Just before Christmas, a prominent progressive public relations firm, FitzGibbon Media, shut its doors over multiple sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints from female staffers about the CEO & Founder Trevor FitzGibbon. In the aftermath of this sudden dissolution, there was much discussion in the progressive community about how such behavior could be condoned in our space, in which many work hard to promote “feminism” or “inclusiveness”. Others chimed in that FitzGibbon is not the only male in the progressive space to perpetuate systemic mysogyny.
To prove this point, some badass ladies started Shine Squad, a space for women to anonymously share their stories of harassment and abuse.
I’m on a progressive data listserve, and a fellow data lady sent around a link to Shine Squad about two weeks ago. After going unacknowledged for a week by the group (whose discussion is heavily dominated by white men), the inevitable discussion of “this sucks!” and “who are these people so I never hire them?” began. After a few rounds of (I hope) well-meaning data men seeking large gestures and witch hunts, I sent the following (edited for clarity):
Many of you know that two data ladies were organizing an all-women’s data training last year that would be coupled with an AORTA anti-oppression training for managers. I myself was (and still am) incredibly excited about the prospect of this training, excited to train at it, and excited to share the AORTA portion with folks on this list (their trainings are incredibly well done). However, trainings cannot be pulled off without money, and I was disappointed to hear that when push came to shove and folks were asked to put their money where their mouth is, not enough people stepped up to make the training happen.
Serial harassers are not the only problem this community faces. (Potentially) seemingly small things like not funding an anti-oppression training or only asking your white male friends to join you on a panel or not being proactive when recruiting for a position by ensuring that postings are promoted in all-female and POC spaces or not taking a step back and letting new voices step up (I could go on), these small things add up and contribute to a sense of hopelessness that this systemic oppression is immutable.
I would encourage us all, in addition to talking about how to address the very serious harassment issues, to think about the small steps we can take on a regular basis to address these systemic issues:
- Lift up non-white-male voices when asked to put together panels
- Post jobs on listserves like Data Ladies Alliance or Tech Lady Mafia or Inclusv
- Look at your testing practices and make sure you’re testing for must-have skills rather than like-to-have skills (women are more likely to self-select out if they feel they do not have all of the skills necessary for a position)
- Make sure you’re not the only voice being heard in a room (I had an awesome straight white male coworker who would count the number of times others gave input in a meeting and wouldn’t speak again until five new voices spoke)
What other suggestions do you have for small steps to fight systemic oppression?