No Laughing Matter

In her 2013 book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women to scale the corporate ladder. Yet women still make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. Some researchers say sexist humor in the workplace is partly to blame.

Derogatory jokes are pervasive and persistent—despite the fact that men and women are more likely to find them offensive in workplace settings, according to scholars Jared Gray and Thomas Ford’s 2013 article (Humor: International Journal of Humor Research). In addition to being offensive, these jokes restrict and devalue female upward mobility, according to researchers Thomas Ford, Julie Woodzicka, Shane Triplett, and Annie Kochersberger, by amplifying sexist attitudes and values that already circulate in workplaces (September 2013 Current Research in Social Psychology).

Since the long-term effect of sexist jokes is no laughing matter, eliminating such water-cooler talk should be part of the struggle for workplace gender quality.