More than a quarter of British men think sexual jokes at work are acceptable

6 March 2020, 05:41

The survey was carried out for International Women's Day
The survey was carried out for International Women's Day. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

More than a quarter of men around the world think sexual jokes and stories are acceptable at work, according to a new study.

The survey was carried out to mark International Women's Day and asked more than 20,000 people in 27 countries.

It found that 28 per cent of men thought that stories of a sexual nature were acceptable in work settings, compared with 16 per cent of women.

The figures for Britain mirror these global proportions, according to the research carried out by Ipsos MORI and the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's College, London.

They said that British men are much more accepting of such behaviour than their counterparts in countries including Turkey, Mexico, Australia, Canada and the US.

In Britain, 9 per cent of men think it is acceptable to display material of a sexual nature at work, compared with 4 per cent of women. Globally, this rises to 13 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women, the report said.

The research also asked about how employees would react to unacceptable behaviour, with more British men (58 per cent) than women (48 per cent) saying they would be confident to call out a senior colleague for making a sexist comment.

But 69 per cent of both men and women said they would be comfortable reprimanding a junior colleague. And, of all the countries surveyed, British people felt most confident (78 per cent) in telling off a family member or friend for making a sexist comment, the study said.

The authors found that, in Britain, people think women's careers are much more likely to be damaged than men's because of certain work-related choices.

Nearly a third (32 per cent) of people thought that rejecting a colleague who wanted a date or romantic relationship is more likely to damage the career of a woman, compared with just 5 per cent for men.

And 17 per cent of people thought a woman who talks about her family life is more likely to have her career harmed - compared with 4 per cent for men - and 27 per cent thought a woman's career would be impacted by part-time working compared with 8 per cent for a man.

Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia and chairwoman of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, said: "The workplace is one of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for equality between women and men, and these findings show we still have some way to go.

"While those who help fuel toxic work environments are in the minority, it's nonetheless a significant one - and their views can make people's working lives a misery.

"If employers want to pay more than just lip service to gender equality, they need to invest in creating cultures that value diversity and inspire respect for all."

Kelly Beaver, managing director of Ipsos MORI Public Affairs, said: "International Women's Day is a great reminder each year to think about where we are headed, and how far we have come, in the fight for gender equality.

"Our new research shows that we still have a way to go when it comes to levelling the playing field, especially in the workplace. Our data shows that people feel women's careers are significantly more at risk then men's if they turn down a romantic advance, if they talk about their family life or don't take part in social activities with colleagues."

The research follows comments made earlier this year by Chartered Management Institute head Ann Francke, who said that sports banter in the workplace can exclude women and lead to laddish behaviour.