As women, as managers, as humans and as two people with a platform — we think this is important

After every Managers Meet Up, we share the themes from our conversations, learnings and resources, in a “Managers Memo” blog. This one is a little bit different.

*Trigger Warning — contains discussion on bullying, harassment and sexual assault*

As female leaders, as people with responsibility over the safety of our teams, as women, as humans, and as two people who set up a networking and resource sharing space for fundraising managers across the UK; we feel that it is important that we use our platform for the good of fundraisers, for best practice of management, and to help influence positive change across the sector - wherever and however we can.

The events that have unfolded over the last month or so have been difficult for everybody, but particularly difficult for women, on so many different levels. Watching the #NotJustNCVO story unfold, followed by the murder of Sarah Everard, the #NotAllMen tweets that followed, and then hearing reports that our Chartered membership body ignored reports of sexual assault — have at times, a lot of times, felt too much.

We want to work in a sector that puts the safety of women above policy and procedure. We want a sector where men are allies. We need a sector where people feel confident to report wrong instead of fearing repercussions and process. We must have a sector where bullies can’t and don’t thrive. We need a sector that’s fair and diverse, that listens to people’s lived experience and that does not discriminate. You only have to look at Twitter, or re-call some of your own experiences, to realise how far off we are from that. It feels exhausting and quite frankly — it hurts. So many people across the sector are trying desperately hard to make improvements, but collectively we have to be better. There’s more work that needs to be done.

This is why we want to use what platform we have, to share resources, information and small changes we can all make to help create change; for fundraisers, for managers, for leaders, for our organisations and for the people and causes we exist to help — in the small (and optimistic) hope, that the description above, will one day become a reality.

We start every managers meet up with a big disclaimer that we don’t have all the answers. We set the meet ups up to be a safe space for people managers, to learn, to share, to stop sitting in a circle of one and to be better. This blog is no different. We aren’t perfect. We’ve made mistakes. There are times where we could have done more and there are times where we could have been better. We will likely make mistakes again. But first and foremost, we are women. Women managing teams of fundraisers and women with a platform, and that feels more important to us than staying silent on issues that affect us, our teams and the very people we want to learn and share with.

We’re exhausted

The emotional toll, this last week particularly, has taken on all women — but especially women who have experienced bullying, harassment or sexual assault, women who have spoken up and women who feel unable to speak up— cannot and should not be exaggerated. We’re exhausted. We’re angry. We’re dealing with stuff that you cannot begin to even comprehend — on a daily basis. We aren’t okay.

We live in a society that encourages and embeds male violence. We don’t walk our dogs in the dark without sharing our locations with somebody at home. We don’t feel safe. We haven’t been safe. We aren’t safe.

Don’t be fooled into thinking our sector is exempt from this just because you haven’t experienced it. Listen, really and actively listen, to what women, women you know, are saying.

Informal networks about who we are and are not safe around at sector events do exist. Policies and procedures are deemed more important than our own experiences, and in turn, our safety. We fear repercussions for speaking out and challenging structures that enforces the problem.

Our own experiences, and the horrifying experiences we have heard from other women, highlight just how far we have to go.

We work in a society and sector that has, and continues to allow that to happen. That isn’t okay. And that is what needs to change.

Believe her

If somebody reports any form of bullying, harassment or sexual assault, believe them. The victim is your priority. Not you. Not the perpetrator. Not the organisation you or they represent. Whilst a policy and a process is needed, a strong, robust and transparent one at that, it isn’t the victims responsibility to follow it — that’s on the organisation.

In a survey by UN Women UK — it revealed that 97% of women aged 16–24 had been sexually harassed in public spaces, dropping to 80% to women of all ages.

The TUC — Still just a bit of banter? report, showed 52% of women have experienced sexual harassment at work, and one in five who did report it, three quarters said nothing had changes and 16% said they were treated worse as a result.

If this is the extent of the problem — why aren’t we focusing all of our efforts in supporting the victim, simplifying the process, and doing everything we can to stop another situation where this could and will happen again?

What are your internal policies for reporting? Do they place unnecessary and additional responsibility on the person making the complaint? Do they ensure the safety and wellbeing of the victim? Do your team know what they are? Have you ever spoken to them about it? Would your team feel confident that they could report something to you? Have you ever not acted on something because it wasn’t made “formal”? Have you ignored behavior that you know is wrong because it either wasn’t directed at you or because it felt like the easier thing to do?

These are all big and sometimes tough questions to ask yourself — but nobody said this would be an easy step change.

Be an ally

Everyday sexism IS part of the problem. It does enable harassment and it does create a culture where women feel unsafe. Whilst we’ve encountered every single gender microaggression below — neither of us can ever recall a time where a male colleague called it out. These are the things that are usually excused with “Ah, he’s harmless, he’s just old fashioned, he won’t change, he doesn’t mean anything by it, it won’t make a difference.” That’s not good enough. There are no exceptions. Call it out — don’t just leave it to women. There are many reasons that women don’t report harassment or assault — a culture that endorses everyday sexism is just one of them.

Engage in the conversation as to how we create urgent culture change. Liking a tweet changes nothing — understanding, conversations and actions do.

Are you asking women what you can do? Or are you asking women what they need?

Being an ally is not a noun, it is a verb. Being an ally is not about you, it’s about the community you support. It’s about shutting up, showing up, educating yourself, and not taking up space with your privilege. It is not about your words, but instead, it is about your actions. @NafisaShafiq

Listen. Ask Questions. Learn.

And To Women…

Please go easy on yourself. Look after yourself. We know how hard this feels. Take a break when you feel like you need to. The rest of us are here to keep fighting with you and for you — in whatever ways we can. You don’t need to take the weight of this on your shoulders. We’ll carry you when your legs feel tired and we’ll give you space when you’re ready to go again.

We’ve got you — in whatever way you need and whenever you need us.

Emma, Jo and all other Women xx

Image Credit: Mandy Johnson

And if anybody does need to talk or reach out, we’re always here to listen @managersmeetups @JoFundraising @EmmaRuss1103

A safe space for all fundraising managers to share successes, failures, challenges and worries. Regular conversations via Zoom organised bi-monthly.