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Take Steps to Prevent Harassment


Training can be helpful to prevent harassment and can be delivered by a variety of means. Research shows that training must be implemented well to be effective.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently published an extensive report on improving the culture and climate in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. Researchers found 58% of women in the academic workplace face sexual harassment. For professionals and students, the consequences of experience with sexual harassment can lead to reduced motivations, declined productivity, hindered learning, and career changes. The study outlines three forms of sexual harassment: 1) gender harassment (sexist behaviors such as remarks, hostilities, objectification, exclusions or marginalization's, 2) unwanted sexual attention (verbal or physical sexual advances), and 3) sexual coercion (preferably treatment conditional on sexual activity). Additionally, researchers found that repeated incidences of gender harassment can have as significant consequences as single incidences of sexual coercion.

In order to positively change the climate and culture, this NSF-funded study makes several recommendations. Among these recommendations are: address gender harassment in anti-sexual harassment policies, extend policies beyond the legal compliance to federal laws, foster a diverse, inclusive, and respectful environment, and improve transparency and accountability. Addressing these targets during training helps foster an inclusive and safe environment.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Earth Science Women's Network, Association for Women Geoscientists, and the American Geophysical Union are partnering to address the problem of sexual harassment in the earth, space, and environmental sciences with a four-year, $1.1 million grant from NSF's ADVANCE program. A primary goal of the project is to improve work climate conditions. This is done by developing bystander intervention workshops for department heads, chairs, faculty, and graduate students to appropriately respond to and prevent sexual harassment on campus and in the field as well as include awareness and prevention training of sexual and other types of harassment in the teaching of ethical conduct in research.

De Welde, K., Stepnick, A., 2015. Disrupting the Culture of Silence. Stylus Publishing, LLC Sterling, Virginia.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established a Select Task Force to study harassment in the workplace. The Select Task Force consisted of a select group of outside experts impaneled to examine harassment in the workplace - its causes, its effects, and what can be better done to prevent it. The experts included management and plaintiffs' attorneys, representatives of employee and employer advocacy groups, labor representatives, and academics who have studied this field for years - sociologists, psychologists, and experts in organizational behavior. This study was fashioned in an interdisciplinary approach that considered the social science on harassment in the workplace. The Final report also includes detailed recommendations and a number of helpful tools to aid in designing effective anti-harassment policies; developing training curricula; implementing complaint, reporting, and investigation procedures; creating an organizational culture in which harassment is not tolerated; ensuring employees are held accountable; and assessing and responding to workplace "risk factors" for harassment.

Feldblum, C.R., Lipnic, V.A., 2016. Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Articles on Developing Prevention Training

Scientific American
Confronting Sexual Harassment in Science

The New York Times
Sexual Harassment Training Doesn't Work. But Some Things Do.


NSF welcomes feedback on this portal as well as suggestions for other promising practices. Our goal is to facilitate sharing of information so that all may benefit. To submit feedback and suggestions regarding promising practices, please visit NSF's Harassment Portal Feedback Form. Submissions will be considered and adopted where appropriate.