What is Sexism?

Sexism refers to the systematic discrimination and degradation of people on the basis of their gender and can affect all genders. Gender stereotypes form the basis of sexism.

Sexism often manifests itself through

  • Sexist comments or jokes, e.g. "Typical woman!", "That's not a job for women." or "Well of course, only a man thinks like that."
  • Insistent and insulting questions about marital status or family planning.
  • Repeatedly, involuntarily outing others as intersex, trans, or non-binary or questioning gender identity
  • Sexist content in communication or advertising, e.g., via use of stereotypical images or wording
  • Sexism can go hand in hand with sexual harassment and in the vast majority of cases forms the precondition for it.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted behavior that can be attributed to the sexual sphere. The view of the person concerned is decisive for what is considered unwanted. If affected persons feel harassed, they must be protected in any case. 

Characteristics of sexual harassment are:

  • The behavior is undesirable for the person affected.
  • The behavior is related to sexuality.
  • The dignity of the affected person is violated, the behavior is degrading and disrespectful.
  • The behavior creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating work environment for the affected person.

Sexual harassment is prohibited and may have consequences under criminal law as well as employment and academic law.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can affect anyone. Sexual harassment can be caused by internal persons (such as superiors and (student) colleagues) as well as by external persons on the premises of the TU Wien (such as suppliers, construction workers, etc.)

Forms and Examples of Sexual Harassment


  • intrusive or intimidating stares or suggestive looks
  • whistling after someone
  • unsolicited emails, text messages, photos or videos of sexual nature
  • inappropriate and intrusive advances on social networking sites
  • posting or distributing pornographic material
  • indecent exposure


  • sexually suggestive remarks and jokes
  • intrusive and insulting comments about clothing, appearance or personal life
  • sexually suggestive comments
  • trans- and inter-hostile remarks or jokes
  • questions with sexual content, e.g. about private life or privacy
  • requests for intimate or sexual acts, e.g., "Sit on my lap!"
  • sexualized or inappropriate invitations to a date


  • any unwanted touching (patting, stroking, pinching, hugging, kissing), even if the touching is apparently accidental
  • repeated physical advances, repeated jostling, repeated failure to maintain the usual physical distance (approx. one arm's length)
  • physical violence and any form of sexual assault up to and including rape


Source: Diversity Think Tank Consulting GmbH, E-Learning “Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace“, 2023