This is not my usual post.
It isn’t so much about fundraising as about my experience while a fundraiser and what has surfaced with the #YesAllWomen campaign that became viral after the recent murder spree in Isla Vista, California.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read Jezebel, The Globe and Mail (which touches on the #NotAllMen issue) and a thoughtful piece in the Washington Post.
When I read the tweets and the experiences that were familiar and not unusual, I was moved to share.
“This is what you do to me,” he said to me as he pulled my hand toward his crotch. I was shocked and horrified. This did not feel like a compliment.
I shared my age because sexism is an issue for young and old. I thought by the time I was a 33-year-old professional woman who wouldn’t have to still encounter this type of violence.
I shared where it happened – in my office because it wasn’t the bar/ park/ college dorm/ crowded subway/ party/ concert/ beach /on a date … any place where it might or could be excused. By the way, there IS no place where forcing yourself on a woman is allowed, even the marital bedroom.
I shared this experience because I thought it might surprise many women and men. I’m pretty ordinary. I try to be very professional (some might call me old-fashioned). In fact, writing this in my blog seems a bit of a betrayal – too personal and way outside my professional persona. But these are real things that happen to ordinary people and they are, sadly, un-remarkable.
When I released my tweet, John immediately responded “Whoa…”
Sheena replied, “WTF?” and we had a longer exchange.
Ephraim tweeted, “Please tell me you got his ass fired…” We took our discussion over to direct message on twitter, where we talked more and he shared his own fears for his daughter, who is 14.
Rory said, “It is so brave for you to share that Beth.” I guess it is brave. Because now it is out there as a “thing about Beth” that people can know (in reality, it has been a thing about Beth that a very few people know, and something I can never un-know about myself).
I’m sharing this because it is also part of the story of having several short-tenured jobs. This causes hand-wringing in our profession, by experts such as Penelope Burk or documented as negative in the report Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. And of course these reasons were not something I would want to share in any part of the job interview process no matter how the issue was cloaked. Although I guess I’m mentioning it now.
I was a single parent at the time and I really couldn’t afford to not be working – even for the luxury of not wanting to work with him.
This is someone I had reported to. In fact I changed reporting between two men (the President and this Vice President) 8 times in two years. The constant change left me feeling unsettled, betrayed and objectified – like a possession to be tussled over. My time there became deeply unhappy, even before the incident.
The “telling” – which was so difficult my whole body and limbs were fitfully shaking, not like sobs but also like nothing I have felt since and I could barely form the words – ended up being not a relief but a new wave of shocks.
The Human Resources department (or at least the woman who handled it) sought to protect the hospital. She arranged a 7 am meeting for all three of us with a lecture about appropriate workplace behavior. She instructed the VP to take three days off without pay. His abrupt and unexpected “vacation” simply raised lots of questions in the office.
And he came back, of course, and I had to work with him (though I now only reported to the President). It was a very rocky patch while I hunted up and down the Atlantic seaboard for a new job. The VP was eventually terminated months later – not for what he did to me, but because he contacted board members privately to complain about the President. He was escorted out late one Friday. I eventually found another job in another state and moved to a new community with my young daughter.
Some of you are reading this experiencing shock; you’ve never heard of such a thing happening.
Some of you are reading this recalling your own stories of betrayal, fear, molestation, unwanted attention, malicious comments or even unwanted sex.
Some of you are reading this thinking, “She obviously made some seriously wrong choices, led him on or was too friendly.” (I’m often accused of being “too friendly”). (Gosh! I described that as an accusation! That takes some more introspection…)
Whether this experience resonates with you or not, here are my take-aways:
- If the fit isn’t right, even if you are already into the job, GO. Now in my career, I look at the skill fit, but dive into the personality fit. Until you’ve hated every day you turn up at work, you won’t understand the value of a “good workplace.” I acknowledge that is harder when you just starting out or are switching careers. And since that experience, I have been more bold in how I handle “bad fits.” I left a job after 3 months once there was no fit. At another, I sat down with the President for a difficult conversation, “I cannot work in a nonprofit where I’m not valued. You hired me with full confidence to do the job, but your actions, your temper and your erratic behavior toward the rest of the staff is not something I can work with.” It was scary, but she was shocked and it launched a new phase of our working relationship. This is something you can do too, to take control of your career (and your sanity).
- Ask trusted friends and colleagues about open positions and listen carefully. Have they worked there or know anyone who has? At the time I didn’t have a big network, being recently transplanted from Seattle, but did sound out one trusted colleague. He said of that team, “They’re pretty young.” I heard “young” and equated energy and boldness (I was all about being bold in my fundraising). What he may have been trying to tell me is: they have not been a team long, they have not managed other people before, be careful.
- Be precise in your negotiation and get everything in writing before the final commitment. I’m OK at negotiating for myself, but in this case of the new out-of-state job the final negotiation was by phone. But I hadn’t gotten everything we talked about in writing. The salary and job title were correct, but other crucial points I negotiated didn’t happen. (Mika Brzezinski wrote a great book called Knowing Your Value which every woman should read but here is a summary.)
- You are a valuable person. Always. I don’t care who is reading this, you are. You deserve respect. Male or female or if you don’t identify with either gender or identify with both.
- I am very happy in my current position where I am respected, valued and treated as an equal by my teammates and boss. That is what we all deserve.
This post started out about with #YesAllWomen because I want you to know that even an “office” may not feel like a safe place for some.
And yes, I’ve worked with wonderful men, I’ve become friends with wonderful men and I’ve married wonderful men.
But as fundraisers we must continue to strive not only to not harm or act disrespectfully toward men or women but to actively speak up against anything we see, everything we hear. Sitting silent is complicity.
I have enough on my plate fighting for the elimination of poverty and malnutrition, raising money for better education and to empower women and promoting pluralism.
I shouldn’t have to fight for my dignity and safety as well.
One of the bravest things you can do, is be your authentic self. That is exactly what you just did Beth. You spoke your own truth. You shared this experience with us, putting yourself out there in an incredibly honest and vulnerable way. Thank you.
Thank you so much for your comment Rory! I want others to feel strong and not ashamed… I’m sharing so others to know they don’t have to stay in a bad job. And you don’t deserve it.
Secrets keep us in shame. Speaking out takes the power away from the abuser and gives it back to you. Beth I can’t even articulate in words how much I admire your courage in sharing this story. When this incident was proven true, he should have been fired immediately! This story is a reminder for all organizations to review their policies on sexual harassment and abuse of power!
Thank you so much for your comment. It is very easy to be intimidated to keep quiet, to not rock the boat, to not lose your job… I also received lots of pressure from their in-house counsel, but wasn’t sophisticated enough to see it for what it was… More harassment. If this helps one man or woman to speak up for themselves or on behalf of someone else, then I’ve succeeded.
Reblogged this on Communicate! and commented:
Beth Ann Locke is my new hero for speaking out about what too many women have to face at work…or face the consequences. It’s up to men to stop measuring our worth by how sexually available women are to us. That’s difficult–it reverses a centuries-old message–but we have to do it. And we’ll be better off for it.
Thanks so much, Dennis! I enjoyed your comments, I’m so glad that you are stepping up to speak as well. They are old messages… but we have done away with so much that is “old” that I hope that we can all continue to shine some light.
Bravo for posting this Beth! I hope that when my girls are old enough to join the workforce this type of harassment will have stopped happening but I’m not naive enough to think that it will be completely gone by then.
The fact that AFP required (not sure if they still do) sexual harassment language in chapter bylaws bugs me because that means it likely happened to someone at a chapter.
One of the things I hope to share with my girls when they are old enough is good negotiation skills. The Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University here has a Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women so it’s important enough that scholars research it. There’s no reason for women to be making less or receiving fewer perks and benefits than men.
I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.
I have tried to raise my daughter to be much more empowered and aware than I was… I think the old idea they had of keeping me “sheltered” works only when you aren’t in the world. Now we have to raise strong, questioning, resilient and brave girls AND boys. There is still sexism, ageism, pay gaps, etc. But the long-term solution is teaching the belief that we are all equal.
Negotiation is important in the workplace – and the confidence gap is a problem there. I hope we can close the gender/ pay equity gap soon. (Still has to do with upbringing and society expectations!)
I taught my daughter to say NO and stand up for her beliefs (even when it was what I really wanted her to do – dang) and I hope it has served her well.
This is a remarkably powerful post. And, in another example of how things in life sometimes happen in synchronicity, today there is a post by Scott Stratten on a bar in Dallas thinking that domestic violence is a joke: http://www.unmarketing.com/2014/05/27/this-bar-thinks-domestic-violence-is-funny/
However you say it, whether it’s “Sitting silent is complicity”, or “evil triumphs when good people do nothing”, the bottom line is that we have to do something about pervasive attitudes, prejudices, and behaviors that are so destructive … and the indifference or relativism that allows them to continue.
I just read that post – amazing and not surprising. We have to say something, every time, every instance. That won’t fully stop it, but it will help. Thanks for commenting!
Thanks for sharing this Beth. I hope that more women will come out with their stories. Sexual harassment and misogyny in the work place are incredibly common and need to be brought to light or they will grow and thrive in the dark.
Completely agree. More light, more empowerment. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
I can’t heart you more than I already do, Beth, but I do after reading this post. Harassment is a dark side of fundraising that no one likes to talk about. And it’s one I wish we spoke of more openly. It’s sad how many times I’ve been sexually harassed in my own career. And I don’t say that matter of factly. Whether it was the time a donor asked me for one kiss in exchange for a gift or when I was groped underneath a table at an event by a drunken board member, I didn’t exit those moments feeling strong or sexy. I felt scared and violated. Thank you for speaking up, sharing your story, and knowing it will make a difference. Sometimes we need to borrow others people’s courage to find our own way, and I hope people will borrow from yours generously.
Shanon – Thanks for being brave enough to open up *this* part of the conversation. I think it deserves another post.
I would say the majority of what I have experienced while a fundraiser was during my period in annual giving & special events (being caressed and told my “skin is so lovely and milky”, hand-on-the-knee or “accidental” brushes, asked if I want to come over to his place/ have a drink tonight/ be is his mistress) all by volunteers or event leadership! Sounds like your experience too. And it is MUCH harder to bring forward a complaint – in fact the only time I have ever registered a complaint to HR or even my boss was the incident described in this post. That keeps us even more silent.
I find it less so (but not fully exempt) now I am working in major gifts. I would love to discuss with you further sometime.
Beth, you already know how I feel. I think this was necessary and oh so brave. And Shanon – yes! The “oh, he’s just drunk, brush it off” you tell yourself at an event. The way you make sure your co-worker keeps an eye on you, just so you’re not cornered. I’ve seen it, too. And how do you handle that, especially when it’s a donor?
I guess the point is, we shouldn’t need to handle it. We’re not the ones causing the problem.
Mary, yes, this is a very interesting thing to surface – what happens when it is a donor or volunteer or community leader who does this? Much harder to complain then.
What should happen is that a person with clout – the ED, the board chair – steps in and stops it cold – regardless.
But that doesn’t happen.
Thank you. I hope in my heart that what you experienced becomes less common over time. I have to think that because, with two daughters, what else can I do but hope the world becomes a less threatening place and every moment of their lives is devoted to living a life unfettered by fear or guilt or shame that someone else shackled them with.
Beautifully said. I think that is what nearly everyone hopes.I think you nailed the three Big Bad Ones… Fear | Guilt | Shame
Holy smokes this is powerfully, approriately and prophetically written. Thank you! And, OMG by a factor of 1,000s!
You wrote this so perfectly. Thank you for being you. For being honest. For cherishing your dignity and, in turn, cherishing all of ours.
Stories like yours simply MUST be heard more broadly.
Wow. Just wow. You are already an All Star in my book, Beth — but this eloquent truth (unfortunately) gives you an even more elevated stature. Oh how I wish we could just take all the bad stuff, wave a magic wand, and make it all go away.
With greatest respect,
Peter, I’m completely humbled by your comments and those who have commented before you. This is something so many women have experienced in one form or another but we cram those experiences down in ourselves. In the wake of this incident I certainly thought to myself, “Well, maybe I should have just been quiet; was it really that bad? I wasn’t raped.”
The wand we can wave, Peter, is this: a constant shining of light on this subject, interrupting when we are in earshot of comments of disrespect, and calling out double standards (including pay inequity). As with cancer, prevention serves the long run better than trying to heal the aftermath.
As fundraisers, it isn’t enough to help philanthropists alleviate various oppressions in the world (disease, poverty, climate, education, etc.); we need to start within our profession to ensure healthy, inclusive, joyful working environments and be ready to all say NO, whether the perpetrator is a colleague, donor or community leader.
Why does it have to be so hard to speak the truth? Why are we so reluctant to speak about it?
Yup, I’m thrilled that Beth spoke about this out loud. May we all speak our truth. May we all describe what is really happening – name the behavior for what it is.
I have been propositioned by million dollar donors most explicitly. And what does a professional woman do in that situation? She ignores it and hopes it will go away. And it’s sad. Aggressive men are everywhere.
So hurray! It’s time to come forth and break the silence! Congrats Beth!
“Hope it goes away…” that is really what so many of us do.
It is hard to speak up because many of us feel the incident will be labeled *our fault*. (“What were you doing when he did that?” “Did you say something to him?” “I think he had too much to drink…”). Some have received some form of these comments where we have to justify OUR actions. Why add to your own burden?
Generate as much conversation as we can to drive this issue from hiding to light.
Wow, Beth, Thank you. And you are SO brave. While you write that this was not easy to share, but surely you are in the right community to share it, and it heartens me to read these comments of support, gratitude and love. I’m so glad for me, my daughters, and you that you are speaking up and getting this out of the closet. It happens at nonprofits, at corporate jobs, to housekeepers and air force women, to us all, and in no way is any form of sexual harassment (even an inappropriate wink!) ok. You get this conversation out, girl, and keep it going. It needs to be said, and I am incredibly thankful that you were ready to share this with your community. I’ll reshare far and wide to stop this from being “ok” anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
Thank you, Debra! It does happen anywhere, everywhere. Thanks for adding to the discussion. I think we all hope that our daughters and younger women can lessen the fear because men and women interrupt conversations, call out behavior and stand with us while we share our experiences.
You’re a brave and courageous soul, an eloquent writer and a role model for future fundraisers. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing, Beth. It’s scary to know that this happens, still, in the offices of professionals – not hidden away in back alleys and dark corners. Telling your story is a powerful way of spreading the truth. Your courage speaks volumes. Thank you.
Bethany – thanks for taking the time to read and think and comment. I think the conversation and awareness raising is opening eyes and bringing truths to light. That is a “win”.
Thank you for sharing your story, Beth. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I hope more women will speak up and take action. Silence doesn’t solve anything.
Thanks, Ann! Silence really is part of the problem, and it is the shame and fear that keeps so many of us quiet – or compliant.
You are an inspiration, Beth Ann. I’m sure you have inspired many others to speak out, make a change and not feel like they have to put up with these types of situations. So proud of you, sharing like this isn’t easy, but it is a gift to others.
Thank you, Rickesh! Your comments mean a lot. I think what is important is talking about the incident, reminding readers they don’t have to put up with being bullied/ disrespected/ harassed and sharing how how we can all stand up and speak out against any of the above.
This reminded me of my first job, where I was expected to flirt with male donors and wear skimpy clothing to the golf outing because I was a young 20s female. It’d bring in more money, I was told.
You’re brave to speak out, Beth, and thank you for sharing your experience. Until we change this culture of misogyny, all women – including fundraisers! – will continue to suffer. Our bodies are not our currency.
Whitney, I’ve been hearing similar comments about “getting used to it” because a fundraiser has a certain age or appearance. The idea of flirting with the donor to “make them happy” also diminishes the donors – they are not needing a “transaction” but wanting to make a difference. I think it is important we help colleagues navigate these messages and stand up to them ourselves.
Thank you for this story! We need more of your courage and bravery!
Thank you for this, Beth. Thank you for your courage, your grit, your insights and observations. Not enough words. No other words.