Last week I wrote a long-ish essay about what #MeToo means for women in fundraising (and really all women in the non-profit sector). I was overwhelmed by the response the post. Not surprisingly and unfortunately, many women have their own stories about sexual harassment or assault. Some of those stories are about incidents that happened in the work place.
I see safety as a fundamental human right. For all of the stories I’ve heard about women (and sometimes men) feeling unsafe in the workplace, I’ve been encouraged to hear stories about non-profits trying to create safer workplaces.
The task of creating safer work environments for everyone is an on-going process. In some cases, it’s an on-going process of identifying blind-spots and rectifying them.
I am a firm believer that every organization should have a clear, transparent and enforceable policy to address sexual harassment, assault, and bullying in the work place. I say clear, transparent and enforceable because I think it’s really easy to write policies and put them in an HR manual, which becomes inaccessible to employees. Part of what needs to happen in the process of creating safer work places is employee empowerment, meaning that employees feel empowered to address problems because they know how to report them and trust the system in place.
Broadly speaking, many women who have experienced sexual assault choose not to report because they don’t trust that they will be 1) believed and 2) that there will be justice. Addressing this systemic issue in our local and national legal systems is a large task, but I’d like to think that individual workplaces can develop policies and systems where women know that they will be believed and supported.
An example of what I think is a clear, transparent policy is the Code of Conduct at the Nonprofit Technology Conference. In the policy, the define 1) the physical and online places the policy is applicable, 2) what constitutes harassment and discrimination, 3) how to report instances of harassment or discrimination and 4) consequences.
I appreciate that for reporting part of the NTC Code of Conduct, there are multiple ways of reporting to be support people. They include: talking to one of the designated people at the conference, sending an email to the team, or filing an anonymous online report using a form.
I’ve also been asking around to find other examples of policies, initiatives, and projects organizations are undertaking to address sexism and discrimination. Below are a few examples.
1) Internal Education
One of our blog readers shared, “We are addressing this issue in our own organization and a colleague and I have been tasked with helping to develop policy and host workshops for our staff.”
Hosting workshops to educate staff about these important issues is a great place to start. It’s an opportunity to create organization-wide dialogue.
2) Develop a Policy to Address Sexual Harassment from Donors
Most organizations I’ve talked to have policies in place to address sexual harassment between employees. One that’s been more difficult to find is a clear, transparent policy that addresses what to do if a fundraiser is sexually harassed by a donor. Yes, it happens and I’ve heard some terrible stories.
We’d all like to think that this is a clear cut issue in that if a staff member is sexually harassed by a donor, you stop working with that donor. But I think it gets complicated because fundraisers feel pressure to 1) reach their goals and 2) are sometimes in environments where the ED or Board is not supporting them. This is not okay.
One organization I asked share this about their policy, “Our policy for addressing sexual harassment from donor is that the staff member should report the incident to the ED and the Board Chair (we ask them to email both so that there can be a greater sense of accountability in the process). From there, either the ED or the Board Chair will reach out the donor to talk about what happened and tell them that their staff will no longer be in contact with the donor. Losing a donor is a small price to pay to ensure that our staff feel safe and supported.”
3) Create an Ally and/or Safety Committee
Non-profits are infamous for having a lot of committees, but this one seems like a great idea for organizations committed to increasing a sense of safety in their workplace. One organization shared with me that they developed a Safety Committee so that there would be on-going conversations about making their work environment safer and more inclusive for everyone. The committee develops policies and supports reporting processes.
These are just a couple of ideas that can help you create safer work places for women.
My goal is to continue to update this post with more ideas and examples. If you have one you’d like to add to this list, leave a comment below.