A third of women in UK advertising have been sexually harassed, most more than once

Thirty-four percent of women working in British advertising agencies have experienced sexual harassment at work — and 72 percent of those had more than once — according to research published Friday.

Most of the perpetrators of harassment are managers, the study by U.K. industry bodies the Advertising Association, Women in Advertising and Communications London (WACL) and the National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS) said. Eighty-two percent of those who had been harassed said the perpetrator was senior to them.

The organizations surveyed more than 3,500 people working in advertising and marketing in the U.K. and found that 30 percent have also witnessed other people being sexually harassed. Nine percent of men have also been victims of unwanted sexual conduct.

Places where alcohol is served, work parties and traveling on business were cited as times when harassment is mostly likely to happen. Many said there was a lack of understanding about what sexual harassment actually constitutes.

The ad agency world is one in which celebrations are common, of pitches and awards being won, and where client entertaining is frequent.

“When people are partying, it’s a lot. People are drunk. It creates murkiness,” one female agency executive told industry publication Digiday in November. “Sometimes, it results in relationships, which is great. But there are too many times where I have felt the pressure to just go along with it.”

Most people (83 percent) do not tell their companies about being harassed at work due to a lack of trust in reporting systems and concerns over damage to careers, respondents to the industry survey said, with 66 percent agreeing that perpetrators often get away with it.

Cindy Gallop, a New York-based entrepreneur and former ad agency head, has called the issue of harassment “a systemic cultural problem,” after she published a Facebook post last year, calling for women in advertising to email her their experiences of it. She received more than 100 emails in 10 days. And, in March, American ad agency executives formed Time’s Up Advertising, a campaigning organization and legal aid fundraiser to combat harassment and discrimination.

In the same month, the U.K. ad industry bodies conducting the survey established TimeTo, an organization aimed at curbing sexual harassment, and Friday sees the publication of guidelines encouraging businesses to make sure staff understand what sexual harassment is and how they can report it.

Kerry Glazer, president of NABS, said in an emailed statement: “The survey findings reveal that all sectors of the marketing communications industry are affected: sexual harassment occurs across all genders, sexualities, roles and company types. The negative impact of this on achievement, productivity, happiness, safety and people’s basic right to equality and respect in the workplace, cannot be underestimated.”

The industry bodies surveyed 3,580 people in the U.K. online in March and April, the majority of whom (73 percent) worked for creative or media advertising agencies, with the remainder working for media owners, brands, other types of agency, trade body or charities.

Those affected are encouraged to contact NABS for support.