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Implementation of a Sexual Harassment Workshop Targeting Female Engineers

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

WIED: Strategies Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.705.1 - 24.705.10



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Paper Authors


Lisa Rae Volpatti University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Lisa Volpatti received her bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. Throughout her undergraduate career, she held several officer positions in the University of Pittsburgh’s section of the Society of Women Engineers, including section president during her senior year. She currently is pursuing a master of philosophy in chemistry at the University of Cambridge as a Whitaker International Fellow and has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to fund her Ph.D. upon returning to the United States.

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Cheryl A. Bodnar University of Pittsburgh

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Cheryl A. Bodnar, Ph.D, CTDP, is an assistant professor (teaching track) in the department of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. She obtained her certification as a Training and Development Professional (CTDP) from the Canadian Society for Training and Development in 2010, providing her with a solid background in instructional design, facilitation, and evaluation.
Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes (problem-based learning, games and simulations, etc.) as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the chemical and petroleum engineering as well as broader engineering curriculum. In addition, she is actively engaged in the development of a variety of informal science education approaches, with the goal of exciting and teaching K-12 students about regenerative medicine and its potential. Most recently, she has started to engage in the development of programs aimed at retaining women within chemical engineering, including mentor lunches with visiting female seminar speakers, a leadership book club, and sexual harassment workshops.

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Lauren M. Byland University of Pittsburgh

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Lauren Byland, M.Ed., is the associate director and coordinator of student recruitment at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. She obtained a master’s degree in administrative and policy studies of higher education from the University of Pittsburgh while also interning in the career services office as a pre-health career consultant. She joined Pitt's engineering school in 2006. Her responsibilities include implementing and coordinating the recruitment effort for the Swanson School of Engineering as well as serving as an academic adviser to a caseload of freshman engineering students. Prior to working in the Swanson School she worked at Mellon Financial Corporation and Penn State University.

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Dealing with Harassment: A Workshop for Female Engineers After the publication of Catharine MacKinnon’s 1979 groundbreaking book, SexualHarassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, an influx of research on the topicemerged.1 The results of various studies from this time have indicated that there are significantlyhigher rates of sexual harassment (SH) in male-dominated fields, with some studies evenreporting up to 75% of respondents experiencing some form of harassment.2-4 While SH remainsan issue for female engineers in the United States, research in this field has diminishedconsiderably in the past decade, with a shifting focus towards retention programs. However, SHis continually listed as one of the key barriers towards retaining and advancing women in scienceand engineering careers5-7 and has also been negatively correlated with job satisfaction andphysical and mental health.8-10 Sexual harassment training has become commonplace as a form of workplace SHprevention to forgo these issues. From a legal standpoint, some form of SH training has beenimplemented in over 90% of all businesses.11 While these programs have been shown to increasesensitivity towards harassment,12 it is unknown whether or not they increase the incidence reportrate.13 Rather than mandating official, often co-ed training programs through industrial humanresources departments, we believe that providing informal, optional workshops to universitywomen such as the one described within this study will provide a better atmosphere to educatefemale engineers on sexual harassment early in their careers. This workshop attempts to inform female engineers on how to identify situations thatcould be construed to be sexual harassment through the provision of scenarios generated fromfemale engineers’ personal experiences but more importantly provides strategies to help themcope with the situation if they do find themselves in a situation where they are sexually harassed.On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), the overall impression of the workshop according toparticipants who took the exit survey was 4.74. Moreover, 100% of the exit survey participantsfelt that the workshop met their expectations. One participant commented that the workshop was“very well presented and opened my eyes to the different harassment possibilities that may affectme and ways to possibly handle these situations.” Questions pertaining to SH will be included ina survey administered to all graduating engineering seniors of a mid-Atlantic university, and thisdata will be discussed in conjunction with workshop results. By sharing the details and positiveresults of this inaugural workshop, we hope to instill confidence and provide the supportnecessary for female engineers in universities across the nation to recognize sexual harassmentand stand up against their sexual harassers. In this way, we aim to increase both the retention andthe general welfare of female engineers in both the academic and industrial workplace.References1 MacKinnon, C. A. Sexual harassment of working women: A case of sex discrimination. Vol. 19 (Yale University Press, 1979).2 Lafontaine, E. & Tredeau, L. The frequency, sources, and correlates of sexual harassment among women in traditional male occupations. Sex Roles 15, 433-442 (1986).3 Hulin, C. L., Fitzgerald, L. F. & Drasgow, F. Organizational influences on sexual harassment. (1996).4 Hesson‐Mcinnis, M. S. & Fitzgerald, L. F. Sexual Harassment: A Preliminary Test of an Integrative Model1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 27, 877-901 (1997).5 Maskell-Pretz, M. & Hopkins, W. E. Women in engineering: Toward a barrier-free work environment. Journal of Management in Engineering 13, 32-37 (1997).6 Rosser, S. & Lane, E. O. N. Key barriers for academic institutions seeking to retain female scientists and engineers: Family-unfriendly policies. Low Numbers, stereotypes, and harassment. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 8 (2002).7 Settles, I. H., Cortina, L. M., Stewart, A. J. & Malley, J. Voice matters: Buffering the impact of a negative climate for women in science. Psychology of Women Quarterly 31, 270-281 (2007).8 Schneider, K. T., Swan, S. & Fitzgerald, L. F. Job-related and psychological effects of sexual harassment in the workplace: empirical evidence from two organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology 82, 401 (1997).9 Willness, C. R., Steel, P. & Lee, K. A meta‐analysis of the antecedents and consequences of workplace sexual harassment. Personnel Psychology 60, 127-162 (2007).10 Chan, D. K. S., Lam, C. B., Chow, S. Y. & Cheung, S. F. Examining the job‐related, psychological, and physical outcomes of workplace sexual harassment: a meta‐analytic review. Psychology of Women Quarterly 32, 362-376 (2008).11 Dolezalek, H. The 2005 industry report. (2005).12 Antecol, H. & Cobb‐clark, D. Does Sexual Harassment Training Change Attitudes? A View from the Federal Level*. Social Science Quarterly 84, 826-842 (2003).13 Goldberg, C. B. The impact of training and conflict avoidance on responses to sexual harassment. Psychology of Women Quarterly 31, 62-72 (2007).

Volpatti, L. R., & Bodnar, C. A., & Byland, L. M. (2014, June), Implementation of a Sexual Harassment Workshop Targeting Female Engineers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20597

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