Study: Sexual harassment prevalent in STEM fields | KOB 4
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Study: Sexual harassment prevalent in STEM fields

Morgan Aguilar
June 27, 2018 08:29 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Though there's been a push in recent years to increase women's involvement in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, it still isn't easy to break into those male-dominated industries.

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The persisting problem of sexual harassment in those and other industries makes it even tougher for women. They're already getting paid less than their male counterparts, but a new consensus report found sexual harassment of women is common in academic science, engineering and medicine.

"It's a sad reality that the few women who have the talent and the courage to enter this field is experiencing harassment at such a high level—more than 40 to 50 percent," said May Sagbakken, executive director of the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network.

The group is currently taking applications for a brand new scholarship focused on breaking young women into STEM fields. Like many organizations, NMOST wants to encourage women and girls to close the gender gap by entering those industries.

But there's even more to overcome than a glass ceiling.

"Very often they do experience sexual harassment and end up avoiding conferences, avoiding social events and some of them end up leaving their field," Sagbakken said.

The study found a "system-wide change to the culture and climate in higher education is needed to prevent and effectively respond to sexual harassment."

Researchers also concluded the policies currently in place focus on compliance with the law instead of a culture shift, and that hasn't been resulting in any significant reduction of sexual harassment.

Sagbakken said retaining women in those fields is just as important as recruitment.

"Universities and workplaces need to do more studies on the actual climate in the workplace," she said. "So that we have a better understanding of the many barriers that women face."

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Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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