Advancing Sexual Harassment Prevention and Elimination in the Sciences: "Every. Health Organization Must Do Something Similar"

Jacky M. Jennings, Suzanne M. Grieb, Cornelis Rietmeijer, Charlotte A. Gaydos, Rima Hawkins, Rebecca C. Thurston, James Blanchard, Caroline E. Cameron, David A. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Sexual harassment is pervasive in science. A 2018 report found that the prevalence of sexual harassment in academia in the United States is 58%. An activity held at an international scientific congress was designed to advance sexual harassment prevention and elimination and empower binary and nonbinary persons at risk for harassment, discrimination, and violence. The objective is to describe the activity and outcomes to provide a promising model for other scientific communities. Methods A description of the plenary and key components as well as the data collection and analysis of selected outcomes are provided. Results Among 1338 congress participants from 61 countries, 526 (39%) attended the #MeToo plenary, and the majority engaged in some way during the plenary session. Engagement included standing for the pledge (85%), participating in the question and answer session (n = 5), seeking counseling (n = 3), and/or providing written post-it comments (n = 96). Respondents to a postcongress survey (n = 388 [24% of all attendees]) ranked the plenary as number 1 among 14 congressional plenaries. In postanalysis, the written post-it comments were sorted into 14 themes within 6 domains, including: (1) emotional responses, (2) barriers to speaking out, (3) public health priorities, (4) reframing narratives about the issue, (5) allyship, and (6) moving the issue forward. Conclusions Scientific organizations, agencies, and institutions have an important role to play in setting norms and changing enabling policies toward a zero-tolerance culture of sexual harassment. The activity presented offers a promising model for scientific communities with similar goals. The outcomes suggest that the plenary successfully engaged participants and had a measurable impact on the participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-668
Number of pages6
JournalSexually transmitted diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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