"There's not enough of it [humor] -- especially for women," declares Jean Lipman-Blumen, professor of public policy and organizational behavior at the Claremont Calif. Graduate School.
"There is a difference," she adds, "in the kinds of humor that women and men can use in the workplace. Men can tell off-color jokes, and they're seen as kind of good guys if they do. If women tell the same kind of joke, there's a gasp. Joan Rivers-type humor is totally off limits for most women in the workplace -- but not for men."
University of Connecticut communications Prof. John Parrish Sprowl says his recent survey of 270 men and women confirms that males and females not only find different things funny, but they use humor in different ways.
"Males almost always find sex funny. Not that females don't, but they find more humor in everyday events . . . Men find that sort of thing silly and stupid . . . To the extent that we use humor for group cohesion, as long as you have males in the executive suite . . . it's going to be difficult for the women to tap into that male boardroom humor."
What works best for both men and women, according to Lipman-Blumen, is humor that's a little self-deprecating. "You're conveying to the other person that you don't think that you are all so superior. That sets other people and colleagues at ease."