Sexism Confirmed

Office sexual harassmentWhat a way to start off a New Year!

I feel naive.

I posed a question last November: “Do Professional Women Still Face Sexism?” I should have skipped the interrogatory and gone straight to the declarative, “Professional Women Still Face Sexism.” Every comment confirms what I feared, but wasn’t certain about.

I have no uncertainty now.

It seems the best we can conclude is that women are better off than they were 40 years ago, but sexism–overt and subtle–remains. “Better off than 40 years ago” doesn’t give me great comfort.

This disturbs me because nonprofit fundraising is predominantly female. Something like two-thirds of fundraisers are women. I don’t like my colleagues suffering. I’m sure the stories run much deeper, more hurtful and more dangerous than the disrespect reflected in your comments to my first post. I wonder if every woman recalls a serious incident while reading this. I’m sorry.

For a week, I’m disabling the requirement to provide an email address to post a comment. If you have a story you want to share in total anonymity, use a bogus name (so I and others have something to refer to) and tell your story.

Male sexism doesn’t stop with professional colleagues; it runs to donors. (It obviously runs into personal lives, too.) A comment from LinkedIn describes how a fundraiser has been ignored after expressing interest in making planned gifts to nonprofits where she is a donor. Her friends have suffered the same disregard. She says they have, “dropped hints, left messages, sent emails or boldly said” they want to include gifts in their estates. They’re ignored. I’m astounded.

I apologize for my viridity.

I’m not going to preach to men. If you’re over 12 and haven’t learned equality, nothing I say will teach you.

It’s all very sad.

22 thoughts on “Sexism Confirmed

  1. I got this from a friend. I’m adding it to bring another voice and set of experiences into the conversation:

    I have tons of stories. Unfortunately, I continue to experience this behavior in the workplace. If any woman does not have one story to reveal, it means that they were able to play the game. As a result, they were labeled a “bitch.” Nothing fits into the gray area. It is either black or white.

  2. If you want an example of the continuation of bias, read the comment by Engineer, Lawyer, Guy. In high school, we girls who wanted to excel in math were criticized. When I graduated from college in the 60’s there were jobs that were expressly not open to women. When I attended law school in the early 70s, discrimination was still overt. Women could not apply for credit without the joinder of a father or husband. OK, things are better. But, the refusal of Engineer, Lawyer, Guy to recognize the there are men who keep the homefront going when the wife is the higher earner and that the marriage can thrive indicates that he still has biases, both about women and about the proper role of men. This particular man cannot comprehend that there are happy marriages of two strong career-driven professionals. (Look at that of Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and her husband.) If one thinks the “traditional” roles of men and women are the only good approach to society, then there is a failure to acknowledge those roles are unfair to women and biased in favor of men. If one opens one’s eyes to all the options being open to those who wish to pursue the careers they are best at (even women military personnel going into combat), then the best person for the job will provide the best performance on the job. But so long as people are held back from rising to their full potential, that cannot happen. And the role of a strong woman married to a strong man in an equal relationship inspires both sons and daughters to be better people.

  3. So, there are probably the odd cases of boorish men acting badly, but I have a fundamental problem with so much of feminist thought that it is difficult to be anything but critical.

    We are barraged with complaints that women are underrepresented in this or that industry, only to find (surprise!) that women actually don’t always like the same work as men, e.g. Software development. Why should we force women to do jobs they like less than their natural choices indicate?

    Women want “equal pay”, but pay has never been equal. You have to fight for it, and women do not want to do the tough negotiation that men do. They ask for more money much less aggressively than men. Could it be, another actual difference between the sexes??

    We are told that it’s a great thing women are all getting degrees and careers, but wait a minute, now we see that they often work their butts off for so long they can’t have children, and end up trying to get married too late, in their late 30s or early 40s. The reproduction rate in first world countries is now abysmal. Families? The future? Who is thinking about these things? Yet, when most women realize it’s getting late to have kids, they jet from their careers to try to have just one child, wasting all their education which could have gone to someone else.

    Moreover, two income families short change their kids and raise housing prices such that it is increasingly difficult to get by on only one salary, while that used to be enough for most families.

    Finally, most women deceive themselves in thinking that men want a wife who is strong and makes a lot of money. Men actually have a deep instinctive desire to be the provider and protector of their families and fall into depression and self loathing without such a role to play. Women don’t like male homemakers either.

    Our society simply cannot continue to sustain itself as it always had before, if women insist on taking on the role of men, and ignoring their traditional roles in the circle of life and family. No one can replace them fully.

    Feminism has been a big part of the slow downfall of western civilization. There is just so much to say on this topic…

  4. I admire you for being the first guy to post, Andy. Thank you.

    The lines are not always clear, you’re right. I routinely hold doors for women and offer them first departure from elevators, order first at restaurants, and the like. In my experience, you got an atypical reaction.

  5. I once held a door open for a go-getting female professional colleague, who promptly launched into a two-minute tirade about how sexist and demeaning it is to treat women like inferior weaklings. I was flabbergasted, having been raised that holding doors open is simply one of the things a gentleman does.

    I replied that I certainly did *not* think women to be inferior, as evidenced by how well we’d been working together as equals for quite some time – and as for thinking women to be weak, my female fencing coach would have made most pointed disproof of any such thoughts. I then asked why she was yelling at me when she ignored the comments of some actually very piggish guys we knew, whereupon she replied “You’ll listen. They won’t.”

    I fully understand that dealing with those who really are sexist can leave raw nerves. But it isn’t *always* sexism. And every time I read another article complaining how “Chivalry is dead, all men are such boors”, I think back to that knee-jerk accusation, and shake my head.

  6. Sexism is not nearly as blatant as it was in the late 70s and early 80s – I’m a woman engineer, and at that time I had a prof who explicitly asked why I was in HIS class; he didn’t teach “girls”. I also had a summer internship boss who was only willing to discuss a different assignment if I would meet him “over drinks” – true story.
    However, my daughter works for a non-profit, and found herself being set up with potential donor’s sons. True story. She found another job and quit – last month.
    Is sexism alive and well? – seems like.

  7. Mathilda, thank you for naming the federal laws implicated by the gross situation you describe. Those are on top of the breach of fiduciary duty (care, loyalty and obedience) by board members who ignore illegal activity.

  8. Although not surprised, I am saddened to hear Nina’s story detailing lack of investigation from HR. As an HR professional, I have spoken to a number of other professionals who (despite working at very established organizations) did not want to address any claims made by staff. Although the subject may be difficult to investigate and address, HR has some liability in not addressing harassment claims.

    What astounds me the most is how management/boards do not seem to understand the real impact:
    1. The individuals who may “benefit” from favorable treatment are not viewed as qualified as their peers. This impacts the contributions made by the individual as well as interactions with staff.
    2. The person in management behaving in this unethical (and potentially illegal) manner is creating a huge risk for the organization. I experienced a situation where a member of the Sr. Mgmt team was having a relationship with someone, hired that person and then created a job description for that person even though they did not have the skills outlined for the role. After investigating, I found that this behavior happened before and that there were potential legal issues with various Federal laws, namely Uniform Selection Procedures, Title VI and ERISA. To date, I do not think the Board has investigated or addressed this problem management employee.

    A challenge for the individual making the claim is fear of retribution. Although there is “whistleblower” protection under the law – if your Board does not take its responsibility seriously, how much protection does the individual really have?

    Clearly we have a long way to go on this issue.

  9. Thank you so much, Nina. Sexism continues despite laws and company (nonprofit) policies. There is culpability among women as well, though not as prevalent as among men, based on comments here.

    I’m going to explore the subject generally on an upcoming Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio. I’m lining up guests now.

  10. The blatant sexism I have encountered occured when I was much younger, during high school or college jobs. As I have gotten older, the bigger problem I see is employees who are permitted to verbally and emotionally abuse employees. In my current workplace (20+ years) there are bosses who have outrageous turnover among their staff because of such issues. Somehow, in spite of complaints to HR and Legal, and in contradiction to what is written in the Policy Manual, these bosses are allowed to continue in their positions. I do not know if this is widespread or merely endemic to my organization. I have read that employees are hired for their skills but kept on because of their ability to work with others; clearly this is not happening in my current organization. By the way: one of the most egregious violaters is a female boss acting out toward both male and female staff.

  11. Thank you, ladies, I’m grateful for your comments.

    This is all disconcerting. As is that not a single man has commented, on this post or the original from November. That leads me to to think guys think it’s a female problem. But the problem isn’t with women, they’re the objects, and in extreme cases, victims of sexism. The problem is with the perpetrators–guys.

  12. I have found sexism to be alive and well in the workplace. This is true not only in terms of getting work, promotions, lay-offs but in the day-to-day interaction in the workplace.

    Here are some current examples:

    • In terms of gaining employment and promotions, preference is still given to men.

    • Men are still paid more than women for the same job and men are laid off from jobs less frequently because there is still the belief that women “have someone who can provide for them” .

    I have heard theories which try to explain why sexism exists such as how men work differently than women (game model vs. nurturing/participatory model). Sometimes these theories are presented as a reason why the behaviors are inevitable. This is unacceptable. Yet, still there are men who expect women to behave in a way they term “feminine” or else they behave in an uncooperative/unprofessional manner which negatively impacts the business . Rarely have I found this behavior addressed as a performance issue – it is usually laughed off. And if human resources discusses this, human resources is then labeled as ineffective and not focusing on the business – when in fact, they are focusing on the business.

    I have seen the same message delivered (tone/words, etc.) by a man and by a woman – the message from the man was heard while the woman’s message was not. I have also found that women who approach business in a “masculine” fashion (i.e. less “emotional”) they are termed as aggressive, while their male counterparts are termed as “go-getters”.

    Lastly – I still hear women in the workplace being referred to as “girls” – even in white-collar businesses.

    Yes, sexism is alive and well in business.

  13. Sadly, I agree that sexism is still a major factor in the workplace, but it often happens on such a subconscious level that most men don’t know they are guilty of it. From the small things, like women being asked – or always offering – to make the tea and wash up, to the more significant, like not being promoted as readily or being paid as much, sexism is still in evidence day-to-day. It’s almost worse for being more subtle than it used to be, as it’s harder to raise it and for people, including women, to admit that it’s still a problem. If you’re a woman and you raise it, you’re looked at as being negative, or imagining things or, worse, being a trouble maker. Instead, women have to brush it off and work harder to prove themselves. I’m not sure what the solution is, except the passing of time and shifting of attitudes.

  14. It made news in the Jewish press when the first (FIRST!) woman was hired to head a major Jewish Federation this month. Meanwhile, the majority of professionals – including fundraising professionals – in the Jewish Federation systems are women. Federations are primarily fundraising entities, similar to United Way, that serve the entire community of Jewish agencies. Clearly, there is still discrimination against women in the field.

    At the same time, remember all the articles about women not being approached to give major gifts — the fundraisers automatically reach out to the old boys’ network and ask the men to ask their peers for their gifts. Yet studies have shown that women are highly influential in gifts from families and couples, and, of course, control much wealth in their own right.

    The status quo is easy to maintain, but hard to change. In board meetings I have experienced being interrupted by men who talk right over what I’m saying, to the point that I stop them and say, “May I finish?”. I’ve learned that even in somewhat informal settings around a table, if I’m presenting, I need to stand up to be heard and taken seriously. I’ve been at fundraising cocktail parties and been asked what my husband does — before they even ask me about what I do.

    This with more than 30 years successful professional experience both in the for-profit and nonprofit world, published books, presentations to White House Commissions.

    Sexism exists.

  15. Little more than 30 years ago, I went on a job interview for an entry-level position at a major airline. In order to get the job, I had to swear that I would not “get pregnant and leave” within 2 years. I wanted the job so badly – besides I was single – I said yes. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there, and all the female employees there were subjected to sexual innuendos and unwanted physical touching. I think we’ve come a long way in the last 30 years. That is, I doubt that form of blatant sexism exists so openly now, but the stigma still exists, in fact, in a more insidious way. It’s more mental than physical. The perception that women are not “worth” as much as men; women still paid less for same jobs men are doing, etc. The commenter above raises a very valid point when saying that when women make social overtures, they are very often misinterpreted, whereas a man would just “be doing his job”. We still have a long way to go (heavy sigh).

  16. Witted Spirit, thank you for commenting. The concern among fundraisers isn’t “unprofessional ways,” but appropriate fundraising construed as a come on, either intentionally or unconsciously.

  17. Interesting your article here Tony.Basically, I did not come across this term and due reality until read your research. I think all you have mentioned here is highly plausible. Mind you, every single woman who faces such an issue today can certainly prove their stamina and resistance to such a worldwide scourge. The beginning is never easy to deal with such a matter, but once they forget about their apparently weak side, all women can actually develop gradually the strong side and make the most to using it wisely and proficiently. A woman fundraiser, which makes use of unprofessional ways to get as many donations as possible, either following their boss requests or their very choices, would never do something significantly for the humankind, since herself cannot set a true example and communicate the message by using the power of words and strong beliefs .Therefore, the good purpose might turn to vice versa and become vain for the people involved and for the organization they work for.

  18. Think about just what fundraisers do. They investigate the likely wealth of each prospect and based on this finding, they create a “moves” plan for that individual that will “engage” the prospect. They communicate with this stranger and ask for him (or her) to meet for coffee, lunch, drinks to talk about how this prospect can relate and engage in an organization that is outside of their current social world. During meetings, they stear the conversation so that they set the stage to ask for a financial gift. The fundraiser, like a salesperson , creates the new social link that encourages the propect to give money to that fundraiser’s charity. Few women fundraisers can pull this off in a totally “professional” way. We want donations but we supply no tangible product in return. When we try to build “friendships” out of thin air and the wires can easily get crossed and friendly gestures can easily be misunderstood for sexual suggestions.

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