Dave Ramsey is a celebrity in Christian culture for his Bible-based financial advice. It’s a lot more practical and modern than you might think — even though tithing is part of his advice — but when it comes to interactions with women at his company, his reputation is truly biblical… and not in a good way.
Jenni Betts Deming, a former employee of Ramsey Solutions, has a lot to say about her experience working under Ramsey himself.
Part of the problem, she says, is that women weren’t in certain leadership positions and her suggestion that they should be was summarily dismissed.
There were no creative directors (now there’s one – out of 10) and a relatively small percentage of women and people of color on the 80+ person creative team. (Then again, there were hardly any minorities in the whole company. And no openly gay people.) I brought this to the attention of the then-executive creative director, asking him to please read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I told him Sandberg’s book explained much of the solid research behind why women drop out of the workforce and how we can promote and keep more women. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt that he just didn’t see the problem.
He smiled and nodded and promised to read it. He seemed sincere enough. Later, when the book was on a friend’s desk, he looked at it and jokingly told her not to become “one of those women.” He had a point. It’s never a good idea to have women aspiring to emulate a strong, smart Harvard Business School grad who runs one of the most influential companies on the planet.
Deming also pointed out the hypocrisy of a “pro-life” Christian organization with not-so-life-affirming policies:
When I started, women were not offered paid maternity leave until they’d worked for the company for three years, even though everyone received a week of paid “ministry time” to serve the community. Women who’d just had their bodies ripped apart had to deal with it – but if you wanted to go play some charity golf, you didn’t lose a dime. I took my concerns about this to HR. It made no sense to me. In my mind, you’re assuming one of three flawed things: A woman’s income doesn’t matter; a woman can delay her fertility by three years; or a woman should suck it up and return to work before she can possibly handle it.
There was also a strict dress code (but it was really only meant for women, of course):
Then there was the yearly meeting we all dreaded. The women in the company had to sit through a demeaning talk about what we could and couldn’t wear to work because, “men are visual creatures.” (I should note: This was the first time in my life I learned women are not visual creatures. I’m still confused why I have eyes.) There was even a fashion show that was meant to be funny. A few members of the board dressed as scantily as they could and told us not to wear outfits like this, laughing as they promenaded down the conference room aisles. It was uncomfortable at best and condescending at worst. There we were, a room full of highly intelligent women, being lectured about our clothing choices rather than our careers. Go figure. modern evening dresses
And, finally, it turns out that Ramsey is a proponent of the “Billy Graham Rule” (perhaps better known as the “Mike Pence Rule”), meaning he won’t meet alone with any woman who aren’t his wife — not even in a professional setting. Needless to say, this created problems for women in his company who hoped to get ahead in their careers.
There’s also an unspoken – but widely known – rule that male and female colleagues can’t be alone in a car together. Because, as we all know, women are out to get men. Just leave us in a car or elevator long enough and we go downright primal. Someone shared with me a pretty absurd story about this rule: They were out of town at a live event, and one woman needed to be driven to her hotel. But a male team member was the only one registered to drive the rental car. Defying all logic, they had to recruit two additional women to ride in the car to drop off one woman.
For everything Ramsey may have done to help Christians get out of financial debt, his corporate culture looks very similar to the awful stories coming out of Silicon Valley. Women aren’t treated as equals and there are special rules that affect their ability to rise up the ranks. Ramsey wants to believe that his Bible-based company is better than a secular counterpart. But no amount of religion, it seems, has made his company more welcoming for female employees who deserve better treatment. That’s unacceptable — certainly in the # MeToo era.