Sexism is harming the Peace Corps Community.
Let’s change that.
An Open Letter to the Peace Corps Community
Dear Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps family and friends, Peace Corps Allies, Elected Officials, and Peace Corps Agency Staff,
We are writing to you as former NPCA staff who want change. A strong Peace Corps is built on a strong Peace Corps Community. However, our opinion is that sexism and gender-based violence, including violence against women, is a culture and problem in the Peace Corps, as victims of sexual assault during Peace Corps service made publicly aware. However, sexism and gender-based violence, especially violence against women also permeate the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community and the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). NPCA – the organization that represents 230,000 RPCVs and advocates to Congress in support of Peace Corps – enables sexism through its actions with the Peace Corps community, internally with staff, and in its culture. We are being harmed, and we want it to stop.
It Starts with NPCA
NPCA is the only organization that represents the Peace Corps Community. It has a unique role in advocating to the Peace Corps for change. However, we are concerned that the leadership at NPCA directly and indirectly upholds and perpetuates an unsafe and hostile work and community environment against women. NPCA is a less effective advocate for Peace Corps when NPCA itself violates the changes it says it represents. However, over years, NPCA has alienated many community members and affiliate groups. As a result, they no longer interact with NPCA. We know that RPCVs are the best advocates and recruits for Peace Corps, but they cannot be advocates if they are alienated.
What is Happening at NPCA?
Over recent years, several women have faced:
- belittling, gaslighting, and bullying;
- devaluing quality work, ideas, and experiences;
- gender stereotyping;
- public humiliation;
- retaliation for complaints of discrimination; and
- overt sexual harassment.
NPCA staff tried to raise concerns on numerous occasions:
- In 2017, NPCA employees raised complaints of gender discrimination to the NPCA Board of Directors.
- In 2018, two women filed a lawsuit against NPCA for a sexually hostile work environment and retaliatory firing. It was eventually settled out of court.
- Since June 2020, numerous staff members have taken extraordinary efforts to address discrimination issues directly with all staff leadership; with NPCA’s Human Resources (HR) consultant; through other consultants; and with NPCA Board members. However, not only were the issues not addressed, but two staff members were then put on “Communication Coaching Plans” with HR. Reasons, among others, included using a “confrontational tone” and were asked not to use words such as “gaslighting” or other words perceived as “aggressive”. Then job responsibilities assigned for these staff significantly declined.
- On September 15, 2021 four women employees at NPCA submitted a complaint of sex-based harassment, gender discrimination, and implicit gender bias against women to the NPCA Board of Directors. Following the complaint, one of the employees was fired and the contract of another ended. Despite extraordinary efforts from staff to raise concerns, the behavior of leadership has not changed.
We see an egregious lack of accountability amongst NPCA staff leadership and the NPCA board. We see hypocrisy between what NPCA says it stands for and what it does. We also see an unwillingness for leadership to change behavior. The leadership team at NPCA directly and indirectly upholds and perpetuates an unsafe and hostile work environment for women, established and led by Glenn Blumhorst as CEO.
We know we are not alone in this experience. We need this cycle to stop in our Peace Corps community. A strong Peace Corps is built on a strong Peace Corps Community. We must stop NPCA from harming women. We believe change starts today by talking openly about sexism in our community.
All Peace Corps Community members are represented by an NPCA Board member.
- End the employment of CEO and President Glenn Blumhorst with no severance
- Stop the abusive work environment against women that includes addressing behavior of Dan Baker and Steven Saum
- Develop and implement a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organizational policy (not merely a framework)
- Prioritize a healthy work and Peace Corps Community environment that eliminates harassment
If you have experienced discrimination from NPCA or within the Peace Corps Community, and you’re willing to share, you may use this form to share your experience to help advocate for change. Information shared with us will be kept confidential.
Please help us in demanding change.
Former NPCA staff, Concerned Peace Corps Community Members, and RPCV Allies
(Names are kept confidential to protect individuals’ safety and well-being)