SPONSORED:

Dem senators introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM

A group of Democratic senators, including 2020 contender Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert Harris says Mexico, US can work together to improve quality of life in Northern Triangle Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says 'it is time to pass the baton on to someone else' MORE (D-Calif.), on Thursday introduced a bill aimed at combating sexism within the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The bill, called the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019, comes in response to a study published last year that found 58 percent of women in STEM fields say they have been sexually harassed. It is the companion measure to a House bill introduced earlier this year by Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Congressional proclamation prioritizes a critical societal issue: Lack of women of color in tech MORE (D-Texas).

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation would authorize $17.4 million annually to fund federal research about sexism and discrimination in STEM while directing the National Science Foundation to update its professional standards.

Harris in a statement said the bill is close to her heart as the "daughter of a barrier-breaking woman in STEM research." Her mother was a breast cancer researcher.

"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," Harris said. "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." 

Sens. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Parler app risks charges of selling out with Apple return | Justices hear First Amendment clash over cheerleader's Snapchat | Google pressed to conduct racial equity audit Lawmakers introduce legislation to create civilian reserve program to fight hackers Bipartisan Senate proposal would grant million to minority businesses MORE (D-Nev.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are also co-sponsors of the bill.

“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,” Rosen said in a statement. “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.”

The bill aims to study "the factors contributing to, and consequences of, sexual harassment" in STEM through research grants, a federal interagency working group and national data collection. 

It is the amended version of Johnson's bill, which was reintroduced in February. That bill, which currently has 61 co-sponsors, would ask the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a set of policy guidelines for federal agencies to follow when dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in last year's study found that women of color are more likely to experience sexual harassment and feel unsafe at work in STEM.

The study concluded that sexual harassment reporting procedures are inconsistent at the various federal science agencies.

"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," Harris said. 

The legislation has already been sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers, the American Educational Research Association, the American Mathematical Society and other groups. 

Updated at 2:37 p.m.