Towards Gender Equity

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

In June 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report which states that the pervasiveness of sexual and gender harassment in academic science, engineering and medicine leads to “significant damage to research integrity and a costly loss of talent.”

The report makes broad recommendations of how to decrease this harassment across academic institutions.

After a presentation of this report by Drs. Fraizer Benya and Elizabeth Hillman at UCSF, students and postdocs met to discuss the current climate surrounding gender and sexual harassment at UCSF.

This discussion led to the formation of the UCSF Gender Equity Trainee Task Force, made up of 13 graduate students and a postdoc, who worked hard over the course of three months to create UCSF specific recommendations.

Through meetings with staff, faculty, and administrators, recommendations in the three categories of climate, transparency, and hierarchy were presented to the UCSF community at a town hall in March.

The town hall included live polling, to measure the community’s opinion on these issues. Thank you to everyone involved who made the event happen, and everyone who attended that day.

If you would like to get involved in implementing the recommendations at UCSF, please email

Here, we present the recommendations that were made to the administration and the live polling results.

Move beyond legal compliance to address culture and climate

Frequent gender harassment can be as damaging as isolated incidents of sexual coercion. We aim to capitalize on the sense of community that already exists at UCSF in order to better combat gender harassment:

  1. Expand the faculty “Sharpening your Mentoring Skills” workshop to include Confronting Prejudiced Responses (CPR) training to teach faculty how to recognize gender bias and provide them with resources to be helpful bystanders.

  2. Encourage other programs and schools to formally institute CPR training as a requirement and ultimately expand this to the entire UCSF community.

  3. Encouraging faculty to engage with Diversity Registered Campus Organizations to increase awareness and understanding of different perspectives at UCSF.

  4. Initiate a climate survey on the sexual harassment of racial, ethnic, gender- and/or sexual-minorities.

Improve transparency and accountability

Organizations that are perceived to have more tolerant climates towards sexual harassment have higher rates of harassment than those seen as intolerant. Our goal is to clearly demonstrate that sexual harassment is not tolerated at UCSF by creating community awareness of investigations and demonstrating that individuals found responsible for violating the UC Sexual Violence/ Sexual Harassment (SV/SH) policy are held accountable:

  1. Increase transparency and communication with the UCSF community by publishing a periodic report of complaints of violations of SV/SH policy.

  2. Institute restrictions on mentoring across trainee programs for those found to have violated SV/SH policy.

  3. Start conversations with UCOP to include restrictions on teaching as a faculty disciplinary sanction.

  4. Create a regularly-disseminated, accessible, clear document without legal jargon to communicate Title IX policies and procedures as well as campus and community resources.

Diffuse the hierarchical and dependent relationship between trainees and faculty

The negative impacts of sexual harassment are more severe and damaging when the perpetrator has power over the target. We propose to broaden trainees’ mentorship networks to diffuse the hierarchy and enable trainees to more safely address harassment:

  1. Formalize an alternative mentor for trainees separate and in addition to their PI.

  2. Require a detailed PI/lab culture evaluation as part of graduate students’ annual thesis committee meeting.

  3. Build and provide institutional support for a peer-to-peer mentorship network.

Evidence suggests that mandates to report sexual violence and harassment can carry negative consequences including silencing and disempowering survivors, complicating employees’ jobs, and prioritizing legal liability over survivor welfare.

Policymakers and administrators should consider empirical evidence when making decisions about mandated reporting policies:

  1. Designate additional confidential resources on campus to increase confidential, non-reporting options.

  2. Advocate to change UCOP policy to limit reporting mandates and expand voluntary reporting options.