The Women's Impact Initiative works to improve status of women in sector

publication date: Mar 19, 2018
author/source: Tycely Williams, Chair - AFP Women's Impact Initiative

International Women's Day arrived and carried with it a bag of mixed feelings.

On one hand, I'm incredibly proud of the progress that women have made in the fundraising profession and around the world, and of the powerful movements that are changing society; #MeToo, Time's Up, and so many more. What we celebrate on International Women's Day is very real and impactful, and I'm excited as we press forward to see what further change will happen.

On the other hand, we are only weeks away from the President's Club incident. Oxfam. The Humane Society. Horrifying and sobering stories that give us pause and make us sometimes think, how far have we really come?

We work in philanthropy. We are dedicated to "doing good" and improving people's lives. But that doesn't mean issues such as sexual harassment or gender inequity aren't prevalent. Make no mistake, they are happening every day in the sector, far more often than we'd like to think.

AFP's own Compensation and Benefits Survey has shown that despite women representing approximately 70 percent of the fundraising profession, their salaries are, on average, $15,000 - $20,000 less than their male counterparts. And so many of us have stories about harassment-sexual or otherwise-from bosses, colleagues, board members and donors that go back many years. These issues have been around-only now we are now beginning to spotlight them and hopefully, by giving light to them and providing resources, we will be able to fix them.

That's why  on International Women's Day, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) launched its new Women's Impact Initiative.

What is the Women's Impact Initiative, or WII? It is AFP's response to a whole series of issues around the role of women in fundraising, including gender inequity, sexual harassment, and implicit bias, to name just a few. The initiative's goal is to provide resources and tools for the profession to collectively overcome these issues and create a profession that is not only diverse, but inclusive, equitable and more effective.

These issues are not always easy to discuss. Implicit bias forces us to look at ourselves and how we view the world. Harassment and salary inequity can be intensely personal. They require us to be vulnerable and open as we talk about them. They require us to realize that we might sometimes make mistakes in how we react, but that we're all trying to support each other to advance our profession.

But if we take action and work together, we can begin changing cultures and mindsets and empower women in the profession. WII will provide skills and training so that fair and equitable salaries can be negotiated. WII will provide resources to create cultures and standards that are against harassment in all its forms. WII will provide mentoring programs, as well as research and other services, that can break barriers and create new opportunities for women.

AFP will then use the WII programs as the foundation for future efforts to engage diverse communities in the profession. These are services and initiatives that will benefit everyone in the profession.

That's an important point. Men have a critical role in WII as well. We will never be able to adequately address these issues if we keep them relegated to the concern of just one gender. These are not women's or men's issues-they are OUR issues, society's issues. Our function as fundraisers and charities is to highlight important topics and educate the public about them. Equity, leadership, harassment-these issues are as important as any we will ever raise funds for in our career. They affect everyone in the profession.

The first major project of WII is a comprehensive survey of sexual harassment in the profession conducted in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The survey just closed, and we have over 1,000 responses from the U.S. and Canada to analyze. Preliminary results will be announced in early April and at the AFP International Fundraising Conference.

We'll be using data from that survey and other resources to develop anti-sexual harassment training as part of our library of educational offerings. We'll make this training available to AFP members and non-members alike.

Through WII, AFP is also committed to providing all sorts of educational programming to help overcome gender inequity. We already have several topics on that we are going to emphasize, including salary negotiation, overcoming implicit bias, and more. We are also looking at innovative ways to provide opportunities for this education - whether it's partnering with other organizations already doing amazing work, or webinars, blogs, or online module education.

Perhaps the most important part of this initiative is your participation and engagement. Part of that engagement will happen through the WII website: www.afpidea/wii

I encourage you to visit the site and share the link with your network, as well as share your stories and thoughts. What have you or your organization done to make progress on this issue? What are some shining examples of organizations doing equity well?

We want you as an ambassador to this initiative. While posting on social media, use the hashtag #WIILead. And on the website, you will find a FAQ document. When talking about WII in your organization, your chapters, your networks, feel free to use this document to highlight the work of the initiative.

It's clear that we still have a long way to go in terms of gender equity. But I'm excited about what we have accomplished, and what we can make possible, through the Women's Impact Initiative. This is an important moment for the fundraising profession and charitable sector, and I hope you'll join us on this journey.

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