17 Distressing Sexual Harassment Statistics [2023]: Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

By Chris Kolmar
Nov. 2, 2022
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Research Summary. Sexual harassment against women in the workplace is a pervasive problem in the U.S., with 80+ percent in some industries reporting they’ve been a victim. Despite these high numbers, many women choose not to report workplace sexual harassment. And of those who do, many say there were no consequences for the offending party. After extensive research, our data analysis team concluded:

  • Most women — between 54% and 81% — report experiencing some level of sexual harassment at work.

  • Despite this prevalence, between 58% and 72% of victims don’t report instances of workplace sexual harassment.

  • Workers in accommodation and food services account for 14% of harassment charges. This number increases in academia, with 50% of female faculty and staff and between 20% and 50% of female students encountering sexual harassment.

  • Workplace sexual harassment costs companies $2.6 billion in lost productivity and $0.9 billion in other costs.

  • Half of the women (50%) who were victims of sexual harassment stated that it hurt their careers.

  • While most adults (74%) believe their companies take sexual harassment seriously, only 30% of women strongly agree that their employer properly handled harassment incidents.

For further analysis, we broke down the data in the following ways:
General Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

General Sexual Harassment In The Workplace Statistics

  1. 54% of women experience workplace harassment.

    Sexual harassment is defined as “behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.” Examples of sexual harassment include:

    • Unwelcome sexual advances.

    • Unwanted touching.

    • Requests for sexual favors.

    • Sexually suggestive gestures.

    • Female-bashing jokes.

    • Catcalls.

    In some instances, the reported number of women who experience sexual harassment is as high as 81%. Almost three-quarters of these women were harassed by someone more senior in their organization, with 28% saying their boss sexually harassed them.

  2. There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

    Quid pro quo references an exchange of sexual services focused on gain or avoidance of loss. Comparatively, a hostile work environment creates an intimidating workplace for the victim.

  3. Between 58% and 72% of workplace sexual harassment victims do not report it.

    Despite the high number of women who said they experience workplace sexual harassment, the vast majority do not report what happened nor confront the responsible individual.

    Common reasons include fear of losing their job, concerns about being labeled as a troublemaker, lack of faith in the human resources department’s ability to handle the claim, and lack of witnesses (i.e., it’s their word against the other person’s).

  4. Certain industries and working environments have higher instances of sexual harassment against women than others, like workers in Accommodation Food Services.

    Workers in accommodation and food services account for 14% of harassment charges. Specifically, women who work for tips as their primary source of income are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment, including from customers, as women who receive the same pay as all minimum wage workers.

    Furthermore, many workers reported managers knew of the sexual harassment and did nothing to stop it or participated in the harassing behaviors themselves.

    Other Risky Environments

    Additional examples of at-risk women include those who work in isolated spaces (e.g., janitors, domestic care workers, hotel workers, and agricultural workers), those who lack legal immigration status or have only a temporary work visa, those who work in male-dominated jobs, and those who work in settings with significant power differentials.

    Academia isn’t immune to sexual harassment against women, either, as more than 50% of women faculty and staff and between 20% and 50% of women students encounter sexually harassing conduct in the field. Almost one in four undergraduate women experienced sexual assault or misconduct, according to a study of 33 of the nation’s major universities.

  5. 67% of women say that sexual assault in the workplace is a frequent occurrence in the legal profession.

    The legal industry’s instances of sexual assault—including sexual harassment of any kind—are more prevalent among younger women (those under 50 years old).

    41% of men in the industry admit they’ve witnessed inappropriate behavior toward younger women. 77% of all men (not just those in the legal profession) say they will most likely speak out if they see any mistreatment of women.

  6. 26% of those in rural areas, compared to 21% in urban and 18% in suburban areas, have been sexually harassed at work.

    Not only are women in certain professions more likely to experience sexual harassment, but the geographic location of your work can also have a meaningful impact. In fact, a rural worker is more than 40% more likely to experience sexual harassment than a worker in a suburban location.

  7. By some estimates, workplace sexual harassment costs companies $2.6 billion in lost productivity and $0.9 billion in other costs (an average of $1,053 and $375 per victim, respectively).

    Factors that impact these numbers include legal costs, employee turnover (including victims, perpetrators, and bystanders), increased short-term absences (including sick leave, annual leave, and unpaid leave), reduced productivity, and managers’ time when a workplace sexual harassment complaint is made.

  8. 50% of women who were victims of sexual harassment stated that it hurt their careers.

    Only 25% of these women stated they could easily report the incident to their employers. Therefore, many remained silent and suppressed their feelings of victimhood, which ultimately caused them to quit their current positions.

    In this regard, 46% of women agree they changed jobs because of sexual harassment at work.

  9. The ramifications of sexual harassment against women go beyond career opportunities.

    Women who experience workplace sexual harassment may also be more likely to report higher instances of financial stress, lower job satisfaction rates, higher turnover rates, and greater quit rates.

    Furthermore, research has demonstrated that women’s experiences of sexual harassment are associated with reductions in their professional, psychological, and physical health. These outcomes remain significant even when controlling for:

    • The experiences of other stressors (e.g., general job stress, trauma outside of the work, etc.)

    • Other features of the job (occupational level, organizational tenure, workload)

    • Personality (negative affectivity, neuroticism, narcissism)

    • Other demographic factors (age, education level, race)

  10. 60% of all sex discrimination complaints based on maternity are gender-related.

    19% of pregnant women reported experiencing incidents of pregnancy or maternity-related discrimination, such as:

    • Being passed over for development and promotions

    • Being fired for getting pregnant or after returning from maternity leave

    • Verbal harassment from management

    • Job duties changing without their input

  11. 74% of adults believe their companies take sexual harassment seriously.

    Despite this number, while 98% of companies have a corporate sexual harassment policy, only 51% implemented new policies or training in response to the #metoo movement.

    And of women who reported sexual harassment in the workplace, only 30% strongly agree that their employer handled the incident appropriately. An even greater number of men (56%) believe that reported workplace sexual harassment goes unpunished.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace FAQ

  1. What percent of sexual assaults happen in the workplace?

    Approximately 15% of assaults that are reported happen in the workplace. According to a research study, between 1987 and 1992, around 1 million people were assaulted at work every year, which accounted for 15% of the total violence at that time.

  2. How many people are sexually harassed in the workplace each year?

    In 2017, the EEOC received 12,428 claims of sex-based harassment. More than half of the total harassment claims that the EEOC received were sex-based in that year.

  3. What percent of U.S. businesses have a sexual harassment policy?

    98% of businesses in the United States have a formal sexual harassment policy in place. However, sexual harassment continues to be a huge issue in the professional world. Additionally, many of the companies that have sexual harassment policies fail to update them regularly and provide training accordingly.


Although great strides have been made, we can see there is a long way to go until women feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment in the workplace and feel confident in their employers that repercussions will occur. This is especially important when avoiding the emotional and financial costs of sexual harassment, both for the victim and the employer.


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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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