Despite common assumptions, sexual harassment was not found in groups with a lone female in a predominately male environment.
Study co-author Randy Hodson of Ohio State University in Columbus looked at 110 work groups ranging from fewer than 50 employees to more than 5,000 employees from around the world, and found women who work in relatively equally matched gender groups were more likely to be harassed than women who worked in predominantly male or female groups. Women in such situations were more likely to experience taunting, patronizing and predatory behaviors.
Hodson said the logic behind the finding is simple: sexual harassment occurs where there is more opportunity.
"There is a lot more opportunity in these groups because you have a lot of men who have contact on a regular basis with a lot of women, and that's going to create more opportunities for sexual harassment," Hodson said in a statement. "When women are less represented or when they are mainly working with other women, there is simply not as much opportunity."
The study is published in the journal Work and Occupations.