Friday, May 4, 2018

URSP Student Monserrat Perez Hernandez Researches How to Reduce Gender-Based Harassment in Male-Dominated Fields

My project this semester looks into the different types of gender-based harassment in male dominated fields, such as the fire department. I first became interested in this project when I began volunteering for the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department as an EMT three years ago. Throughout my years in the organization, I started hearing more and more about the possible gender-based harassment cases in the department through the news. At the same time, sexual harassment began to make national headlines within Hollywood, the government and other places with initiatives such as the #MeToo movement and “Time’s up,” among others. The death of a career firefighter caused me to look the different ways Fairfax County was working to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment in the department.

When I first started this project, a lot of my time was spent in literature review, as information regarding this topic has been difficult to find. This gave me the opportunity to learn about studies done in this subject and gave me a better understanding of what anti-harassment initiatives are lacking. Monitoring news daily has also been an extremely important part of my research, as there have been many unexpected changes and announcements within the past few months. My mentor and I have been working on a possible instrument to prevent and end gender-based harassment and have attempted to get in contact with Fairfax County leadership.

Thanks to this project, I have learnt that I have a passion for research and I have grown to appreciate the incredible opportunity OSCAR offers by funding out projects. I believe this research will benefit me in the long term as I continue to pursue research on my own, and it further encouraged me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Health in the future. I hope that with this research, someday I can make a difference in empowering women who experience gender-based harassment in male-dominated fields.

This project has taught me that leadership within organizations can change unexpectedly. The Chief of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department announced his retirement midway through our project, which caused the direction of this research to change. Additionally, there were other leadership changes that may have impacted communication with Fairfax County. I also discovered how many resources are missing for those facing gender-based harassment and the importance of the role of bystanders in the prevention of gender-based harassment.