Oct. 23, 2020

Haskayne prof recognized for groundbreaking research in workplace harassment

Sandy Hershcovis named to Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists
Sandy Hershcovis
Sandy Hershcovis

She has sat on an expert panel at the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine summit on sexual harassment to discuss the role of bystander intervention. She has given expert testimony before both Senate and House of Commons Standing Committees regarding harassment policy and law (Bill C-65). She has published her research in internationally reputed journals and presented her research around the world.

Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, pictured above, is making an impact for those experiencing workplace harassment, witnesses to harassment and their companies. (Photo by Adrian Shellard for Haskayne School of Business)

Science can be a powerful tool to inform policy. This was a principle that was instilled early in Hershcovis’s career by her PhD supervisor — and by her impressive track record, it's apparent that Hershcovis has pursued this principle with passion.

“It’s an honour to be named to the Royal Society of Canada,” says Hershcovis, who completed her PhD in 2006. “There are a lot of really smart people doing some incredibly important work. It’s a huge honour to be counted in their company, and one that I’ll try to live up to.”

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is a national recognition for emerging Canadian intellectual leadership, with a focus on individuals who are within 15 years of having completed their postdoctoral program. Hershcovis, who started her journey with a Haskayne BComm in 2001, was admitted to the college in September with the awards celebration to come in November.

Hershcovis’s latest research theorizes that social networks can promote and enforce silence around sexual harassment in the workplace. In organizations that valorize masculinity or male-dominated occupations, harassers tend to be central within social networks. When this occurs, bystanders, managers, and colleagues are more likely to be silenced, to be silent, or to be unheard if they do speak up.

This network silence leads to organizational failure to take corrective action, and explains why so many people know about sexual harassment, but do nothing to stop it. Exploring these issues surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace can help uncover ways to help prevent it.

Academia itself has a strong "old boys" network and a robust support system is essential to help women rise in this environment. Hershcovis acknowledges several individuals that have influenced her career.   

Dr. Julian Barling, who was the nominator on this award, has been a mentor and champion of my work since I started my PhD in 2002," says Hershcovis. "Having that kind of positive mentorship early on is so important to career success."

Dr. Lilia Cortina, who was the external examiner on Hershcovis’s PhD dissertation, worked closely with Hershcovis immediately after she received her PhD.  

“She taught me a lot about research and working with graduate students, but perhaps her most important lesson to me was in showing me the importance of women championing other women,” says Hershcovis. “Lilia went crashing through the glass ceiling and she made sure to bring other women up with her along the way.

We need to work harder in academia to make sure everyone has access to mentors with whom they identify.

Working with graduate students are among Hershcovis’s most rewarding collaborations. In fact, the first student she supervised changed her career. Dr. Tara Reich, PhD, was the one who got Hershcovis interested in bystanders and together, they have forged forward in this area. She continues this work with her current student, Zhanna Lyubykh, who Hershcovis says, “…will far surpass me in her research success and impact.”

“We are incredibly proud to have Dr. Sandy Hershcovis as a part of the Haskayne team,” says Dr. Yrjo Koskinen, associate dean, research. “She is Haskayne’s very first inductee to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. She brings her passion to her leadership role as the associate dean of faculty at the school, making Haskayne a better place while still bringing tremendous energy to her research.”