harris’ bill that would foster inclusivity and examine policies aimed at curbing sexual harassment in STEM, a companion to legislation introduced in the House. Action by Congress to protect and promote diversity will strengthen U.S. leadership in STEM education, careers, and innovation.”

In addition to Senators Harris, Rosen, and Blumenthal, this legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Hirono (D-HI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), and Smith (D-MN).

For further background on the bill, click here.

For full bill text, click here.