Some 60% of women in Europe report to have been victims of at least one form of sexism or sexual violence at work, according to an IFOP survey published on Saturday.
The phenomenon is not necessarily a long-past event: 21% of women report have gone through such experiences in the last 12 months (42% of women under 30), according to the study that was performed for the Jean Jaures Foundation and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) in France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain.
Eleven percent of respondents (9% in France, 15% in Spain) even say they have already had “forced or unwanted” sexual intercourse with someone at their work.
A figure that “highlights the grey area that can exist around consent”, when it can be “extorted in a context of subordination, intimidation or manipulation,” the study’s authors stated.
The most frequent forms of sexism come in the form of “whistling, rude gestures or comments, leering” (46%), a rate that even rises to 56% in Germany. 26% say they endure such gestures or words “repeatedly”.
In addition, 9% of women report having been “pressured” at least once by a colleague to “a sexual act” (e.g. sex in exchange for employment or promotion), and 18% “at least once” to physical contact such as a hand on the buttocks, a forced hug or a kiss.
The colleagues committing inappropriate gestures or words are not necessarily superiors professionally, but can be colleagues at the same level or even people outside the company, such as suppliers.
The conductors of the survey note that “a very small minority of workplace harassment victims managed to break the wall of silence”: only 13% of groped women and 16% of those pressured into sex say they have spoken to someone susceptible to resolve the problem internally, such as a supervisor or a union.
The study was conducted among more than 5,000 women in five EU countries via an online questionnaire in April 2019.
The Brussels Times