In part one of this two-part interview, Lisa discusses the reasons she felt obligated to speak up about the unethical environment at United Way; an environment she says violated Title VII and had done so for years. Her concerns and complaints fell on the deaf ears of fellow C-Suite Executives and the Boards of Directors, and within a few months she was wrongfully terminated.
Lisa speaks about the disappointment and sense of betrayal at the realization that other powerful women who could have stood up for her and the other women she was trying to protect (many of whom were women of color), chose instead to abandon ship, walk away with generous separation packages, and move on to senior roles in other organizations.
She speaks to the failure of the Boards in governance, choosing, instead, to protect long-time CEO, Brian Gallagher.
The sense of personal accountability to protect other women who would come after her led Lisa to file an EEOC claim and to take her story public. She found the support she received from Gretchen Carlson, one of the key players in the launch of the #metoomovement, to be a critical part in finding the strength to do so.
HuffPost reporter Emily Peck told her story in a series of articles that ran starting in November 2020. Lisa, as a courtesy, requested that her attorney inform United Way that she was taking her story public. According to former colleagues, that courtesy was met with laughter and scornful remarks, to the effect that nothing would come of it, it's just one little article, it will blow over.
What they didn't take seriously became a serious PR Crisis for United Way.
Peck ran four more articles over the following months, and the story was picked up by Business Insider, ABC News, The Associated Press and The Nonprofit Times, to name just a few.
The turmoil that ensued ended with Gallagher resigning on February 9, 2021.
(Let that be a lesson...)
Lisa also shares that, while interviewing reporters to take her story, one female reporter from a highly renowned national newspaper questioned the validity of her claim because Lisa had not been sexually assaulted in a physical way. She felt Lisa didn't really have a story. She elaborates on how damaging it is to a target when others marginalize or down-play their experience and how shocked she was at the reporter's glaring lack of understanding the language of Title VII.
Lisa also shares some things she's learned in her experience with the EEOC and advice for anyone who thinks they are being harassed and how to protect themselves and take action before their job is at risk.
She weighs in on the damages incurred by the abuse and betrayal she suffered at United Way. That it's not just financial damage, it's personal and emotional damage as well. Lisa speaks to how much she loved her job, knowing her work was helping people all over the globe, most of whom she would likely never meet, but felt indebted to. How her personal identity was so tightly woven into her career, when that was ripped away from her, she felt lost and didn't feel like she even knew who she was anymore.
Ultimately, she decided she could either be a victim or a survivor, and I think we all know what this fearless, brave woman chose.
"I am NOT an HR case.
I am NOT an EEOC charge.
I'm a PERSON.
I'm a person that this organization
just tossed aside, like garbage,
because they didn't want to
handle their problem,
chose to make me the problem."
~ Lisa Bowman
ABOUT MY GUEST - Lisa Bowman
Lisa Bowman is a survivor of workplace sexual harassment who shows women how to find their courage to stand up and speak out. After four years of exceeding expectations in her role, Lisa was terminated from her role as the global Chief Marketing Officer of United Way Worldwide in January 2020 in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment of herself and others by a peer on the Executive Team. As a female leader, Lisa felt that to stay silent was to be complicit in condoning this and providing a path forward for this behavior to continue. She went public with her story via HuffPost in November of 2020, fueling significant media coverage that subsequently led to the resignation of United Way’s long standing CEO on February 9, 2021. By raising her voice, Lisa opened the door for others to follow, sharing their similar experiences during their tenure at the world’s largest non-profit. She has become one of the latest public faces of #MeToo. Lisa has become a fierce and vocal advocate speaking about her experience to help others find their voice as well and end this systemic issue so that all women have access to safe, fair and dignified workplaces.
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ABOUT THE HOST - Michelle Horlbogen
Two days after reporting ethical concerns to her employer, Michelle was fired. Six months later she launched her website and this podcast as a platform for whistleblowers and targets of workplace bullying, harassment, and retaliation. As a writer, podcast host and speaker, Michelle helps people who have been targets of workplace abuse find their voice by leading with transparency about her own experience, making herself accessible to them as a mentor, writing and sharing empowering material and content about workplace abuse and board accountability, as well as speaking publicly on the topic.
For all inquiries, or to book Michelle to speak, please use the Contact button.
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