Sexual harassment in northwest Europe - A cross-cultural comparison

M.C. Timmerman, C.W. Bajema

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43 Citations (Scopus)


A substantial body of research addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace has been developed over the past decade. In this article we consider the complexity of cross-cultural comparisons of the incidence rates of sexual harassment and present the results of our research on sexual harassment in the workplace in 11 northern and western European countries. In 1997 we reviewed 74 surveys and qualitative studies conducted between 1987 and 1997. Sexual harassment appears to be a workplace problem in all countries, although the incidence varies considerably. We argue that differences in incidence rates are not for the most part a reflection of national cultural differences, but are partly true to the definitions and methodology used in the studies. This implies that higher reported incidence figures in one country do not necessarily mean a higher prevalence of sexual harassment compared to other countries. Furthermore, sexual harassment research in the countries reviewed appears to be dominated by a one-sided, uniform and heterosexual power perspective. The implications of the exclusion of cultural background and sexual orientation in theory and policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-439
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov-1999


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