Chapter 7 – Identifying Gaslighting in STEM Fields

Chapter 7 discusses gaslighting. When I was in graduate school, I experienced gaslighting from my advisor. At the time, I did not know what gaslighting was. I forget where I first learned the term, but when I did it was light a lightbulb went on in my mind. It was an “Aha!” moment when I discovered a word to describe my experience. Since then, I’ve grown awareness of gaslighting and how to recognize when I am experiencing it. Realizing you are a target of gaslighting can be very unsettling yet relieving as you realize your perception is accurate. This is part of the reason I continue to validate others’ experience by saying “you deserve and have the right to feel safe and comfortable at your work or school.”

Tip: Growing self awareness is key to realizing and navigating a situation when you are a target of gaslighting. It can be very difficult to realize you are being psychologically manipulated since those who gaslight start slowly typically through grooming methods, seeing what they can get away with without you realizing and setting boundaries. When you feel crazy or confusion for having a certain perception of a situation, it can be a sign that you are a target of gaslighting. You may feel other signals, like an uncomfortable sensation in your gut or chest or headaches. Having a strong self awareness practice can help you catch instances when you are a target of gaslighting before the situation escalates.

7.1 Gaslighting in STEM

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgement, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem.

In the document below I highlight 4 common sources of gaslighting that I’ve seen in STEM. I also include a resource to help you start learning and healing from gaslighting if it is affecting you.

7.2 Exercise: Workplace Surveys Evaluation

Many organizations, institutions, and companies implement employee or student surveys to assess their culture and issues. While these surveys are publicized as actions taken to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, what I’ve often found is that they actually do not solve the problems they claim to.

Read the following document to learn more, and complete the exercise to grow awareness of whether your organization takes its survey system seriously.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Does your workplace or university have an effective survey program to evaluate and improve its culture and/or environment?
  2. What are your thoughts on your workplace or university’s survey system? What do they do well, and what are its short-comings?
  3. Would you recommend your workplace or university’s survey program as a model for other organizations or institutions to mimic?
    • If so, please message Jill at She loves to find great examples of how organizations and universities should design their survey system.

7.3 Exercise: Identifying Supportive Programs at Your Organization

When navigating harassment, it’s important to know your full support system ahead of time. Overwhelming emotions that come up when you’re experiencing harassment, that fight-fight-freeze response, can make it difficult to think through steps that can lead to the best resolution.

Read and complete the exercise below so that you know what supportive programs exist within your organization. To take this exercise further, start developing professional relationships with the people involved or working in these programs.

Complete Chapter 7 and Continue to Chapter 8