Tag Archives: women

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.

Do Professional Women Still Face Sexism?

I have a story. I believe my mere anecdote is representative of what professional women face. My belief may be wrong. Tell me what you think.

I rarely eat alone. I’m usually with someone related to business and we’re discussing how we can help each other. Recently, I had dinner with a woman who does travel destination and event work for nonprofit professional associations. There were no reservations available so we sat at the bar. I returned from a visit to the men’s room–a visit of unremarkable duration–to a party of three. Excusing my way past the two self-invited married men, I regained my seat.

They were talking to my colleague about her ring, eyes and hair. One, who it saddens me to disclose is an attorney, accused her of winking when she explained the two of us were having a business meeting. Ignoring my disagreement, he relented only after she corrected him repeatedly through his teasing. He and his friend were flirtatious and condescending, with no encouragement from the object of their derision. They guilted her into accepting business cards and departed as abruptly as they had arrived. A subjugation accomplished?

Their cards were a thick stock. (Are they compensating for inadequacy elsewhere?) She used them to scrape guacamole off the bar.

We were indignant. I was disturbed and she, somewhat resigned, but certainly not defeated. She had been insulted, and I told her I’m sorry it happened. We carried on with our meeting.

In another post I recommended not pissing off women. If these guys read that post, they mistook it for sarcasm.

Typical? Aberrant? The former, I fear.

Fundraisers Should Not Piss Off Women

Women outlive men. Unmarried women give more generously than unmarried men. These two facts have big implications for nonprofit fundraisers.

Before looking at the implications, I should substantiate the facts. I think it’s well known that women live longer than men, but the gap is considerably narrower than it was a hundred years ago. This charming 1912 New York Times article put the gap at 20 years. About.com puts it between 3 and 4 years today.

Earlier this month, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported unmarried women, irrespective of why they’re unmarried, give more to charity than similarly situated men.

Interesting to me, the article quotes the director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute to say, “The conventional wisdom is that women do not give a lot of money.” I must be uninformed, because I’ve never heard that and don’t believe it’s true. The director continues, saying the conventional wisdom is wrong. Sometimes it pays to be uninformed. I save myself a lot of back-and-forth.

The implication for fundraisers: don’t piss off women. If that colloquialism offends your sensibilities, and you prefer my admonition more genteelly, don’t evoke the ire of women. Especially if you do planned gift fundraising.

Where the principal relationship to your charity is with the male, and there’s a female he’s close to, involve her. Send invitations to the couple, if appropriate. Do the same with gift acknowledgements. You are snubbing someone important when the gift is from a married, or partnered, couple and you address your thank-you letter to the man. You’ll probably never hear the objection. It has been quietly noted by the one who will likely live longer.

Angry Young Woman

At events, do you engage the wife or female significant other? Are you introducing her to your CEO, or asking for a moment of her man’s time while you pull him away?

Making (off color) inside jokes that marginalize women is a sure way to shoot your long-term fundraising in the foot. (You’ll hurt yourself in other ways, too, but I’m sticking to fundraising.)

Wives outliving their husbands, on average, means significant wealth will transfer to wives from their husbands’ estates. If you’re in Planned Giving, you’d like the best shot at having the wife remember you in her estate plan. So be good to her while her husband is living.

Where the husband is the primary donor to a nonprofit, I’ve always thought it a mistake to presume, upon his death, the widow has no interest in continuing the relationship. She may very well have her own charitable interests that don’t coincide with her husband’s, but nothing is lost in inquiring by polite letter–after many months have passed since the death–whether she would like to be kept on the mailing list. If you get no response, or a negative one, you know where you stand.

You have the best chance of maintaining a relationship with a woman–including a widow–if you treat her courteously at all times, according her the same respect, professionalism and friendship you show a man, whether she’s attached to one or not.