How acceptable would you think it is to ask a colleague out on a date or tell stories or jokes of a sexual nature at work?

According to a new?global survey by?Ipsos MORI and the?Global Institute for Women?s Leadership?at King?s College London, in line with?International Women?s Day, more than half of men (52%) globally felt it acceptable to ask a?colleague out on a date.

Shockingly, the survey of 20,000 people in 27 countries also revealed that?nearly three in ten men (28%) around the world think it?s acceptable to tell jokes or stories of a sexual nature at work.

Are these behaviours acceptable at work?

#1?Complimenting someone?on their appearance or dress

When it comes to complimenting someone on their appearance or dress, people globally found it more acceptable when the other party is of the same gender?(71%) than the opposite gender (67%).

People in the Netherlands were the most likely to find this acceptable regardless of the gender of the person they are complimenting - with 86% finding it okay in both situations.

#2?Hug someone because they are crying

According to 72% of people globally, it is acceptable to hug someone because they are crying.

The Swedish and South Africans are the most likely to agree with this sentiment with 85% agreeing that it is acceptable.

Whereas the Japanese are the most likely to frown upon this behaviour, with a mere 24% saying it is acceptable and 57% finding it not very (or not at all) acceptable.

#3?Asking a colleague for a date

Globally, 46% said it?s acceptable to ask a colleague for a date. This includes?more than half (52%) of men and about two in five (41%) of women.

Malaysians are most likely to think this is acceptable (66%) with?70% of Malaysian men and 62% of Malaysian women sharing the sentiment.

On the flip side, Americans are least likely to think this is acceptable. Only 28% overall, 37% men, and 19% women, said found the behaviour okay.

#4?Continue to ask a colleague for a date even when they?ve said no

While determination is a good trait in the workplace, it certainly doesn't apply to asking colleagues out on dates.

Only about one in 10 globally (12%) said it was acceptable to continue asking a colleague for a date even when they?ve said no. Similar to the previous point, more men?(15%) than women?(9%) found this acceptable.

People in Malaysia (29%) and India (26%) are most likely to think this is okay - 27% women and 31% men in Malaysia and 22% women and 29% men in India.

#5 Displaying sexual material

Displaying sexual material at work is generally frowned upon at work with only 10% saying it is acceptable. By gender, 13% of men found displaying sexual content at work acceptable, almost double the proportion of women (7%) who think the same.

People in China (22%) and India (25%) are the most likely to be okay with this. Men in China are by far the most likely to say this is okay, with nearly a third (32%) seeing it as acceptable, only 13% of women in China saw this as acceptable. Nearly a quarter of women (23%) in India say the same ? the most of any country polled, while 27% of men said it was acceptable.

#6 Tell stories or jokes of a sexual nature

Globally, 22% found it acceptable to tell stories or jokes of a sexual nature, with significantly more men (28%) than women (16%) sharing the sentiment.

Belgium was the country most likely to view this as acceptable, with 37% indicating so. While China had the largest gap between men (47%) and women (17%) who found the behaviour acceptable.



All the things that harm women's careers: Childcare responsibilities, rejecting a colleague, and being unable to work overtime

The survey also uncovered?attitudes towards workplaces that many would regard as toxic or at the very least not female-friendly, which have been shown to hold women back in their careers.

Globally, people predict less of a gender divide in the way such choices or responsibilities might harm a woman?s or a man?s career. However, for some issues, there remains a clear split:

  • Having childcare responsibilities during the working day is more likely to damage the career of a woman (35%) than that of a man (8%).
  • 26% said rejecting a colleague who wanted a date or romantic relationship is more likely to damage the career of a woman, compared with 7% who say a man?s career is more likely to harmed.
  • A quarter (25%) thought prioritising family over work is more likely to harm a woman?s career, while 9% think a man?s career is more likely to be harmed.
  • Working part-time is more likely to harm a woman's career (15%) than a man's career (10%).
  • 14% felt that a woman who talks about her family life is more likely to have her career harmed ? more than twice as many as those who think a man?s career is more likely impacted for doing the same (6%).


Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair 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, added: "Equality won?t happen without both men and women making changes and in the world of work, which is still dominated by men, we need more men to start prioritising equality and making a stand when required."

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, concluded: "This research illustrates how far we still have to go to gain equality in the workplace and what is clear is that women cannot do it on their own. We need men to take action and for employers to support women who want to take on leadership roles."

Infographics / Ipsos Lead image / 123RF