Some 60% of women in Europe report to have been victims of at least one form of gender-based and sexual violence at work, according to an IFOP survey published on Saturday. The study was conducted among more than 5,000 women in five EU countries.
The phenomenon is not necessarily a long-past event: 21% of women report having experienced such events in the last 12 months (even 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 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 gender-based violence are “whistling, rude gestures or comments, leering” (46%), a rate that even rises to 56% in Germany. And 26% say they endure such gestures or words “repeatedly”.
In addition, 9% of women report having been “pressurized” 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 stolen kiss.
The authors of 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 (especially for situations where women are offered “upsetting” gifts).
The authors note that “a very small minority of workplace harassment victims managed to break the wall of silence”: only 13% of molested women and 16% of those pressured into sexual rapports say they have spoken to someone susceptible to resolve the problem internally, such as a supervisor or a union.
The IFOP survey was conducted by an online questionnaire in April 2019.