The TUC has reported that half of women suffer discrimination, sexual harassment or sexist treatment at work. It found that 80% of women are too frightened, ashamed or embarrassed to report it. Or they felt it would not be taken seriously. Even fewer go to employment solicitors about the problem.

Half of women suffer discrimination, sexual harassment 1
Image courtesy of Alexander Lyubavin licensed under CC

From a sample size of 1,500:

  • More than half of women had experienced some form of discrimination, sexual harassment or sexist treatment
  • A third reported hearing unwelcome jokes or comments, such as inappropriate comments about their sex life or clothing
  • A quarter had experienced unwanted touching, eg kissing or hugging
  • A fifth had put up with unwanted advances
  • Only a fifth reported it to their employer
  • More women reported that they had been treated worse than better as a result of reporting the harassment
  • 1% reported that they had experienced a serious sexual assault or rape at work

In 20% of cases it was their direct line manager who was responsible. In only 3% of cases was a junior colleague to blame

Sexual harassment is unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating working environment.

It is rare that victims of discrimination, sexual harassment or sexist treatment take legal action such as a tribunal claim. A 2013 survey by a firm of solicitors found similar figures (60 per cent of women had experienced inappropriate behaviour from a male colleague in the workplace and nearly half had been warned to expect inappropriate behaviour from particular colleagues when they had started).

Comments by those surveyed included:

  • “I’m struggling to find a job as a web developer because all male offices think a girl would be offended by their sense of humour.”
  • “At the job I recently left, a male manager said to me (in front of a female manager) that I would do well in the organisation because I have big boobs.”
  • “I don’t trust my manager to support me in this or similar situations and I’m actively looking to leave my current position because of this. I felt that my concerns had been dismissed”

The survey, Still just a bit of banter? Sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016, is available here. See also our pages on sex discrimination and workplace bullying.