I want to start this post by acknowledging that I come to this conversation with immense privilege. I am a white woman living in North America with a large platform to talk about issues like this.
The Back Story #ICYMI
On February 22, the Association of Fundraising Professionals published an article called “Why Are There So Few Male Fundraisers?” The content of the article was problematic enough on its own, but then it was shared as the lead story in AFP’s e-wire on International Women’s Day.
It seemed like an opportunity for conversation and push back so I took to Twitter. You can read all of the tweets on this topic here.
The Real Problems With This Article
Sure, the obvious one is the breathless lack of awareness to publish something like this on International Women’s Day to an association that is vastly female.
But, digging into the content of this article reveals the real underlying, ugly issues that we are facing. AFP is an association who is purporting the importance of diversity and inclusion, yet they are not walking the walk. In fact, we are miles away from equity. And isn’t that the larger issue that women are still facing not just in the fundraising industry but in so many others.
Here are the reasons why I believe this article is so problematic.
#1 – Perpetuating the idea that women should be making space
In North American culture women and girls are often being told to not be loud, to be still, to toe the line in various ways. This article is asking us to do that yet again. We are being asked to uphold the standards of male-dominated workforces and culture.
What even crazier about this is that many of us work in organizations that are advocating for social change. Why is AFP as professional association trying to set us back?
#2 – Asking women to do the emotional labor
Of all the things this article says, it was this that made me the angriest.
“And a large female environment can be uncomfortable and even intimidating for some young men. Men have told me they feel very alone, and that it’s hard sometimes to just go out for a beer after work. Given all that, what do we have to offer?”
What about women who are currently in non-profit work environments where they are intimidated by male bosses or board members? What about women who are dealing with sexual harassment or workplace bullying? What are the few men going to do to make us feel more comfortable?
The fact is that we as women are once again being asked to do the emotional labor for men. It is us who must change. It is us who have to oblige. It is us who must be accommodating. And to that, I simply ask, “Why?”
Why must we be the ones that have to change?
#3 – Reverse sexism is dangerous
The underlying implication in the article is that men are facing reverse sexism in the fundraising industry, as is made clear by the following from the article:
“Women dominate middle management, and do much of the hiring. . . I think they may lean towards women because they—rightly or wrongly—attribute stronger relationship building skills to women. If they already have six women on their team, they may lean towards the female candidate because she will fit more easily.”
The implication that women are sexist towards men has no basis what so ever.
The very definition of sexism is based on having some kind power in the first place over a group. And as we all know, it’s men who still have the upper hand so since women do not have that institutional power, they cannot be sexists, reverse or otherwise.
Furthermore, the implication of reverse sexism makes women relinquish what power they do have. Yes, we have made tremendous advances, but what should we give that up? We have fought for what equality we do have and we are still fighting.
#4 – Despite being a majority, we are facing huge issues
Women in the non-profit sector are still being paid less than men. Women are less likely to hold executive or management positions as compared to men. Women are dealing with workplace bullying and sexual harassment. Women are dealing with outdated HR policies that don’t give them the flexibility they need to parent.
Just because we are the majority gender in our profession, does not mean that our pressing issues are null. These are important issues and they affect more people. They need to be addressed and solved. Why is AFP as a professional association not advocating for us?
#5 – You can’t claim ignorance or relinquish responsibility
AFP, putting a disclaimer at the top of this article does not make you neutral.
“This article discusses gender behavior and thinking in a general way. It is not in any way trying to imply that all men or women act or behave in a certain way. Every person AFP interviewed for this article was quick to stress that their comments were being offered in an open, informational manner designed to elicit further conversation and opinion, and not meant to pigeonhole or stereotype members of either gender.”
You published this and now you must deal with the consequences. Take ownership and responsibility.
The Even Bigger Problem
What AFP did on International Women’s Day is certainly not the first kind of indiscretion that they’ve had as an association. In fact, it’s a series of indiscretions that really shows their true colors, which is why this was the tipping point for me personally. They have little accountability to their membership, a political analysis that is clearly lacking, and few meaningful actions that support the philosophies they espouse.
As we all know, actions speak louder than words and publishing this article speaks volumes.
As a female fundraiser and business owner, I take immense pride in being a part of an industry that is predominantly female. I mean it’s very rare, it’s something that you would think that they would want to really honor and celebrate but instead, we’re asking why are there not more men and we’re examining why men are uncomfortable in this profession.
AFP is looking at these absurd questions that are not actually valuable to the majority membership and to the broader professional as a whole. You have to wonder why they are doing that. As of yet, there is no good answer. Just really terrible politics and a stunning lack of awareness.
I think that as membership we have to push back. If AFP continues to be silent and shows no consistent action to make amends, then it might be time for us to question whether or not AFP is of real value to us.
What do we (as women) actually need as professionals? What is it that we need in order to succeed?
It’s sure as shit not an association that’s asking questions like, “What can women do to make men feel more comfortable in the fundraising profession?”
We really have to be asking ourselves these tough questions and I think as women we have to find ways to continue to support each other in this profession. If an association like AFP is not going do that for us I think that we have to come together as a community of women, of fundraisers, of people who are not included and not valued by AFP to figure these things out for ourselves.
I feel very fortunate that I have this large online platform in The Storytelling Non-Profit because I get a lot of questions from young women, about their careers, about consulting, about being entrepreneurs, about advancing in this profession. That’s partly because they are not able to get this information from an association that should be much more helpful than they actually are.
This is a real moment for us, women. I’m going to continue to beat the drum on this issue because it is too important not too. And I hope you will join me.
I am hosting a community call on March 20th to discuss our needs as professionals, how we can help each other, and how to hold AFP accountable. Everyone is welcome on this call. If you would like to join the call, please send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’ll send you the details.
You are welcome to use the image at the top of this blog post on social media, including profile images and headers. I’ve changed mine on Facebook and Twitter.
If you post critiques about this issue on social media, use the hashtag #FundraisingIsFemale so that we can find each other.
Finally, if you feel so inclined, blog about this issue. If you don’t have a blog, you can try Medium. I’m also happy to publish your post here on The Storytelling Non-Profit.