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AAAS Joins with 52 Organizations to Launch Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM

A new consortium will provide evidence-based resources and guidance to address sexual harassment in member societies’ operations and within the fields they represent. | Robb Cohen Photography & Video

Leading academic and professional societies announced Feb. 15 the launch of a Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine – to advance professional and ethical conduct, climate, and culture across their respective fields.

“We need to put our positions on the record,” said Shirley Malcom, AAAS senior adviser during a panel session on the Societies Consortium at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. “Harassment of any kind is death to our enterprise. We are trying to attract and encourage talent, but when we don’t provide a climate that is safe we either push them out or we don’t get them in to begin with,” Malcom said.

Focused on advancing full participation and excellence in STEMM and preventing and responding to sexual and gender harassment in STEMM environments, the Societies Consortium will provide research and evidence-based resources and guidance to address sexual harassment in the member societies’ operations and more broadly within the fields they represent. Initial work will focus on model policies and procedures for society honors and awards and additional information and resources will be available in coming months.

The establishment of the Societies Consortium reflects a shared understanding that professional societies have a unique responsibility in their role as standard-setters for STEMM fields to address the pervasive problem of sexual and gender harassment.

“This consortium provides both leadership for a broad diversity of our societies’ collective voices and actions to advance ethics, equity, inclusion and excellence in STEMM research, education, and practice,” Malcom added.

Composed of 53 inaugural member societies, the Societies Consortium represents disciplines across STEMM and continues to welcome others. It was established by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), with Education Counsel serving as the policy and law consultant for the initiative.

In addition to AAAS, AAMC, and AGU, professional societies serving on the Societies Consortium’s executive committee include: the American Chemical Society, American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, American Physical Society, American Society for Cell Biology, Entomological Society of America, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. All 53 participating societies have agreed to help develop and deploy high-impact resources for societies and others in STEMM fields.

Long active in efforts to encourage diversity, ethics and inclusion within science, AAAS has several initiatives that aim to prevent and address sexual and gender harassment, including a revocation policy and process for elected AAAS Fellow revocation; a code of conduct for its Annual Meeting; and the SEA Change initiative to encourage institutional transformation in higher education. AAAS President Margaret Hamburg, Board Chair Susan Hockfield and President-Elect Steven Chu authored a Science editorial on Sept. 21, 2018, urging the STEMM community to “address harassment now.”

The issue of sexual harassment has received increased attention in STEMM communities over the last year,  as #MeToo conversations proliferated and incidence data was provided in the 2018 National Academies consensus report Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Combating sexual harassment in academic medicine and across the STEMM fields requires a multi-pronged, ongoing, and sustained approach,” said Dr. David Acosta, chief diversity and inclusion officer at the AAMC. “The Societies Consortium will help our organizations – and in turn, our respective member institutions – see across the landscape of STEMM as we work together to develop the strategy and tools needed to foster a more inclusive learning and workplace environment.”