The scientist behind a website to expose sexual ‘harassholes’ on her campaign and its impact – and who she plans to shame next
Neuroscientist BethAnn McLaughlin is a leading campaigner in the US fight against sexual assault and harassment of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem). Assistant professor of neurology and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, she launched the #MeTooSTEM website in 2018 so women had a place to tell their stories. Her work was recently recognised with an MIT Media Lab Disobedience award, which she shared with two other prominent #MeToo activists.
You began campaigning against sexual misconduct in science following an incident in 2015 in which you say you witnessed another faculty member at your university issue threats against a student who had filed a lawsuit against him and the institution (though the faculty member has denied any misconduct and was never found guilty of sexual harassment or retaliation). What clicked inside?
Like most women in science, I had witnessed gender discrimination and seen sexual harassment – but I’m embarrassed to say I laughed it off [before the incident]. The way we treat cases of sexual misconduct on university campuses is an enormous problem. People found guilty can maintain their positions, keep their funding, get promoted, train students and go to off-campus meetings. It’s totally unacceptable and unsafe.