KNOWLEDGE: Gender Issues in Fundraising – Terminology 101

To kick off our new project on gender issues in fundraising, project leader Caoileann Appleby presents an introduction to the ideas and concepts underpinning this topic, with contributions from Ruth SmythHeather Hill and Ruby-Bayley Pratt.

This blog is part of the Gender Issues In Fundraising Project run by Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank.

This is a short introduction to relevant terminology for those readers who may not be familiar with relevant terms which will be used in further articles. We’re not sociologists or lawyers, so these are working definitions and we encourage you to follow the links to further reading.


By Heather Hill

Meaning: “Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, attributes and opportunities that any society considers appropriate for men and women, boys and girls and people with non-binary identities” – World Health Organization (WHO). Gender is an identity construct that is related to but distinct from biological sex (itself influenced by multiple chromosomal, anatomical and physiological factors), and can be self-assigned or assigned through cultural norms and assumptions.

What’s more: To give a very quick example of the above, modern Western culture has a pervasive colour binary for children: pink for girls and blue for boys. Walk into any children’s clothing or toy aisle to see it in action. But 100 years ago, the opposite was true, with pink seen as the “masculine” colour more suitable for boys (and in the 1970s one children’s clothing catalogue had no pink clothing at all for two years). There’s nothing inherently that connects pink with being female, but it’s a now very visible marker of whether a baby is male or female. We have a wide range of obvious and not-so-obvious cultural gender expectations of men and women that are not connected to their biological sex (e.g. men are better than women at maths – a Western stereotype not borne out by research). 

Gender is no longer a binary term and has expanded to include cis, trans and fluid gender definitions. This includes cisgender (identifying with the assigned gender at birth), transgender (identifying with the opposite of the gender assigned at birth) and gender fluid (a changing gender identity). ‘Gender identity disorder’ was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a psychological diagnosis in 2013. ‘Gender dysphoria’ was added in its place, a diagnosis for the distress felt by individuals who feel there is a mismatch between their gender identity and their bodies. This change has been seen as recognition that non-binary gender identities are not pathological.  The World Health Organization followed suit in June 2018 and removed ‘gender identity disorder’ from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a diagnosis.

Further reading:

Gender discrimination

By Heather Hill

Meaning: A situation when an individual is treated unfairly wholly or partly because of to their gender. This can include but is not limited to unequal pay, harassment and access to services.

What’s more: Much of the literature and past dialogue on gender discrimination centers around male and female gender identities, though gender discrimination is not exclusive to these.  Transgender people are also affected by gender discrimination.

Further reading: 


By Ruth Smyth

Meaning: Prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender. In its early use it was purposely similar to racism, highlighting that both were systemic forms of prejudice that created and perpetuated inequality.

What’s more: The term was first thought to have been used in the mid 1960s, and then made popular by the 1986 pamphlet Freedom for Movement Girls – Now by Sheldon Vanauken, which was then picked up on by several feminist groups.

Glick and Fiske (1996) developed the theory that sexism can be ‘hostile sexism’ or ‘benevolent sexism’, where the person being sexist may either be directly hostile towards a gender or may be sexist in ways that they feel are ‘helping’ the person. This is not to suggest that ‘benevolent’ sexism is any better in its outcome for the person on the receiving end, but its intent is different. Their research has usefully steered people to dig deeper into the ways that sexism persists and how it ties into wider attitudes about gender.

Another ongoing area of interest in prejudice more widely is the idea of conscious and unconscious bias, which highlights how often sexism or racism can operate at an unconscious level (Greenwald and Banaji 1995). The ‘Implicit Association Test’ was developed to uncover these biases and grew hugely in popularity over the last 10 years as an idea. However, recent critiques suggest that the test is less robust than it first seemed.

Further reading:

Sexual harassment

By Ruth Smyth and Caoileann Appleby

Meaning: “Unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation” (Oxford English Dictionary), and first attested in 1971 (Merriam-Webster). Sexual harassment is one form of gender discrimination in the workplace, and is defined in law, for example in the UK under the Equality Act of 2010 or in the US Civil Rights Act 1991. These definitions include both physical and verbal acts.

What’s more: Sexual harassment can take many forms, ranging from non-verbal and non-physical (staring, leering, displaying sexually offensive images), to verbal (e.g. ‘suggestive comments, making professional advancement or continuation conditional on ‘sexual favours’) and physical (e.g. unwanted touching, groping and other forms of sexual assault). While many people who are aware of the issue think that sexual harassment in the workplace is always committed by someone senior to the victim, it can also be perpetrated by a co-worker, client, supplier, or others.

Recent research done in the UK by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has shown that sexual harassment is prevalent in the workplace, with 52 per cent of the 1,533 women completing their survey saying they had experienced it in some form.

Further reading:

The Patriarchy 

By Ruby Bayley-Pratt

Meaning: A social system in which power is distributed unequally between men and women, to the detriment of women. Originates from “a form of social organisation in which fathers or other males control the family, clan, tribe, or larger social unit”.

What’s more: Historically, patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family, or ‘patriarch’ – it literally means ‘the rule of the father’ from the Greek πατριάρχης (patriarkhēs) meaning ‘father or chief of a race’ – but over the years it has been broadened to mean a society where power is distributed unequally between men and womenpatriarchy is rooted in gender essentialism, which only recognises the existence of two genders).

It is widely accepted not to be about individual men oppressing individual women through specific acts but instead an interconnected, multi-layered structure of power relations in which men dominate our legal, political, social, and cultural spaces resulting in the subordination, discrimination and oppression of women. This inequality is upheld by powerful cultural and social norms, and supported by tradition, education and religion in addition to the law and state. Despite some misconceptions, feminist theories on patriarchy don’t posit that all men enthusiastically uphold or benefit equally from the patriarchy or exonerate women’s role in it either.

What does this look like in practice? A few examples:

In England and Wales, only 1.5 per cent of rapes and sexual assaults reported to the police resulted in a conviction in 2018. The logical answer as to why is that few were brought to trial but there is a whole series of patriarchal contributing factors which might not seem immediately obvious, from the way our society shames sexually active women to a legal system historically designed by men. 

The take-up of shared parental leave by eligible parents since it was introduced back in 2017 is thought to be as low as two per cent. You could conclude that non-birthing parent just don’t want to take the time off, but in reality, this is influenced by things like ingrained gender roles (who ‘should’ be at home looking after the baby and who ‘should’ be the breadwinner) and the gender pay gap (it’s often more expensive for a male partner to take time off). 

There is a belief that women lack the self-confidence and assertiveness of their male peers and that this holds them back in the workplace, the implication being that if they were to be more direct, assert themselves, and negotiate better, they’d be more successful. Aside from the fact that there is growing evidence that this is a myth, new studies show that when they do behave in this way, women suffer a ‘likeability’ penalty due to stereotypes about how women are supposed to behave which sets them back anyway. 

Further reading: 


By Caoileann Appleby

Meaning: Referring to someone as having privilege or “privileged” in the general sense usually means that they are wealthy, or have elevated social status. However, in social science it means that a person who receives (unearned) social advantage through their membership of the social groups they belong to: “unearned benefits that accrue to particular groups based on their location within a social hierarchy”. The privileged social group is the one that is seen as the norm and having privilege in this sense is often invisible or unexamined to those who have it.

Peggy McIntosh

What’s more: Its usage in this sense originates from sociological examinations of racism, and was popularised by Peggy McIntosh in her famous Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack article on ‘white privilege’. In a recent interview she describes this article as her attempt to explore the difference between an individual’s behaviour and the social system they are part of:

“Are these nice men, or are they oppressive? I thought I had to choose. It hadn’t occurred to me that you could be both.”

Different kinds of privileges can intersect, and you don’t need to have heard the term and its origins to understand why a black queer woman whose first language isn’t English and has visible disabilities might find life harder in the UK or the USA – in a variety of ways – than a white English-speaking able-bodied straight man.

Common examples of privilege: compared to women, men are: 

  • Less likely to be interrupted when they speak
  • Less likely to be the target of street harassment or sexual violence
  • seen as the default in healthcare and design
  • more likely to be paid more for the same work.

Further reading:


By Heather Hill

Meaning: Refers to the multiple and complex ways connected systems of power have a compound impact on marginalized groups. “Intersectionality—the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect.” (Merriam-Webster).

Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term ‘intersectionality’.

What’s more: The term was first used in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her paper, ‘Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black Feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, Feminist Theory and antiracist politics’. It originally described how oppression intersects in race and gender, but now includes other attributes such as class, ability and age.

Further reading:

The authors

  • Caoileann Appleby is strategy director at Ask Direct based in Dublin, Ireland, and a volunteer and former trustee with UK charity Abortion Support Network. She is the Task Group leader for Rogare’s Gender Issues in Fundraising project.
  • Ruth Smyth is planning and insight director at BoldLight and a member of Rogare’s Gender In Fundraising task group.
  • Heather Hill is chair of the Rogare board and a member of Rogare’s Gender In Fundraising task group. She’s also the leader of Rogare’s related project on donor dominance. In her day job she is assistant vice president at KEES/Alford Executive Search.
  • Ruby Bayley-Pratt is policy and research manager (fundraising) at British Red Cross and a trustee of Bloody Good Period. 

Further reading

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