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White Ribbon CEO Puts Hasty Departure Down to Culture Clash


12 November 2018 at 5:49 pm
Maggie Coggan
Weeks after removing a statement supporting women’s reproductive rights from the website of anti-domestic violence group White Ribbon, the newly ousted CEO says she was forced to step down over conflicting ideas of leadership.  


Maggie Coggan | 12 November 2018 at 5:49 pm


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White Ribbon CEO Puts Hasty Departure Down to Culture Clash
12 November 2018 at 5:49 pm

Weeks after removing a statement supporting women’s reproductive rights from the website of anti-domestic violence group White Ribbon, the newly ousted CEO says she was forced to step down over conflicting ideas of leadership.  

Tracy McLeod Howe faced a severe backlash in October over the removal of the statement, which came just after Queenslanders voted to legalise abortion.

McLeod Howe this week told Pro Bono News she was still trying to work out why she was let go, but she didn’t think she and the organisation were the right fit for each other. “I wasn’t the leader White Ribbon wanted for this next chapter,” McLeod Howe said.  

White Ribbon released a statement on Friday, announcing Delia Donovan as its Acting CEO. Donovan has previously led a frontline domestic violence service in the UK.

Ian Carter, White Ribbon acting chair, thanked McLeod Howe for her time at the organisation. “We thank Tracy for the past three months and we wish her well in her future endeavours,” Carter said.

“The Board has every confidence in the highly experienced White Ribbon team led by Acting CEO Delia Donovan.”

Carter said the organisation was now focused on maintaining a unified national approach alongside sector, government and organisational partners to end men’s violence against women.

“We are focusing all of our resources on stopping the appalling level of men’s violence against women across Australia.”

McLeod Howe told BuzzFeed White Ribbon had removed the statement because it wanted to remain agnostic until its stakeholders said it was important to them – a statement many took as  a move to appease religious groups.

Women’s rights and health advocates, politicians and some of White Ribbon’s own ambassadors slammed the organisation, and said it showed decreased support for women’s reproductive rights.

The statement was later reinstated and McLeod Howe apologised on social media. “I should not have taken down reproductive rights statement ahead of the planned community consult. It is back on now,” she  said via Twitter.

McLeod Howe said she wished the organisation the best in its future.

“I hold nothing but hope for the growth and success of this grass roots movement,” McLeod Howe said.

A spokesperson from White Ribbon told Pro Bono News no further comment on the resignation of McLeod Howe would be made, but the organisation was now focussing its energy on White Ribbon Day on 23 November.

“The organisation’s current priority is White Ribbon Day on Friday 23 November and supporting the global commitment to 16 days of activism from 25 November.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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