As the economy and job market shift further toward globalization, we see more and more corporations amping up their attention to women and girls. An important new example of this is the Vodafone Americas Foundation, which in March of 2016 announced a fourth core focus: empowering women and girls in the technology field, and helping women use technology to live healthier and more prosperous lives.
This speech by Meryl Streep is an amazing testament to the power of women’s voices to cut through all the crap and get right to the heart of things: calling out Donald Trump for emboldening a culture where disrespect invites disrespect and violence begets violence. Streep renders supreme judgement on Trump for his incredibly toxic behavior, particularly his mocking of a disabled journalist.
Streep supports several causes specific to women and girls, and a wide array of causes that intersect heavily with women, including rape and sexual abuse, slavery and human trafficking, and human rights.
Streep’s Philanthropy Focused on Women and Girls
Girl Up: As part of the the United Nations Foundation, Girl Up is one of the largest and most influential global organizations focused on girl empowerment. In collaboration with Girl Up, Streep co-narrated the film Girl Rising, which explored the experiences of girls in Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan on their journey to education, revealing the many barriers they face and how they overcome them. Streep also served on a panel with other luminaries at the April 2015 Women in the World Summit, helping to set the direction for Hollywood around gender equality.
One of the most fascinating trends in women’s philanthropy is the advent of women’s giving circles. In fact, I got so interested in this trend, that I decided to start a giving circle of my own. More about that later. First, let’s take a look at some of the amazing things that giving circles have done over the past year in the U.S.
No one saw them go. No one knew who left first, or if they all picked up at once and left together, only that they were all gone. From Miss Blossom Mae Simcock, aged 99 years and 364 days, to tiny Timarie Jones, born just before midnight the day before.
The nursing homes were nearly emptied. Mr. Hiram Quill at Country Gardens was the first reporter; no one had come to bring his breakfast, and not a single one of those lazy girls was anywhere to be found, no matter how many times he rang his buzzer. Mr. Quill decided to complain to Miss Blossom, whose 100th birthday party was scheduled for today. People from the TV were coming, and there would be cake. Mr. Quill did love cake.
In 2016, we saw the power of women grow in society like never before, and their influence in philanthropy continued to increase simultaneously. Women Give 2016, the yearly research series from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, revealed how Millennial women are coming to philanthropy with a different mindset, and are influencing strategies and dollar amounts of giving in new and important ways. Additionally, the study found that women’s participation in the labor force has increased, resulting in heightened power for women in financial decision-making both independently and for their households.
Major developments for women and philanthropy continue to evolve, even as the U.S. faces its most openly misogynist President, and gender equality movements brace for the implications of this shift in power. But President Trump would be foolish to ignore or discount Generation X leaders like Melinda Gates and Millennial leaders like Priscilla Chan, and the growing influence of their philanthropy. These women, and legions of others like them on different levels in philanthropy, will be important partners in leading the country in the coming years.
Over the next few posts, I will be reviewing some of the significant trends and emerging topics in women and philanthropy from 2016. Let’s start with one of the most important new trends first.
Women Championed the Fight for Equality and Inclusion and Broke New Ground for Women and Girls of Color
Some of the boldest philanthropy of 2016 came from foundations openly taking on new feminist agendas, including widening the lens for inclusion of women and girls of color. In late 2015, NoVo Foundation made its $90 million dollar commitment in this grant space and began a series of intensive listening tours across the country to help identify strategies for addressing inequality for women and girls of color.
At the same time, women’s funds across the country came together to fund Prosperity Together, a five-year $100 million commitment to improve economic security for women and girls. In December of 2016, the collective of 29 foundations and women’s funds announced it had exceeded its first year commitment by 46%, with funders like the Women’s Foundation of California adding an additional $2 million in 2016.
The biggest winners in my book for women’s giving in 2016: the many foundations and women’s funds that came together to make Prosperity Together happen. These women’s funds broke new ground on gender and racial equality with this work. For a full list of the partners, Visit the Women’s Funding Network here.
We’re hiring. We are looking for a few good writers who want to delve into the world of women’s giving. If you are a writer with a passion for this area of philanthropy and would like to apply, please go here for next steps.
We have a free daily update called Giving for Good, which aggregates the news from a select group of progressive foundations, nonprofits, and media outlets that focus on inclusiveness, equality, and social justice. If you want to know what is happening in this funding space which includes women’s funds, feminist foundations, and corporate foundations with a focus on gender equality, check out Giving for Good. And relatedly, if you are a nonprofit or foundation that wants to be included in the Giving for Good feed (free publicity!) please message me with a request and I will consider it. There is a contact form link in the right sidebar.
We don’t want to go to a paid subscription business model but may need to do so if we can’t bring in enough revenue with advertising. So if you are a foundation or nonprofit, particularly in the women’s giving arena, please consider advertising with us. I can provide you with specs for the associated benefits of our levels of sponsorship.
I have resigned from my position as Senior Editor at Inside Philanthropy. I am a huge fan of the work being done there, but the truth is that my priorities need to be a) my private practice, and b) launching Philanthropy Women. I am grateful for my two and a half years of experience writing for that fine publication, and hope to find ways to collaborate with them in the future.
We appreciate support and feedback. Don’t be shy if you have questions, or want to talk about a specific idea for how to make the site more powerful and relevant. We want to be not just broadcasting our own content, but listening to the community of Philanthropy Women, so we can honor and serve this growing world of feminist strategy and influence.
According to a recent article in the Ms. Magazine Blog by Gaylynn Burroughs, Policy Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, reproductive rights advocates are still expecting “an all-out effort by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.” Read the full article, Not Going Back: The Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for more details.
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act will have huge ramifications for access to birth control, as well as access to health care for women in general. In addition to losing access, women will also lose funding for birth control and may again be left to shoulder all of the costs associated with family planning.
But we’re not going back. There are many with immense resources in this fight. In an article I wrote for Inside Philanthropy in July of 2016, I detail the philanthropy investments that have been made in defending reproductive rights. Here is a quick recap of the funders on the pro-choice side of things:
Top Pro-Choice Funders
Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation
The foundation named after Warren Buffett’s late wife and bankrolled by Buffett family wealth is the most important player by far in the abortion space. STBF has given tens of millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well state affiliates, since 2010. The foundation gave over $35 million in 2014 alone. We don’t yet have data for 2015, but we’re betting that the pattern has continued, with the biggest grants going to Planned Parenthood’s national infrastructure and a range of smaller ones going to state affiliates.
Meanwhile, STBF is the single largest funder of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. It’s given the group tens of millions of dollars in recent years, money which—among other things—funds training doctors to perform abortions, a skill no longer taught at most medical schools. In 2014, it gave the group $23 million to support its national telephone hotline, which NAF describes as the “only toll-free source of information about abortion and referrals to providers of quality care in the U.S. and Canada.” Other big STBF grants fund an array of pro-choice groups that are deep in the policy fights over abortion access, like NARAL and the National Women’s Law Center.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The next-largest donor to the fight for reproductive health and justice is the Hewlett Foundation, which has given over $10 million to support Planned Parenthood’s U.S. work since 2010. While that figure is significant, it is less than a 10th of what STBF gave. Likewise, Hewlett is a big supporter of the National Abortion Federation, though it doesn’t approach the level of STBF, with grants to NAF totaling under $4 million since 2010. A range of other groups advocating for abortion rights have also received Hewlett money. They include the National Women’s Law Center, Guttmacher Institute, and Center for Reproductive Rights. (Again, not all this grant money related directly to abortion.)
Open Society Foundations
OSF is not widely associated with the reproductive rights struggle, but it makes sense that it would be, and grantmaking confirms that the Soros-backed foundation has given big at different points. In 2012, it made a $13.2 million grant to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and at least $5 million in other OSF grants have gone to that group since 2010.
That grantmaking reflects an announced $20 million investment in 2011 to be distributed over a four-year period, with the specific purpose of building centers in South and Southeast regions of the U.S. for reproductive health services. Again, bear in mind the earlier point about the many services provided by Planned Parenthood that have nothing to do with abortion. OSF has also backed various other pro-choice groups over the past five years, at smaller levels.
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
The Packard Foundation is another longtime player in the reproductive rights space. And, through its program for Population and Reproductive Health, is another key funder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, giving over $7 million to this group since 2011. Packard also backs the National Abortion Federation to the tune of around $2.2 million in the past few years. In addition, Packard grants fund smaller pro-choice groups such as NARAL, which has pulled in $400,000 in the past few years. The Center for Reproductive Rights, another popular group among funders, has received over $2 million in Packard money since 2011. The National Women’s Law Center has also gotten steady funding.
Ford isn’t a huge player in the abortion space, but it weighs in at times, and sometimes the grants are large. For instance, it gave Planned Federation of America a $1 million grant in 2015. If you dig through Ford’s grants database, you’ll find various grants for U.S. pro-choice work here and there.
JPB is a newer and less consistent player in the reproductive rights space, but it pops up now and again as a significant funder. It gave Planned Parenthood Federation of America a total of $6 million in 2012 and 2013.
I enjoyed reading Jacki Zehner’s call to make 2017 the “Year of Wonder Women” — the year when we all become defenders of “justice, progress and equality.”
Without the female President many of us envisioned leading the charge on the causes we care most about, we must all become even stronger defenders of those values.
Zehner writes: “This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Wonder Woman in DC’s All Star Comics #8 in December, 1941. She was introduced as an Amazon warrior who was sent to the world of men to fight against the biggest threat facing the world at that time; the Nazi party in World War II.”
Wonder Woman in 1941 was fighting a similar tide to the one that we are called upon to fight now: the tide of inequality, of discrimination, and of white nationalist sentiment.
For another perspective on an important female superhero, I’ve always identified more with Bat Girl. Initially cast as a love interest for Bat Man to stave off homoerotic rumors about Bat Man and Robin, Bat Girl’s latest rendition in comics is a rugged and resilient figure. Gail Simone called her “one of the smartest and toughest women in comics … One thing the book is truly about, is that the after-effects of something like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or other trauma-related syndromes, can strike even very smart, very intellectually tough people, even soldiers and cops, a subject that is generally overlooked in comic books.”
As a therapist, I recognize the Bat Girl superheroes in nearly every meeting I have with a woman or man, or someone who is questioning their gender. Many people come to therapy to recover from the blows that life has delivered, and my job is to help them get back on their own feet with smarts and toughness.
We were dealt a serious blow this year with the election of Donald Trump, but I see women every day stepping up and seizing their power to make the world a better place. Jacki Zehner is one of those women I look to for inspiration and guidance. Her many years of work to form mighty coalitions of funders for women’s empowerment is an impressive testament to what one woman can do to make the world a better place.
But I also look to myself. Because with Philanthropy Women, I have created a new resource for women to find their resilience, find their strategy, and make the most of their resources. In my private practice, I aim to be that person of power for my clients, showing them that their resilience is paying off, that they have become stronger and wiser, and that next time around, they will do a better job. With my writing and publishing online, it’s much the same, except as a friend so cleverly put it, “Online, you can have a much bigger waiting room.”
With the change in leadership in the U.S. toward a more conservative, white nationalist mentality, it’s a good time to look around the globe and discover other leaders of women’s empowerment who are outside of the U.S. political sphere.
One impressive leader is Cherie Blair and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which is doing work internationally to help women develop business skills and earn income. Next year, the foundation will even be expanding its work to reach some of the most marginalized women in the world, those impacted by war in the Bekaa Valley, an area heavily impacted by the flood of refugees across the border of Syria.
Hopefully the Cherie Blair Foundation won’t lose any of its funding in the coming age of Trump, though one of its donors has been The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State. The Foundation also counts among its donors the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dell, J.P Morgan Chase, and Bank of America, and many others. So while the Foundation is based in Europe, it clearly has a large American donor following.
Founded in 2008, The Cherie Blair Foundation appears to have a keen understanding of the role that corporations can play in building women’s economic power and independence. In an interview with Susan McPherson for Forbes, Blair lays out the reason why corporations are so important to the gender equality agenda. “The private sector has a crucial role to play in driving women’s empowerment. It accounts for over 90 percent of jobs in the developing world, so it’s perfectly placed to bring more women into its workforces and supply chains, pay them fairly and promote them into leadership roles,” says Blair.
Another essential point Blair makes is about not only giving women the technology to be connected online, but also helping them develop the skills to use that technology. Her Foundation has done some groundbreaking work in communicating with women via mobile technology to help shift gender norms and attitudes, as well as build women’s economic empowerment.