Three weeks ago we announced the Agitator’s sponsorship of “The Summit”— a different and serious effort to challenge sacred cows and hopefully trigger desperately needed change in our sector.

Alas! Over the weekend, the organizers announced the cancellation of The Summit. The reason: furor (‘furore’ for our UK and Commonwealth readers) over the composition of the panel — 8 men, 1 woman — plus some inappropriate remarks from Giles Pegram, the co-chair of the event. Remarks for which he’s fully and appropriately apologized.

If you want the back story and also Giles’ apology you can check them out here and here.

As lifelong feminists Tom and I fully respect and champion the need for more gender equality, especially in our sector where women play such a pervasive role. And so do Agitator readers. Indeed, the day we announced The Summit, Agitator reader Rachel Collison of Engaging Networks commented: “It’d be nice to see a few more female speakers on this list. Given that there are so many female experts in fundraising and particularly innovation in the UK, I’m quite surprised…”

In fact, the organizers were aware of the issue and some of the male panelists offered to give up their slots in favor of female participants. But the barrage of Tweets, too many anonymous for my taste, had already been released. The feeding frenzy was on. Summit cancelled.

The unfortunate paradox of all this? On the one hand, the absolutely correct reminder that women play an important, equal and vital role in the future of our sector. On the other hand, at a time when there is a crushing need for significant change in the sector, the derailing of this event makes that change less likely — a fact that helps no fundraiser, male or female, no organization, nor any mission.

To top off the whole sorry mess, the reputation of great man, a giant in my eyes, has been wrongly maligned.  Sure, he made some awkward remarks on Twitter – for which he’s genuinely apologized. But many of the remarks he’s supposed to have made he never actually said – at least in the way and with the meaning attributed to him.

I’ve known Giles for 30 years, seen the wonders and innovations he’s worked in our sector, and watched him steadfastly champion equality in an era when doing so was not only difficult but dangerous. In those days the championing had to be done face to face, not behind anonymous Twitter accounts. Sadly, a giant nibbled at the heels by dwarfs.


P.S. The importance and need for “The Summit” is as relevant now as the day it was announced. Change is urgently needed. I think we should organize a version of it in North America and then bring it back to the UK and Europe. What do you think?

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