AWARES Creates Community of Support with Annual Panel Discussion

Jan. 21, 2022
Pictured: AWARES participants and panel members attending the virtual meeting

For the 5th year in a row, the Aspiration for Women’s Advancement and Retention in Engineering and Science (AWARES) program hosted a panel centered on sexual harassment in the workplace. Starting at the height of the #MeToo movement, the panel has become an annual occurrence in the program, which aims to empower women studying engineering or STEM fields at The Ohio State University and prepare them for smooth transitions into their traditionally male-dominated fields. 

Dr. Gönül Kaletunç, professor of food engineering and founder of the AWARES program, started the discussion by centering the importance of this conversation for future women in STEM fields. While the #MeToo movement may no longer be grabbing media headlines as it had in 2018, but occurrences of sexual harassment certainly still plague some work environments. In her discussions with mentors before this year’s panel, Kaletunç recalls their support for continuing the annual panel, citing the importance to continue to spread awareness that sexual harassment occurs in the workplace and provide the program a place to support student mentees in these conversations. 

The panel discusses sexual harassment in the workplace from multiple angles, identifying the issue from a legal standpoint, at Ohio State, from an HR/career perspective, and new this year addressing the mental health ramifications. This year’s panelists and their topics included: 

  • Camille Hébert, The Carter C. Kissell Professor, Moritz College of Law: The legal definition of Sexual harassment and legal rights
  • Molly Peirano, Director of Education & Engagement, Institutional Equity Office, Ohio State: Title IX and implications on sexual harassment
  • Jessica Hastings: Senior HR Compliance Manager, GE Aviation: Sexual harassment prevention efforts in industry and due process
  • Stefanie Day, College of Engineering embedded counselor: How do you respond and how do you deal with sexual harassment, and how to get help

During the panel, polls were conducted among the participants. Based on the results, participants had the expectations that employers should have a clear stance on anti-discrimination/harassment/sexual misconduct. All the panel members emphasized the importance of creating a respectful environment and equity in the workplace and that no one should be excluded from participation on the basis of gender. Everyone in attendance was also encouraged to talk to others in order to raise awareness of the resources available both on campus and in the industry.


by Chip Tuson