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Racism Against Women of Color at the Women's Health Organization Leads to Françoise Girard's Exit

The president of a women’s health charity has resigned following an investigation into allegations of racism and bullying within the organisation.

The findings of the independent investigation cleared Françoise Girard and two other senior managers at the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) of unlawful racial discrimination or retaliation against employees.

However, investigators found a pervading culture of fear and intimidation within the New York-based organisation, which lobbies for the rights of women and girls. Management demanded often unrealistic levels of perfection, they found, and there was a disproportionate negative impact on staff of colour.

“The broader concern expressed by most of the staff that we interviewed is that there are deeply held and persistent perceptions – whether true or not – that have caused significant harm to IWHC’s workplace culture, particularly as it relates to the experiences of women of colour,” they said.

The investigation began in July after a group of former employees published an open letter criticising a toxic and racist culture within the organisation.

In a statement on Tuesday the board accepted Girard’s resignation and said the two other managers, who have been on leave since the investigation began, would return to work.

The board said a new committee would be established to work to change the organisation’s culture.

The authors of the letter said the board’s actions did not go far enough.

“We are in a global reckoning that is laying bare how many of our institutions, including feminist reproductive rights NGOs, were created on the foundation of white supremacy. The status quo is racism. Therefore, hostility is racist when it is disproportionately pointed at black women and women of colour. We know this and our movements know this.

“Françoise’s resignation is not nearly enough. She has not publicly apologised or taken accountability for her actions and neither have the other members of the senior leadership with patterns of harm against black women and women of colour. Healing starts with accountability,” they said.

Girard, who tendered her resignation on Sunday, told the Guardian she was “pained” and “saddened” to hear that women had felt disrespected. In her letter of resignation, she said she now realised that “I did not pay sufficient attention to my impact on my colleagues” and was “truly sorry” for the hurt caused.

“It has been my greatest joy and honor [sic] to lead IWHC over the last eight years, working side by side with my colleagues around the world to advance women’s rights. Unfortunately, I am compelled to take this step as a result of IWHC’s handling of IWHC’s culture review and racism investigation, which I believe has been inadequate,” she wrote.

Source: The Guardian


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