Men Cleaning House, Women in Suits: Corporations Join UN to Fight Sexist Stereotypes

The Unstereotype Alliance, a collaboration of UN Women and over 20 corporate and feminist media partners, is working to change the culture of sexist gender norms.

It looks like the UN is finding more ways to connect its gender equality strategy to the economy and culture. In a bold new multi-sector alliance with such big names as Unilever, Twitter, and Microsoft, UN Women announced a global campaign to end sexist stereotypes in advertising.

The new launch is called the Unstereotype Alliance, and it seeks to unite leaders across business, technology and media to tackle the stereotypes that normalize sexism. On June 22 at The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, the Unstereotype Alliance held its inaugural session to define its strategy and priorities.

Along with corporate partners, the collaborative effort also includes important feminist media industry leaders like The Geena Davis Institute and The Female Quotient.

From the press release:

The Unstereotype Alliance co-convened by UN Women and Unilever for the first time in Cannes, aims to tackle how the industry can affect positive cultural change by using the power of advertising to help shape perceptions that reflect realistic, non-biased portrayals of women and men.

Speaking ahead of the Unstereotype Alliance event, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women says: “Stereotypes reflect deep-rooted ideas of femininity and masculinity. Negative, diminished conceptions of women and girls are one of the greatest barriers for gender equality and we need to tackle and change those images wherever they appear. Advertising is a particularly powerful driver to change perceptions and impact social norms. UN Women is excited to partner with the foremost industry shapers in this Alliance to challenge and advance the ways women are represented in this field.”

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever, says: “We’ve seen true progress in our industry, but it doesn’t go far enough. Our job isn’t done until we never see an ad that diminishes or limits the role of women and men in society. We want to work with our peers across the industry to develop new ways of working, to share knowledge and approaches, so that we can scale the Unstereotype commitments. We believe cross-sector collaboration will lead to sustained transformation. This is no longer just a social imperative but a business one, progressive ads have been found to be 25% more effective and deliver better branded impact.”

Kathleen Hall, CVP Brand, Advertising and Research, Microsoft, adds: “Advertising is a reflection of culture and sometimes can be ahead of the curve and help effect change. We are proud to be a founding member of this UN sponsored initiative to ‘unstereotype’ through the power and breadth of our messaging. We are all in.”

Philip Thomas, CEO, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, comments: “The aims of the Unstereotype Alliance chime with Cannes Lions’ belief that creativity is a positive force for change and good in the world. And it is another example of how the conversations around diversity and representation have moved towards practical and effective solutions to encourage equality in creativity.”

UN Women, the premier global champion on gender equality, which is co-convening the Alliance, has a long track record in working on attitudinal change as a key driver for progress. The organization works consistently to disrupt stereotypes and engage diverse constituencies on gender equality, such as news media, men and boys, youth and faith-based leaders, and has carried out important research focusing particularly on men.

The Unstereotype Alliance launches a year after Unilever’s Unstereotype initiative, which set a global ambition for all its brands to advance advertising away from stereotypical portrayals of gender. Aline Santos, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Unilever, says: “This is a very important next step in the Unstereotype mission. Every Alliance member has done extremely valuable work in this space and now it’s time to come together to drive impact at scale. Unstereotype should be the norm for all brands, not a differentiator for a select few.’’

The first Unstereotype Alliance event will take place at The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. It aims to expand beyond its founding members and generate momentum across industries.

Join the conversation at #Unstereotype

For more information please visit UN Women. 

The complete list of founding Unstereotype Alliance members (in alphabetical order):

ANA Alliance for Family Entertainment, Stephen Quinn
Alibaba, Chris Tung
AT&T, Fiona Carter
Cannes Lions, Philip Thomas
Diageo, Syl Saller
Facebook, Carolyn Everson
Geena Davis Institute, Madeline Di Nonno
Google, Matt Brittin
IPA, Sarah Golding
IPG, Michael Roth
J&J, Alison Lewis
Mars, Andrew Clarke
Mattel, Lisa McKnight
Microsoft, Kathleen Hall
P&G, Marc Pritchard
Publicis, Arthur Sadoun
The Female Quotient, Shelley Zalis
Twitter, Leslie Berland & Anthony Noto
UN Women, Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Unilever, Keith Weed & Aline Santos
WFA, Stephan Loerke
WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell

Imagining What Is Possible: This Young Feminist Funder is Growing Women’s Media Globally

FRIDA is a global feminist funder dedicated to social change. It has made $1.3 million in direct grants to over 150 groups in over 80 different countries.

Young feminists have been organizing across the globe for decades, but their work, particularly in the media sector, has been woefully underfunded. I know, since I was one of them. In 1969, when I co-founded Women Make Movies, women’s funds didn’t exist.

Over the decades, thousands of young activists have gathered at events like the International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development, the flagship event of AWID (Association of Women’s Rights in Development), and have talked about the need for more funding for young feminists, particularly in media. As the last decade closed, many young activists lamented that no women’s fund specifically addressed their youthful organizing needs. So they decided to start their own, with AWID and Fondo Centralamericano de Mujeres (Central America Women’s Fund) incubating this spark of an idea.

In 2011 FRIDA was born. With the purpose of providing more resources to young women leaders, FRIDA aims to amplify feminist voices and bring attention to feminist work. FRIDA recognizes bravery, creativity and resilience as essential qualities that guide their efforts. A lively timeline of the young funds’ evolution from budding idea to full scale operations – six years out – provide an insightful history of the fund. (See timeline link at bottom of page).

The actual name – FRIDA – spells out five core values: Flexibility; Resources, Inclusivity, Diversity and Action. (That dispels any myths I held about it being an homage to a special artist!) A quick survey of its website shows a vibrant team of some 72 young women who act as advisors, associates, and board members guiding the fledgling fund.

To date, FRIDA has provided $1.3 million in direct grants to over 150 different groups in over 80 different countries. The sheer scale of such an effort is a remarkable feat. The young fund is also a strong model for participatory grantmaking. In its most recent cycle, 450 groups from across the globe participated in voting on grant proposals that would address priorities in their regions.

My own experience with FRIDA came about when the former founding coordinator, Amina Doherty, attended a workshop on Media as a Feminist Activist Tool that I organized at the 2012 Women’s Funding Network conference in Los Angeles. In her blog, Doherty amplified the voice of one of the workshop participants: J. Bob Alotta, Executive Director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, who said, “If we are committed to different outcomes, we have to invest in them. Period. In order to fight, in order to do more advocacy, we need media and we need to be willing to invest.”

Back then I took a hard look at the first group of FRIDA grant partners, which included such groups as Association of Young Women for the Culture and Development of Haiti and Crested Crane Lighters in Uganda. What impressed me, as I so often find with grassroots activism, is an overt perspective of the incorporation of feminist media as a tool within their work. And if media is not a major focus of the work, it is intuitively incorporated as a means of action. This I saw repeated over and over in the summaries of the groups that FRIDA funded.

Just a month ago FRIDA announced its latest – its fifth – cycle of grants. From an applicant pool of about 1,000, composed in 7 different languages, 106 groups from 73 different countries were selected to receive grants.

A Space of Affection”

Colectiva Feminista Gordas sin Chaqueta is one of the current grant partners of FRIDA. Based in Colombia. they work with a model called “Artivism” on issues related to gender-based violence. Through various media, documentaries, photos, songs and texts, they seek to “contribute to the cultural transformation of the violence that is exercised on the bodies of women, as well as stereotypes that reproduce inequality in the context of patriarchy.”

Their vision by 2020 is to gain local, national and international recognition “for contributing to transforming stereotypes that reproduce violence in the larger patriarchal system.” As a group, they believe their most significant contribution has been to create a “space of affection” to heal the wounds left by “machismo” (male violence). Lively, creative and determined, the Gordas are working to break down stereotypes that lead to women being abused. They have a Facebook page where readers can follow their work.

A Comic Book of Bad-Ass Women

In Poland, the first teenage NGO is forming, called MamyGlos, which translates loosely as “We’ve Got Voice.” Starting with the most minimum number of three, but with relentless organizing, over 400 girls came to a teen workshop. The girls published coloring books featuring ‘bad-ass women’ and an educational card game. The point of MamyGlos is to help girls stand up for their rights, and feel safe in their communities. These young women are fighting within Poland, where statistics for women’s safety are particularly grim, with one in five women surviving rape. It’s exciting to see young women leaders in Poland stepping up to educate others about the pitfalls of girlhood within the dominant culture.

MamyGlos are on Instagram and Facebook.

Journalism is for Social Change

Also funded by FRIDA is Wlaha Wogoh Okhra, an online Egyptian journal of women’s rights, history and cultural analysis. With a strong belief that film and drama can alter mindsets, they have launched an expanded investigation into Egyptian and Arabic movies. In particular, they explore the portrayal of women and craft a feminist analysis of these movies, allowing for a more nuanced feminist perspective among viewers.

The publication has been a leader in tackling numerous contentious issues. It has reported on women living with HIV, the commodification of women in the media and drama, and how Egyptian feminists suffer  stereotyping and tracking within the society.

One article especially caught my eye: “Women’s Graffiti in Post-January 25 Egypt. A Feminist Revolution On The Walls”. The highly informative piece is enriched by a broad range of powerful images on street murals. These images depict an evolving sensibility in the country that is beginning to incorporate the voices and images of women.

Wlaha Wogoh Okhra has also tackled Egyptian movie posters in a feminist light. Called the Feminist Cinematic Study, this monthly series explores how women are shown on the posters. The series is highly thought provoking. The group, further, organizes on-line trainings for women journalists and mass communications students on feminist journalism. In addition to their own website and their publication, they’ve accounts at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I am grateful that FRIDA has stepped forward to provide resources for these critical efforts of young activist grassroots groups. Such support is vital in early stages of a group’s growth.  Keeping alive these global media efforts by young feminists is vital to changing hearts and minds.  They enable the hard organizing work of these young women’s energies and programs to survive. More about the other funded projects in the current cycle can be explored with links to fuller descriptions.

A social media vehicle that bridges the communication gap between AWID’s International Forums is the AwidFeministFutures.tumbler site. There, as well on other parts of AWID webpages, is an empowering Bell Hooks quote: The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.

Philanthropy Publishing Luminaries Discuss the New Landscape of Giving

David Callahan, Founder and Editor of Inside Philanthropy and author of The Givers

David Callahan, editor and publisher of Inside Philanthropy, will participate in a forum at the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy honorees announcement today. The forum is entitled A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy and will also include Boston Globe investigative reporter Sacha Pfeiffer and Karl Zinsmeister, vice president of publications, The Philanthropy Roundtable, as panelists, with Stacy Palmer, Chronicle of Philanthropy editor, as moderator. 

This will be a chance to see some of the most knowledgeable people in philanthropy discuss the trends and events that they see reshaping the landscape of giving. It sounds like a great recipe for some thought-provoking conversation, plus you can stay tuned for the announcement of the winners of Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, which is given to honor individuals dedicating private wealth to the public good.  The awards are made by an international selection committee made up of leaders from over 20 organizations established by Carnegie.

From the press release:

Indispensable: A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy

  • Karl Zinsmeister, vice president of publications, The Philanthropy Roundtable
  • Sacha Pfeiffer, investigative reporter, The Boston Globe
  • David Callahan, founder and editor, Inside Philanthropy
  • Stacy Palmer, editor, Chronicle of Philanthropy (moderator)

What:  Announcement Forum for the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

When: Thursday, June 22, 2017

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EDT

How to Watch: Facebook Live at

Livestream Today: Ellevate Network Summit on Mobilizing the Power of Women

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest

One of the things I love about Ellevate Network is the way they are bringing together authority, autonomy, and agency in order to grow gender equality movements. Sallie Krawcheck comes with the authority in finance, she has now launched Ellevate which gives her vision more autonomy, and today Ellevate is taking a big step to increase the agency of gender equality movements by hosting its first-ever summit to mobilize gender equality movements.

From the Summit’s webpage:

Action. Impact. Power.

These words are some of the ones we deal with every day at Ellevate Network. We know women have power (after all we hold trillions of dollars in investable assets, control 86% of consumer spending and are starting businesses at a faster pace than men.) And yet, there is still gender inequality.

It stops here.

Join us virtually for our first annual summit as we talk about using your voice for advocacy and creating change in your community; the power of news and information accessibility and how it is changing business; innovation and disruption as a way to close the gap; and how we can work together to make change happen.

With more than 30 speakers taking the stage, this full-day event will leave you inspired and ready for action, with key-takeaways you can implement in your life today.

You can join the livestream of Ellevate’s summit here:  Livestream: Mobilizing the Power of Women, a Summit Hosted by Ellevate Network | Ellevate

Related: Gender Matters All the Time: 9 of Philanthropy’s Most Powerful Gender Lens Investors

Is It Possible? Accenture Commits to Full Gender Balance by 2025

Accenture, a professional services company, has announced a new goal to reach gender parity in its workforce by 2025.

Accenture, a professional services corporation which has studied and made public its own employee demographics, plans to reach 40% female employment by 2020. In addition, the corporation recently announced a new goal for total gender parity in its workforce by 2025.

But is it possible? Studies that peg the gender ratios for corporate boards predict the year that gender parity will be realized on corporate boards is 2055. Other studies suggest it will take another 40 years to close the gender pay gap in academia. But the company has a strong ethic of transparency that they believe helps them advance community objectives, and might possibly put them in a position to lead the charge on gender equity in business. “When you publish a goal, it holds you accountable to a higher level,” says Ellen Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, in this article from Fortune.

Let’s hope that, by making these goals widely known, Accenture will be able to influence other corporations in the same direction. The more corporations that make public their goals to reach gender equity, the better.

From the article:

Accenture currently employs 150,000 women globally. In 2016, the company says that women accounted for 20% of its managing directors and 30% of promotions to the MD level. It aims to grow the share of female managing directors to 25% by 2020 […]  The company credits its slow-but-steady progress to its willingness to experiment with how it attracts, advances, and sponsors women. Among the strategies it’s employed: a sponsorship program that connects senior women with two sponsors from the global management committee, a referral program that rewards employee who refer women, blacks, Hispanics, and veterans who are hired with a bonus, and a 16-week paid maternity leave policy.

Check out the the press release at Accenture for more information about its plans to achieve gender equity.

Bloomberg and Partners Support Philanthropy Strategy Aimed at Female Coffee Farmers

Sustainable Harvest has a wide array of supporters including The Clinton Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Lemelson Foundation. It reports leveraging more than $4 million in development grants from foundations and academic, corporate and institutional partners, to deliver programs that help coffee farmers.

An article from Barista Magazine brings good news for women and coffee aficionados worldwide: the launching of a new program aimed at improving coffee quality and productivity for female farmers in Colombia. The new program is a partnership of Strauss Coffee, Sustainable Harvest and the Relationship Coffee Institute. From the article: 

A lot of things make coffee better—for example, better growing practices, a deeper understanding of soil quality, or more advanced machinery for depulping coffee cherries. Time and again, one of the single biggest contributors to an increase in both coffee quality and outcomes for farmers is investment in women. That’s why Strauss Coffee, one of the largest coffee companies in the world, in partnership with Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers and the Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI), are taking part in a new incentive program aimed at improving the lives of female farmers in Colombia.

“Research has shown us that women are responsible for over 70 percent of the work in the global coffee market, yet they often own about 15 percent of the land, mills and actual product,” says Orr Rachlevsky, director of strategy and projects for Strauss. “Women are the driving force behind families and communities—investing in women is the best investment we can make.” Women are more likely to reinvest their earnings into the communities, so pledging aid and support was almost an easy choice that Strauss made to create better outcomes for farmers, and ultimately produce better coffee in Colombia. Before this project, Strauss already committed resources to projects in Honduras, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vietnam, and El Salvador.

Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI) was created from a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sustainable Harvest. RCI successfully piloted a program called Premium Sharing Rewards with two Rwandan women’s cooperatives in 2015. Now the program will be piloted in Colombia, where Strauss Coffee will be working with approximately 300 farmers that participate in the Coocentral cooperative in the Huila district. 

New Study Funded by Global Coalition Sheds Light on Violence Against Women in the Middle East

The new study, called IMAGES MENA for short, is funded by governments, the UN, and the Arcus and Oak Foundations.

A coalition of international and UN organizations, private foundations and governments have come together to produce startling new research on the state of gender norms in the Middle East. The study, entitled Understanding Masculinities: Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), helps to clarify how cultural norms for both men and women contribute to hostility and violence against women, specifically in the nations of Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine.

Supporters of this effort range from foreign ministries in the Netherlands and Sweden  to UN organizations and programs. As well, the Arcus Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, the U.S. Department of State in partnership with Vital Voices, and the Oak Foundation, contributed to funding this report.

Along with surveying about physical violence against women, the study also turned up information about a highly prevalent form of gender-based violence in the region:  street-based sexual harassment. This kind of harassment mainly takes the form of sexual comments, stalking/following, or staring/ogling. Many men reported carrying out such acts, with 31 per cent and 64 percent of men acknowledging carrying out such acts in their lifetime, and 40 percent to 60 percent of women reporting experiencing sexual comments, stalking, or staring.

And why are men doing it? According to the study, “When asked why they carried out such violence, the vast majority of men – up to 90 per cent in some countries – said they did it for fun, with two-thirds to three-quarters blaming women for dressing provocatively.”

The study also helps with revealing how prevalent violence is in men’s lives, with one half to three-quarters of men reporting being on the receiving end of physical violence in the home.

Another key finding about street harassment that cries out for further research: The more educated you are, the more likely you are to harass a woman on the street or be harassed. From the study:

Younger men, men with more education, and men who experienced violence as children are more likely to engage in street sexual harassment. More educated women and those in urban areas were more likely to report that they had experienced such violence. This finding, that more educated men are more likely to have sexually harassed (with the highest rate found among men with secondary education, in three of the four countries) – and that more educated women are more likely to have experienced sexual harassment – is one that deserves more research.

Another key takeaway that this study uncovers: the need for men to grow their skills in the home. “Just one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally female tasks in their home, such as preparing food, cleaning, or bathing children.”

From the study:

Men’s use of violence against women is widespread, both at home and on the streets.

Over the past decade, gender-based violence (GBV) in Egypt has gone from a private taboo to an issue of public discussion. This is particularly true of sexual harassment in public spaces, which, having hit headlines at home and abroad during the events of the 2011 revolution, continues to excite popular debate, legislative activity, and civil-society action. While a number of national surveys have studied women’s experiences of GBV, including sexual harassment, less is known about men’s attitudes and experiences as perpetrators or victims of GBV, in either the public and private domain.

When it comes to domestic violence, more than half of male respondents believed that women deserve to be beaten on occasion, and 90 per cent asserted that women should accept such treatment in order to preserve the family (see Table 3.2.1a). While women strongly disagreed with their male counterparts on the former point, they were far more willing to tolerate violence for the sake of family unity.

Nearly half of Egyptian men have used physical violence against their wives. More than 8 in 10 ever-married men reported having been emotionally violent toward their wives at some point in their lives. Just over half of ever-married men surveyed had carried out one of these acts of violence in the previous 12 months (Table 3.4.6a). Physical violence is also common: almost half of male respondents had ever slapped, shoved, struck, or otherwise physically abused their wives, with a fifth of ever-married men reporting physical violence against their wives in the previous year.21 More than half of men and women reported that such acts of violence were committed in front of children. Furthermore, a fifth of men reported ever having used forms of economic violence against their wives.

Women report experiencing violence at lower rates than men report perpetration, except in the case of economic and sexual violence. On the whole, women’s reported rates of experiencing physical and emotional abuse were lower than men’s of perpetration.22 As has been seen in other countries where IMAGES has been carried out, the biggest gap between men’s reports of perpetration and women’s reports of experience was in the case of sexual violence. One in six women reported having been forced to have sex with her husband, while almost no men reported having committed such abuse.

In the Egyptian penal code, marital rape is not classified as an offense. However, more than 80 per cent of the men surveyed believed that a woman should have the right to refuse to have sex with her husband (Figure 3.4.6a), and by the same token, fewer than a fifth of men believed that a man has the right to have sex with his wife if he supports her financially. Rights in theory, though, are different from those in practice; almost all men in the study said they expect their wives to have sex when they themselves so desire it (see Figure 3.4.3c). Women, for their part, were more inclined to uphold male privilege, and to subscribe to the notion that women are obliged to accede to their husbands’ sexual demands. In short, men’s underreporting of such violence may reflect a state of denial, and women’s more frequent reports their lived reality. 

Are Conservatives Taking Over the UN? What are the Implications for Gender Justice?

OURS, which sponsored the new report, Rights at Risk, is a working group that included Planned Parenthood Global, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), and many other global nonprofits.

Recently, one of our lead sponsors, Emily Nielsen Jones, philanthropist and Co-founder of Imago Dei Fund, raised the warning flag about the growing conservative Christian influence on religious culture in the U.S. Now, a new report has come out that warns of a growing conservative religious influence on the United Nations. The report, entitled Rights at Risk and produced by The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURS), argues that  “the universality of human rights is under attack by an increasingly coordinated and agile set of anti-rights actors operating in the international human rights sphere.”

These anti-rights actors frequently use the guise of religion and “family values” to attempt to erode rights for individuals, and are in favor of (not a big surprise) restricting abortion and access to contraceptive services.

From the report:

The trend is unmistakable and deeply alarming: in international human rights spaces, religious fundamentalists are now operating with increased impact, frequency, coordination, resources, and support.

In international human rights spaces, religious fundamentalists are now operating with increased impact, frequency, coordination, resources, and support.

The worldwide rise in religious fundamentalist actors is not happening in a vacuum. This growing phenomenon is inextricably linked to geopolitics, systemic and growing inequalities and economic disparities, conflict, militarism, and other political, social, and economic factors. In turn, these factors drive religious fundamentalists to regional and international policy spaces in search of increased impact.

Our ongoing analysis of religious fundamentalisms and fundamentalist discourses and strategies underpins our understanding of the forces currently at play at the United Nations. Religious fundamentalisms are about the strategic use and misuse of religion by particular State and non-State actors to gain power and control. They are about the authoritarian manipulation of religion, as well as references to culture and tradition, rhetoric linked to sovereignty, and employment of patriarchal and absolutist interpretations of religion to achieve political, social and/or economic power. Across regions and religious contexts, fundamentalisms seek to employ references to religion, culture, and tradition to justify violence and discrimination.

This news has big implications for feminists and donors engaged in gender justice initiatives. While there has been awareness of a growing religious influence on UN policy and activities over the past decade or so, it now appears that this rise is showing unprecedented strength, and presents real and present dangers to the advances made for human rights globally, many of which particularly impact women.

Where’s the Dough for Women in Film? Ariel Dougherty Surveys the Scene

Still image from film BORN TO FLY, featured on the Chicken and Egg Accelerator Lab site.

The telling of more women’s stories is necessary to advancing women’s lives. Regrettably, though, a mere 4.6% of Hollywood features today are directed by women. As a result, women have fewer speaking parts – 34% according to Dr. Martha Lauzen’s 2015 annual report “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World.” And only 22% of the protagonist were women.  This leaves a huge gap in one of America’s most popular exports. Is this really the picture people in the United States want to offer around the globe?

For decades, film women have been working to change this picture. Especially since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officially took up a complaint over a year and a half ago, discussions among women in Hollywood and elsewhere have intensified.

Why? In one such discussion with Selma Hayek at Cannes in 2015 she underscored, “The minute they see the money, things will instantly be different…. Show them the money.” Actually data currently shows that films with women protagonist actually do better at the box office.  So, while money is a huge factor, simple unadulterated gender bias is actively at work.

Maria Giese, a Director’s Guild member, was the major force behind the EEOC challenge. Earlier this year she joined forces with other women, including film producer and film festival organizer Christine Walker, to lead an inaugural Women’s Media Summit. The three-day think tank, held in Provincetown, MA brought 115 women in various aspects of film together.

In our collective task at the Summit (your humble writer was in attendance), we explored new actions and endeavors to change the dynamic of entrenched Hollywood male domination. An ambitious seven task forces formed. They are just starting to coalesce into working groups.  Among the most ambitious is FundHer, with hopes to raise between $25 and $50 million to assist completed films with reaching audiences. This is a critically-needed endeavor, where many films that do get produced sadly languish for lack of adequate promotion money. The Megabator structure also hopes to offer financial incentives “from script to screen,” along with three other services involving education, policy and outreach.

While these projected programs are under development, it is important to see them as part of a long continuum. Over decades, many support services for women filmmakers have emerged.

Film Finishing Fund, June 30 for Submissions

Women In Film (WIF) in Los Angeles, started in 1973. It is the first of over 40 such chapters that have formed across the US and around the globe. Among WIF’s many programs, 32 years ago they initiated a Film Finishing Fund. Specifically they grant awards to women’s films that are 90% shot and have a sample trailer to show. Grants are for both short and long formats in all genres. Deadline for the next cycle is coming up June 30th. 

This year additional support for these submissions is coming from Stella Artois, a long time sponsor of independent films through the Independent Spirit Awards. A $100,000 award from the Belgium beer company will provide four $25,000 finishing grants for fiction and documentary films that inspire social change. A special interest of the company is films with a water theme. More details about the program and how to apply are available.

Last year’s cycle funded four narratives and six documentaries. Among the awarded works was SOLACE, directed, written and produced by Tchaiko Omawale. Another project, MUDFLOW, was directed and produced by Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander. See a complete list with descriptions here.  Numerous of the awarded films over the years have gone on to win Academy, Emmy, Sundance, Berlin Film Festival and Peabody Awards, among other recognitions.

Accelerator Lab, July 10 Deadline.

Chicken and Egg Pictures is one of the best examples of practitioner- created funding models. Initiated by three women filmmaker-producers – Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettenger and Judith Helfand – they have awarded $5.2 million in grants and thousands of hours of creative mentorship to over 220 films since 2005. Over the past decade they have crafted numerous tiers of support. For first and second-time women directors of nonfiction works they have established the Accelerator Lab.  A deadline approaches July 10, 2017. Aimed to support ten feature-length productions, the Accelerator Lab especially assists underrepresented voices. $35,000 will be awarded to each project – in three parts – over the course of a 12-month program. An intensive series of workshops with industry experts are geared for all the awardees to glean the most creative aspects of filmmaking in a peer-to-peer supportive atmosphere.

Specifically a project must be in early production. While the subject matter can be open, Chicken and Egg states: “We’re passionate about films that address the global justice, human rights and environmental issues of our time.” They don’t insist, concluding, “Personal stories are eligible.” Interestingly they do not demand at the time of the application that a project have a US based 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, but need to secure one if accepted. They provide a list of such sponsors.

A number of Chicken and Egg-supported projects have gone on to win major awards. More importantly, though, many of these films have effected measurable change for the issues that they address. (Full Disclosure: Ruth Ann Harnisch, President of the Harnisch Foundation, which funds Chicken and egg, is also a lead sponsor of Philanthropy Women.)

Gamechanger Films, an equity model

In a slightly different vein is Gamechanger Films. Foremost, this five-year old entity is an equity firm. They attract investors who expect to get their money back and to make more money with the films they select. Gamechanger only finances feature dramatic films directed by women. A primary point of the for-profit company is to convince more and more investors that funding women-directed features can be lucrative.

The president of Gamechanger is Mynette Louie, an award-winning movie producer “with nine productions under her belt”.  She joined forces with Derek Nguyen, who is director of operations and creative affairs, and Mary Jane Shalski as senior advisor. Together they make up the team, based out of Brooklyn, NY, that has spawn the necessary financing for ten productions. Three years ago at the start of A Revolutionary Moment conference on the early women’s liberation movement, I, by per chance, struck up a conversation with a stranger. She just happened to be an investor in the first project of this equity fund, LAND HO! She was thrilled to report that she was making money on her investment. So, it works.

A recent film in the repertoire is LOVESONG directed by So Yong Kim. Released into theaters last February, the film showcased at Sundance Festival in 2016. It was nominated in February for an Independent Spirit Cassevates Award. Quite an honor! Starring Jena Malone and Riley Keough, the film is in distribution by Strand Releasing. The film can also be viewed via streaming.

Two of the four founders of Gamechanger Films were also founders of Chicken and Egg Pictures – Julie Parker Benello and Wendy Ettenger. They joined forces with Geralyn Dreyfous and Dan Cogan to create this first equity fund focused exclusively to drive finances to women directed feature narratives. The key rationale:  “Gender bias in financing is cited as the foremost obstacle to a woman’s career development in film.”

While the number of women directing Hollywood films is pathetic at 4.6%, even in the independent community that Gamechanger Films reaches women directed feature narratives are still miserably low at 18%. Gamechanger does not accept unsolicited works.

In Conclusion – Crowdfunding

Making films for women is hard. Securing the necessary funds for making women’s stories on “celluloid” is even harder. But as the awareness grows about how persistent the bias against women has been, women especially have been designing mechanism to overcome these challenges. Women In Film, Chicken and Egg and Gamechanger are all a part of that complex fabric of bringing vital women’s stories to more audiences. Many more efforts exist.

There is an important role for audiences, too, to play in this dynamic. There’s crowdfunding. Try a search for “women + film” at Kickstarter. On Indiegogo, New York Women In Film has a curated series of productions, identified as a “partner”. Women Make Movies, too, has a partner page. Unfortunately neither has a “live” production currently fundraising. I couldn’t myself easily do a satisfying search via Indiegogo. Too bad.

Here’s a campaign I recommend: VICIOUS WOMEN : The Deep Green Garden of Gordon Avenue. Of course, I’m biased. I mentored the filmmaker, Jennifer Lee, through an earlier project. She has until June 29th to raise the additional $25,909 to reach her goal. In the pacing and timing of such crowd funding efforts, Lee is well on track. Your contribution – large or small – can make all the difference, however, to seeing this lively tale onto the silverscreen.

Finally, women filmmakers: if you’re not totally overwhelmed with possibilities or focused on getting your application in after reading this post, here’s a central listing of many of the funding opportunities for women in film.

What’s up with this New Philanthropy Hub, and How Will It Involve Women’s Philanthropy?

Giving Compass aggregates philanthropy news and information by topics, including news and information about women’s philanthropy.

Recently, I got an email from Stephanie Gillis, Senior Advisor at the Raikes Foundation, wanting to “explore potential synergies” with the work we are doing at Philanthropy Women. Naturally, I was eager to do so, and soon learned about, a new team effort of several foundations and nonprofits, aimed at drawing on the chops of the tech sector in order to provide more resources for the philanthropy sector, particularly around how to assess the quality of philanthropy and get the most impact per philanthropy dollar.

What got me smiling right away as I got an inside tour of It looks like they are going to do philanthropy news aggregation right. Inside the site, partners of great magnitude have already signed up to be part of the 12-16 “magazines” that will aggregate multiple areas of philanthropy, helping to feed donors and the nonprofit sector with a new source for matchmaking, as well as data, case examples, and strategy on how to give.

This could work out very well not only for Giving Compass, but also for Philanthropy Women, which, as a free and open news source, is already being aggregated by Giving Compass. That means more eyeballs for our work, as well as us being able to learn more from the other news and information sources participating there.

Giving Compass is being incubated by the Raikes Foundation, and supported by a group of partners including the Seattle Foundation, Social Venture Partners, Stanford PACS, Charity Navigator, and Global Giving. These partners are coming together out of an awareness that philanthropy needs to do more to help donors make informed decisions about giving with impact, and the resources available to help them in this process.

The soft launch is scheduled for June 12, and the site will be open in beta mode this summer. It would be a great time to get in on the ground floor of this new experiment.

Giving Compass will officially launch with lots of fanfare in September, but during the summer you can come on board and explore, and help the team learn and improve the site for September. Giving Compass aggregates top quality resources and information in response to donors’ interests, and is eager to get more community reactions.

Giving Compass is a free online platform, and has ambitions to become “the single online destination” for expertly curated information on how to give, who to partner with, where to meet, and where to give with better impact.

Who are the some of the masterminds behind this new philanthropy hub?

Jeff and Tricia Raikes recognized early the irony that 70-80% of giving in the US is directed by individuals, but most of the resources in the sector are designed to support professionals working in foundations. They partnered with other donors and began assembling a team to drive Giving Compass.

Stephanie Gillis is Senior Advisor for Impact-Driven Philanthropy at the Raikes Foundation and the General Manager for Giving Compass. She joined Raikes earlier this year, having been Managing Director of Arabella Advisors, where she focused on family and individual donors. Previously, Gillis was COO and Senior Consultant with Blueprint Research + Design, Inc., where she worked with philanthropy clients on strategy and evaluation.

Luis J. Salazar is the tech genius behind Giving Compass and board advisor to the Business School at the University of Washington Bothell. Previously, he co-founded and before that, held high ranking positions for Yahoo, Microsoft (co-founding Office 365), and other big tech companies.

Paul Shoemaker is a Senior Consultant with Giving Compass, focused on content and partnerships. Shoemaker is also the Founding President of Social Venture Partners. In 2011 and 2012, Shoemaker was twice named one of the “Top 50 Most Influential People in the Nonprofit Sector” by The NonProfit Times (2011 and 2012). In 2015, Shoemaker received the Microsoft Alumni Integral Fellow Award. He is the author of Can’t Not Do: The Compelling Social Drive that Changes Our World .