Nine in ten women have suffered some form of sexual discrimination in the workplace, a study has found.
A vast majority of women workers have experienced ‘gender harassment’, which includes offensive sexist remarks or being told that they could not do their job properly due to their sex.
This more common, low-level sexist behaviour was just as damaging and distressing as overt advances, experts suggest.
The researchers at the University of Michigan found that 10 per cent of the women surveyed had experienced the most severe form of harassment, in which they were promised promotion or better treatment if they were ‘sexually cooperative’.
The study questioned women in two male-dominated environments – the US military and the legal profession. It found that although few were subjected to actual advances, such as being groped, 90 per cent had been subjected to gender harassment.
This included offensive remarks about being female, their appearance, body or sexual activities. The researchers argued that this ‘leads to negative personal and professional outcomes and as such is a serious form of sex discrimination’.
Gender harassment ‘creates a hostile environment that disadvantages women’, they said. Often dismissed as a misguided attempt to draw women into romantic relationships, such behaviour actually rejects women and drives them out of jobs, they said.
The findings, in Springer’s journal of Law and Human Behaviour, concluded that harassment victims fared poorly at work. They were far more likely to develop health problems that