December 7, 2015

Sometimes someone is, actually, consciously biased against others, for example, women. Years ago, a board member of one of my clients told me: “I’m entering my church’s seminary. I’ll study the role of women to ensure that they stay in their proper place in the church and in society.”

He was very intentional, aggressive, and in my space. (We had previously had conversations about welcoming diversity, justice, etc. He didn’t like it that I brought up these issues and always told me how inappropriate I was.)

We’re all unconsciously biased. That’s the way our brains work – and sometimes that’s good. Read Shankar Vedanta’s book The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives. This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. And I consider it a major book for leaders of any type in any field.

But sometimes our unconscious bias is bad, very very very bad. To counter our own unconscious bias, we must embrace conscious thinking. We must work hard against our unconscious. And we must speak out, too.

Take a look at this issue of The Agitator: “Stop driving women out of fundraising.” Agitator Roger Craver asks this question:  “… [T]here is a single question that I keep asking myself. ‘Have we failed to take the effective action we should be taking because, like so many other sectors, we’ve given short shrift to women who are the majority of our profession?'”

I once heard a human resources professional share the following concept: Jobs that aren’t considered particularly important in a business are typically held by women.

Over and over, what is acceptable when said or done by a man is not acceptable when said or done by a woman. Assertive men speaking out are considered leaders. Women assertively speaking out are often labeled inappropriate and aggressive.

Check out this amusing – and unfortunately too true – article about men and women speaking at meetings.

Please. Let’s talk. Let’s have meaningful conversations about tough issues.

Please, please, please. Understand that equity for women means equity for men, too.

  • It’s past time to look askance at a father who chooses to be the primary caregiver of his children. And his wife is the wage earner.
  • It’s time to deny these descriptions of being male, found in research with young men: Don’t cry. Don’t ask questions. Sex whenever I want it. (Research from the 80s. But I wander how different it is today.)
  • And one of the most horrifying pieces of research (from the 80s), some 30% of boys said they’d kill themselves if they woke up as a girl. (Do you remember the movie Big, where the little boy wakes up as an adult, Tom Hanks?)

Gender bias is a big problem – for both women and men and our society and our communities. It’s past time to fix this. Yes, throughout our society and communities. 

But how about starting in your organization………


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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