Men's Role in Addressing Sexual Harassment
In light of the recent article about sexual harassment in the medical school (see here), I thought I’d share a personal reflection.
I have found the people who were most prominent in supporting me as a female scientist have been men. While having a strong female role model is inspiring, it is supportive men, for better or for worse, that have the greatest influence right now. I lucky enough to have a male who never tolerated gender discrimination, as my first PI. I can’t remember gender ever being a factor in anything we did, even moving heavy equipment or other traditional jobs reserved for men. He showed me what equality looked like. When I worked in a different lab in undergrad and they treated me second rate because I was female, I knew better than to believe them when they said “that’s just how it is.” It was this great first example I had that didn’t let me fall victim to their lies that all labs are like that…because I knew they weren’t. I learned not to believe it is a “men’s club” or that I just had to “put up with” inappropriate behavior.
I had the unfortunate experience of working with a foreign student who did not understand how some comments such as “if you dress that way you must be a lesbian” were inappropriate. Once again, it was the kindness of other men who saved me. I could tell him all I wanted that wasn’t okay and he would just tell me I was too sensitive. But the other men in my lab told him “no, that’s not okay” and that’s who he listened to. What mattered the most to me, was having my PI apologize to me, then take him into his office to explain why it was wrong. Apologies are nice, but without that step it was just bound to happen again. As much as I wish I could do this all alone, I need other men to stand up and say “that’s not okay”.
To all the men out there who have stood up for women, thank you. Thank you to those who have been shining examples of appropriate behavior. Who have told others that’s not okay. And who have created safe places to report problems.
To the women whose reports were not properly handled I am so sorry. For all you have been through, my heart aches for you. Thank you for reporting though. It takes bravery to speak up and stop these actions from happening again. You are inspirational.
To all those who have been a victim, whether male or female, please know you are not alone. Please know you do not need to suffer silently. And this is not just the way it is. Whether the incident was small or large, you can still report it. Either talk to a trusted faculty member, report it to the UMB Title IX Coordinator, Ms. Mikhel Kushner, at 410-706-1852, oanonymously via the UMB hotline at 866-594-5220 or at this link. The full UMB title IX policy can be found here