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A woman among many in non-profits

Before transitioning into a career as a consultant, I spent almost 15 years working in mostly mid-size social service agencies in Detroit, New York and Chicago. In all that time, I had a male boss for approximately four months. I worked for women at all levels – my boss’ boss and probably even higher than that when I first started out. My counterparts on senior leadership teams were overwhelmingly female and the majority of the staff I managed throughout the years were women.

I feel grateful and lucky to have worked alongside these passionate, intelligent, brave and committed souls. I can truly say that I have learned something about myself or others from each and every one of the women I have served with. What I am perhaps most grateful for though, is what I didn’t experience as a result of working in the non-profit sector. I have never experienced sexual harassment at work.

Yes, you read that right.

I have never been passed up for a promotion because there was a man ahead of me who was more sure of himself, or just more vocal. I have never been made to feel like my accomplishments and hard work alone weren’t enough to get me where I wanted to go. And I’ve never been in a meeting and felt dismissed or like my voice wasn’t heard simply because it was a female voice.

Have I experienced intimidation, sexual harassment or molestation in other areas of my life? Yes, of course I have.

But I’m quite aware of the fact that my experiences in the workplace are likely outside the norm. I don’t know corporate culture. I’ve never worked in the hospitality or service industry. I am a straight, white, highly educated woman from an upper middle-class background. I own all of these things that likely contributed to my personal professional journey. And I’m so incredibly grateful for the non-profit world in which I’ve worked – where I have felt safe and empowered by so many amazing women. So, while many non-profit organizations continue to struggle with defining their culture and finding ways to ensure their employees feel valued in the absence of pay raises and bonuses, this is one way that perhaps they can be ahead of the curve.

And it should go without saying, that though my experiences may differ, I plan to be an ally and an advocate for all the women out there who continue the fight for equality and protection in the workplace.

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