Women not as funny? We don’t know about that…

by Cameron Edmond26 Jul 2013

When a female senior professional cracks a joke, it is often perceived as contrived or defensive, BusinessWeek reported.

The self-deprecating humour that women often wield doesn’t earn as much laughter as men’s. While 70% of female professionals will make jokes about themselves, 80% are met with silence, compared to the 90% of jokes by men met with laughter.

These statistics skew the likelihood for women in the workplace to joke due to fear of bombing, with men three times as likely to throw a joke or two into their meetings.

Judith Baxter, linguistic expert at Aston University’s School of Language & Social Sciences, stated that men utilise humour as a tool for leadership, while women shy away from it due to fear of being viewed as mean or rude.

While men may often create more humour in the workplace, they are less responsive to it. Reports found that women are more likely to laugh at jokes. “Women laugh at men’s humour more than men will laugh at women’s humour,” John Morreall, president of Humourworks, said. “And men will expect women to laugh at their humour, but not initiate it.”

Morreall stated that while men often use jokes with punch lines, women favour anecdotes that have no real zingers. The difference in humour craft, as well as the fact men have traditionally lead humour in the workplace means that women have a tough act to follow.

So, is cracking a zinger next time you run a meeting worth the possible back-lash? It just might be.

More humour in the workplace is likely to bust stress, build trust, and overall humanise executives with their staff, Forbes reported.

More than likely, your employees are cracking jokes among each other, but might have trepidations about doing so with high-ranking members of the organisation.

“You face a higher risk factor when joking around with your boss because you just don’t know how your lightheartedness [sic] may be taken. So, you generally find greater reticence to use humour with senior managers,” Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, said.

Whether you are nervous about your culture’s approach to workplace humour, or in fear of bombing in front of your peers (or even superiors!), all signs point towards the odd joke being worth the risk.

Taylor stated that humour demonstrates “maturity and the ability to see the forest through the trees … well-placed humour that is clever and apropos to a business situation always enhances an employee’s career.”



  • by Anne-Marie Harris 26/07/2013 11:18:23 PM

    This doesn't show that men are funnier than women, this shows that we are all conditioned by society to react more to men's humour than to women's. It's acceptable for men to joke, and women are expected to laugh. Just because there's a correlation doesn't mean there's a cause. Countries with more TVs per household have lower infant mortality, but TVs don't save babies.