Voluntary sector

It has been stressful and frustrating for myself and other staff

I care because in my organisation, I have found that the constant blurring of sex, gender and gender identity in organisational policies, blogs, guidelines and training materials at best undermines their effectiveness, and at worst installs regressive and harmful stereotypes.

I care because I value the power of data to advance the rights of all, and am deeply concerned about the quality of my organisations’ evidence when we use confusing terms like ‘non-man’ or ‘woman-identifed’ in staff or community surveys.

I care because women in the UK are losing their jobs or on ‘performance improvement plans’ for speaking up.

I care because I think there is real work that must take place to fight genuine anti-rights actors and human rights abuses around the world, and until we tackle head-on the issues of conflicting rights we cannot move forward.

I have rewritten guidelines, tools, research papers and strategic documents that: used gender identity instead of sex; included incorrect or problematic definitions of gender; did not use the word women in the name of inclusion and intersectionality. 

I have carefully spoken to staff across the organisation about this issue – always from a rights-based perspective – asking questions, sharing blogs or studies when relevant. I have repeatedly attempted to influence senior managers to follow correct Equality Act legislation rather than Stonewall guidance (with partial success). I have flagged reputational risks of alienating female supporters.

I have listened to women who have been told their feminism is ‘trash’ (by men) and spent time explaining to staff why calling other staff members ‘TERF’ is unacceptable, whilst trying my best to build bridges across staff communities. I have lobbied for spaces to discuss these issues in the workplace.

The negative consequences have been opaque and veiled warnings: be careful, get in line, be inclusive.

There have been impacts on workloads – without a serious policy framework language must be agreed on an exhausting and time consuming case-by-case basis. Hours have been spent drafting detailed policy recommendations that carefully address conflicts of rights which are swiftly ignored or rebutted with the mantra ‘we will be inclusive’ with no time spent engaging in any of the substance.

On an emotional level, it has been stressful and frustrating for myself and other staff. I know a number of staff who feel silenced, and unable to discuss openly on our online work platform because of the backlash, which has included warnings by senior managers. Meanwhile, potentially negative impacts of policy capture and new strategic direction on the communities we work with are yet unknown and unexplored.

Anonymous, Working on Women’s Rights for a UK INGO