Fighting for Democracy: Building Local Pro-Choice Campaigns for Legislative Wins

The Woman Project, a new 501(c)4 in Rhode Island, is working to pass statewide legislation for reproductive freedom.

In the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, reproductive freedom appears to be more threatened than ever. So what’s a pro-choice advocate to do?

One thing that some feminist activists are doing is incorporating their art into their activism. And in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation, these art-activists are pushing hard for the state to codify abortion rights so that the service will remain in place in the state even if the federal courts overturn Roe v. Wade.

These art-activists call themselves The Woman Project (TWP), and starting in 2017 as a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, they are angling to make sure that women’s rights are protected at the state level, starting with access to reproductive services.

The manifesto for TWP begins by appreciating art and creativity, and recognizes the necessity of both inclusion, justice, and environmental work in building a better world. The groups is also doing a bang-up job of collaborating with other activists networks in the state to make sure that the issue of reproductive freedom is on the table legislatively in the upcoming session. The group is working one of the most important tenets of feminist philanthropy — networking — to bring together groups including Planned Parenthood, Emerge RI, Adoption Inequality RI, the Unitarian Universalist Community in RI, Indivisible RI, the Cranston Action Network, the Women’s March Huddles, and RI NOW.

Rhode Island as the Testing Ground for Protecting Reproductive Freedom State by State

Rhode Island is an interesting state. Born on the principle of religious freedom, it continues to be known for its tolerance and open-mindedness. At the same time, the General Assembly is largely populated by Catholic men, who still adhere to the pro-life tenets of their religion and appear to be particularly influenced by the state’s Bishop, an outspoken (some might say even bullying) religious leader who considers LGBTQ people to be immoral and abortion to be a sin.

At the same time, much has been said about Rhode Island’s capacity to serve as a kind of “laboratory state.” With its small-scale legislation and population (1.06 million), Rhode Island is a place where it is possible to test out new theories and approaches to problems. Currently, the state is being hailed for its groundbreaking strategy for treating opioid addiction.

The same kind of breakthrough might be discovered by using Rhode Island to test out strategies for defending reproductive rights. Rhode Island could serve as a kind of “beta” for passing state legislation that protects reproductive services and, if successful (and it’s still a big if) this model could be scaled up and used in larger states.

The Woman Project is gathering signatures for an ad which will appear in The Providence Journal on September 30.

This is where The Woman Project (TWP) comes into the equation. Along with advocating for women’s rights, TWP builds on Rhode Island’s reputation as an artsy state in the approach it uses to take activism to the streets. Currently, TWP is adding signers to a petition that will be published in The Providence Journal on September 30th, which will implore legislators to pass the Reproductive Healthcare Act introduced last year. The letter already has a significant number of signers and is still taking more up until September 14th.

With 63 percent of Rhode Islanders supporting safe, legal abortion, organizations like TWP are providing a vital service by calling on our legislators to represent the majority of the voters. “We brought together a community of people who are moving forward with supporting access to reproductive health care for all Rhode Islanders a priority, who are in support of this legislation and [are] going to do everything to get it passed next year,” said Jocelyn Foye, an artist and one of the founding members of TWP.

I asked Foye about what unique challenges and opportunities Rhode Island presents to the movement for reproductive freedom. “Other states have passed somewhat similar legislation  Delaware, Illinois, Oregon and Massachusetts,” said Foye. “So this really builds on that momentum.  I think what is different about Rhode Island than these states is that we have Gender Assembly leadership that is right-to-life endorsed, we do not have a NARAL branch, and Emily’s list isn’t active here. Without some of the national forces at play in other states, we have to get creative to get our message out, to be heard and work towards change. That is what is cool about how small Rhode Island is.”

As local activists creating new social policy, The Woman Projects definitely means business. In 2017, the group convinced their own local town Council in South Kingstown to pass a resolution in support of the Reproductive Health Care Act. Now they are seeking support to go statewide. Foye described how, among other strategies, the group might be launching a series of videos to increase support for passage of the Reproductive Healthcare Act this fall.

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Small But Mighty: Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Makes New Round of Grants

Another Women’s Giving Circle is Born: Waterbury Giving Circle Makes Inaugural Grants

Butterflies with Voices is one of the inaugural grantees of the newly formed Women’s Giving Circle serving Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills, Connecticut. This photo depicts staff members from Butterflies with Voices helping Women’s Giving Circle members learn about their project at a circle meeting. (Photo courtesy of Connecticut Community Foundation.)

While women’s giving circles are a growing phenomenon in the United States, we thought it would be interesting to touch down in the real world with a giving circle that has newly arrived on the scene: Waterbury, Connecticut’s Inaugural Women’s Giving Circle. 

This new giving circle formed in 2017 and is housed at the Connecticut Community Foundation, a foundation serving 21 towns in the Waterbury/Litchfield area. For its first year of grantmaking, it gave out $34,000 in grants to seven community groups working to empower women and girls.

“It’s a thrill to award the first grants from the Women’s Giving Circle—made possible by the generosity of nearly 90 women in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills!” said Kathy Bower of Southbury, chair of the Women’s Giving Circle, in a recent press release on the grants. “We are energized and activated, and are driven to make lives better for women and girls and uplift local communities in the process. Our hearts and doors are open to welcoming more people into the Women’s Giving Circle and building on the momentum—and impact—of our first year.”

Women’s giving circles, new and growing ones like the Waterbury Women’s Giving Circle, and more established ones like Dining for Women, are bringing more women into the first-hand practice of grantmaking. This new giving circle in Connecticut requires an annual contribution of at least $500, and entitles you to participate in activities and events, and also to cast your vote at the annual meeting to determine how the circle’s funds will be given out in grants. You can join with the $500 on your own, or bring together friends to share in the $500 fee. Either way, the $500 membership means you will have one vote in the grantmaking process.

How This New Giving Circle Fits into the Connecticut Philanthropy Landscape

According to a report in HartfordBusiness.com, Connecticut saw a decline in the number of foundations and individuals making charitable donations and grants in 2015. Despite this, however, giving for the year increased by 11% (about $500 million) that year. The bulk of 2015 increase reportedly came from bequests, which increased from $90 million to $330 million that year. In 2014, giving declined by 3.2%.

Like in many states, Connecticut philanthropy professionals are concerned that the Trump Tax (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) will deter giving, since it takes away the itemized deduction from those who formerly met the threshold at $12,000. By moving the threshold for taking the charitable deduction up to $24,000 per household, many philanthropy analysts are predicting that the loss of itemization could reduce the tax income subsidy for giving by 33% and shave off millions, if not billions, of philanthropy dollars in the process.

Despite uncertainty in giving trends, for women in the Waterbury and Litchfield communities, the desire to give collectively has turned into a significant amount of grantmaking at the grassroots. These grants are going to funding-starved community efforts to help women and girls develop into healthy members of society.

Check out the grantees to see how these giving circle dollars will enhance the lives of women and girls in greater Waterbury and Litchfield:

Butterflies with Voices was awarded $4,000 to support mentoring and leadership skills and personal empowerment workshops and activities for girls in Waterbury.

Naugatuck Valley Community College Foundation in Waterbury was awarded $10,000 to enhance the college experience and improve retention leading to graduation for a select group of women who, despite overwhelming challenges, demonstrate resilience and tenacity in furthering their education.

Pratt Nature Center in New Milford was awarded $1,980 to empower girls and women through nature based activities.

Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury was awarded $1,250 to support a 22-week small group prevention and treatment self-esteem enhancement program for girls 8-18 years-old. They will build life skills, connect to resources and develop positive relationships with peers and adults. A second grant for $3,250 was awarded to Safe Haven to support crisis services for survivors of sexual assault, including providing women and girls with opportunities to attend alternative therapy programs (yoga, salt caves and music and art).

Save Girls on F.Y.E.R. in Waterbury was awarded $4,000 to support the social-emotional and physical health of Waterbury Public School students via afterschool programs.

Waterbury Youth Services was awarded a $7,357 grant to support an afterschool club for 14 high school girls based on the nationally acclaimed Girls Who Code program. Girls will learn computer software coding in a fun and supportive environment.

Woodbury Public Library earned a $2,000 grant to help girls in grades 6-12 learn to code in a safe and supportive environment of peers and role models and learn to see themselves as computer scientists. The program is also based on the national Girls Who Code model.

FYI: I feel a personal affinity with Waterbury, since it was the city that my mother grew up in and a place where I have happy memories from my own childhood, going to visit my grandparents there. Congratulations to the new Women’s Giving Circle, and here’s to many years of growth.

To learn more about the Women’s Giving Circle at Connecticut Community Foundation, visit www.conncf.org/womens-giving.

Related:

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Measure and Inspire: How a New Tool Tracks Women, Peace, and Security

The new global Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index tracks the number of missing girls in the world, showing that China and India have the highest numbers of missing girls.

“I firmly believe that data not only measure progress but inspire it,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton recently, referring to the potential uses for the inaugural Women, Peace and Security Index, a new tool for measuring the role of women in making progress on global peace and security. Clinton recognized “the work that remains to confront the violence, injustice, and exclusion that still hold back too many women and girls around the world,” but she believes this new global index on women, peace and security will help “to inform public debate and discussion and hold decision-makers to account.”

With our current GOP administration, the threat of war has increased substantially. Now, perhaps more than ever, the role that women play in achieving sustainable peace needs to be recognized. The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index, created and introduced by Georgetown University Institute for Women, Peace, and Security and The Peace Research Institute Oslo, is a significant tool for helping women get a foothold on the climb to greater influence in global peace and security.

The index ranks 153 countries (98% of the world’s population) on three dimensions of well-being: inclusion, justice, and security. The index is based on a shared vision that countries are more secure and economically successful when women have equal rights, and public efforts are made to accelerate progress toward equal opportunity for women.  Such a shared vision has been a long time in the making. “It has taken 17 years from the adoption of the first resolution on women, peace and security for this index to become a reality,” said Børge Brende, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Much has been said about justice, security, and inclusion being interlinked, but only now have the data been put together that show us how.”

Brende referenced the fact that women are often the first to be impacted by war, and added that the Women, Peace, and Security Index “has the potential to sensitize us to dangerous situations and could ultimately contribute to conflict prevention efforts.” Ultimately, the participation of women in peace and security policy, and the promotion of gender equality, are key drivers of security both within and between states.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, linked the importance of this new index to the sustainable development goals. “As the world works to realize the sustainable development goals (SDGs), we will need robust tools to measure progress. I welcome this new global Index—the first gender index to be developed for women’s role in peace and security—as a mechanism to assess countries’ progress against the SDGs, thus creating inclusive, just, and peaceful societies for all.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, recognized how the new index is part of a “global gender equality compact” that holds great promise for transforming the lives of women and girls. “Like any promise, it needs to be kept—and that means we need to track progress.”

How Does WPS Index Track?

The new WPS Index fills a gap in the gender equality research on conflict monitoring, analyzing the fragility of states, and estimating political instability, along with including several other indicators created by other research hubs.It is guided by the confirmed correlation between the treatment of women at all levels of society and the degree to which any given society can maintain peace. If a state uses violence to resolve disputes, justifies its abuse of women’s rights, has low levels of women in the workforce, and a preference for the birth of sons, chances are that society is also not able to maintain peace and may be ripe for war.

So What Does the WPS Index Tell Us?  

The big leaders in terms of gender equality related to peace and security are Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The U.S. ranked 22nd, doing well in marks for inclusion in finances, employment, and cell phone use, as well as justice indicators such as the number of men who believe it is unacceptable for women to work. The U.S. has high rates of intimate partner violence, though, with rates that are 10 percentage points above the mean for developed countries.

Who are the Funders for the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS)?

Bank of America Foundation recently made a $1 million dollar grant to be shared between GIWPS and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative. The Compton Foundation provided a $100,000 grant to GIWPS in 2018. (If you want to get a picture of a whole slew of funding going toward peace and security, take a look at the Compton Foundation’s giving overall.) Other funders include Ford Foundation and the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

United States Began Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Act in 2018

Related to this index, the United States has been slowly moving forward in recognizing the role that women must play in building global security, with 2017 being a breakthrough year in U.S. policymaking on the subject. In 2017, Congress passed the Women, Peace, and Security Act, a piece of legislation that evolved from 2011 to 2017 under the Obama Administration, in order to recognize that women’s participation in the field of peace and security is more than just a matter of parity — it’s a matter of global security.

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How Sexist is Your State? A New Study Breaks Down the Data

A new study from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago breaks down sexism state by state.

Just how sexist is the state you live in? As it turns out, we live in a relatively low-sexism state, Rhode Island, whereas states like Utah, Arkansas, and Alabama have some of the highest rates of “mean overall sexism,” as reported in a new study from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago.

The title of the paper is “The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination,” which boils down to these findings:

  • The paper explains that sexist beliefs, especially those embedded early in life, have a significant impact on a woman’s ability to earn and to move  up the social class ladder.
  • Both sexism in your birth state and in the state you live currently impact your wages and likelihood of having a job if you are a woman. Background sexism, the type of sexism a woman experiences as a girl, impact a woman’s outcomes “even after she is an adult living in another place through the influence of norms that she internalized during her formative years.”
  • Residential sexism, the sexism a woman experiences where she currently lives, impacts wages and job opportunities, due to male-dominated markets practicing discrimination.
  • Prejudice-based discrimination, founded on prevailing sexist beliefs and cultural norms that vary across states, drive lower wages and less job opportunities for women.

This study is helpful to have handy in case anyone tries to make the argument that the playing field is level for women in the United States.  In fact, the playing field is full of major pits and grooves and is still giving men a decided advantage in the job markets. We have a long way to go before we are anywhere near leveling the playing field for women.

Who is funding the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago and helpful research like this? According to the 2016-2017 Annual report for the Institute, their funders include individual donors as well as family and private foundations. Here are some of the funding heavy-hitters to the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics:

 $1 million + Donors:

CME Group Foundation

The Education Endowment Foundation

Mr. Andrew M. Rosenfield and Mrs. Betsy B. Rosenfield

Mr. Donald R. Wilson, Jr.

$500,000 + Donors:

Mr. David Booth

Fidelity Investments

Mr. Belton M. Fleisher & Ms. Elizabeth S. Fleisher

Charles Koch Foundation

Mr. Jeremy J. Siegel & Mrs. Ellen Schwartz

Mr. Rex A. Sinquefield & Dr. Jeanne C. Sinquefield

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

$100,000 + Donors: 

Dr. Edward R. Allen and Dr. Chinhui Juhn

Mr. Bernard J. DelGiorno

Mr. Philip M. Friedmann & Ms. Regan Rohde

Mr. Claudio L. S. Haddad & Mrs. Rosalie Rahal Haddad

Mr. Roy Kapani & Mrs. Manisha D. Kapani

The Kilts Family Foundation

Mr. Stephen R. & Ms. Lisa S. Rigsbee

Mr. Richard O. Ryan

Thomas W. Smith Foundation

Mrs. Marr Gwen Chapman Townsend & Mr. Stuart B. Townsend

Full List of donors is here. 

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Big Research News: Women in Government Root Out Corruption

The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization published new research in July of 2018 which furthers the argument that women have a significant impact on the quality of political leadership.

We’ve made the point here before, but we’ll make it again: the research is looking quite promising for supporting the idea that women make better political leaders.  Some new findings recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization could become a big deal in today’s gendered political world, and could have huge implications for the future of civil society.

Related:  Top 10 Happenings in Feminist Philanthropy for Mid-Summer 2018

The research discovers that when women are more plentiful in the government body, that body tends to be less susceptible to corruption. Women donors would do well to invest in funding more social science research on this finding. With evidence that women are less likely to take bribes and more likely to support efforts for fair competition for contracts, this is big news for movements for gender equality in governments worldwide. More on this from Science Daily: 

Study Finds Less Corruption in Countries Where More Women Are in Government

14 June 2018 – A greater representation of women in the government is bad news for corruption, according to a new study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization by researchers Chandan Jha of Le Moyne College and Sudipta Sarangi of Virginia Tech.

In a cross-country analysis of over 125 countries, this study finds that corruption is lower in countries where a greater share of parliamentarians are women. The study further finds that women’s representation in local politics is important, too – the likelihood of having to bribe is lower in regions with a greater representation of women in local-level politics in Europe.

“This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government,” said Sarangi, an economics professor and department head at Virginia Tech. “This is especially important in light of the fact that women remain underrepresented in politics in most countries including the United States.”

Less than a quarter of the members of the U.S. Senate are women and only 19 percent of the women in the U.S. House of Representatives are women. It is also noteworthy that the United Stated never had a women head or president.

The authors speculate that women policymakers are able to have an impact on corruption because they choose different policies from men. An extensive body of prior research shows that women politicians choose policies that are more closely related to the welfare of women, children, and family.

[…]The authors maintain that while the gender-corruption relationship has been studied before, the previous studies suffered from the critique that the relationship between women’s representation in government and corruption was not shown to be causal.

Jha and Sarangi’s research is the most comprehensive study on this topic and looks at the implications of the presence of women in other occupations as well including the shares of women in the labor force, clerical positions, and decision making positions such as the CEOs and other managerial positions. The study finds that women’s presence in these occupations is not significantly associated with corruption, suggesting that it is the policymaking role through which women are able to have an impact on corruption.

 […] The policy implications of the study point towards the need for promoting gender equality in general and promoting the presence of women in politics in particular. Previous research has established that a greater presence of women in government is associated with better education and health outcomes. 

If I were able to give out funding, I would want to follow up on this research and make a very big deal out of it.

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Male Feminist Scholar Resigns Over Allegations

Michael Kimmel on May 22, 2018, speaking as part of a panel about workplace culture sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network and other conference partners.

Here’s some disturbing news: a male academic who appeared to be a strong ally of feminism, Michael Kimmel, is facing serious charges of sexual exploitation and other inappropriate behavior.

It’s always extra disturbing when this happens with someone who is considered an ally of feminism, so be prepared to have a full range of emotional reactions to this story.

As you sort through your anger, sadness, confusion, and feelings of betrayal, don’t forget to recognize how this is also a positive story about how women are speaking up and changing the game. Exposing these problems will help prevent future abuse and exploitation, particularly in academia. With the number of women in leadership increasing toward critical mass in different professional sectors, we may hear a lot more reports coming out like those about Michael Kimmel.

Here is a brief summary of the situation with Michael Kimmel from The Guardian:

An eminent sociologist and high profile women’s rights campaigner has stepped down indefinitely from the board of a gender equality group following allegations of sexual harassment.

Michael Kimmel, distinguished professor of sociology at Stony Brook University in New York, has resigned from the board of Promundo, an initiative that promotes gender justice by engaging men and boys.

Kimmel, a vocal advocate for women’s rights and author of books including Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, also offered to defer the acceptance of a sociology award. He was due to receive the prestigious Jessie Bernard award from the American Sociological Association in recognition of his contribution to women’s equality studies. On Wednesday, ASA’s council voted unanimously to suspend delivery of the award.

According to sociologist Philip N. Cohen, they gave Michael Kimmel the award after all.

Also related, Michael Kimmel was recently on a panel at the Women Funding Network’s Summit in May, apparently before he knew about the firestorm that was about to descend on him. Kimmel and others on the panel spoke about workplace culture and how to address gender equality in the workplace (oh, the irony.) Here is the video. 

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Potluck Power: How This Women’s Giving Circle Feeds Global Gender Equity

Photo from a 2018 trip to Rwanda for Dining for Women Members to learn about grantees.

Sharing food: one of the ultimate human communing experiences. Now imagine sharing food with a group of generous women who, like you, want to make every dollar they give to charity count toward helping women and girls and addressing gender equality in developing countries.

Welcome to Dining for Women (DFW), a global giving circle dedicated to funding social change for women and girls.  At monthly potluck dinners, members come together and discuss today’s issues impacting women and girls, particularly the organizations being funded that month, and in the process, these 8,000-plus women raise more than a million dollars annually to fight for gender equity. Dining for Women was founded in 2003, and many chapters have already had 10 or even 15 year anniversaries.

“Global citizens,” is how Dining for Women President Beth Ellen Holimon describes the women who participate in the growing movement. “Through member education, grantmaking and advocacy, DFW builds community here in the U.S.,” said Holimon, but that’s only the beginning of their positive impact.

Each DFW meeting helps to raise awareness about how women and girls are experiencing life worldwide, with presentations and information about organizations currently being funded. As they share a meal, members also share camaraderie and open discussion. Big issues now being funded by Dining for Women include helping Syrian refugee women find employment in Jordan and joining UNICEF’s effort to end gender-based violence in South Sudan.

One of the features that got me wanting to know more DFW was the organization’s attention to social policy and advocacy. On June 1 of this year, Betsy Dunklin, Chair of Dining for Women’s Advocacy Committee, sounded the alarm bells in a post about devastating cuts to International Aid proposed in the U.S Government’s 2019 budget. “The Administration has proposed a more than 30% cut to the International Affairs (IA) budget for FY2019,” she wrote. “Dining for Women opposes cuts to the US foreign aid budget because they disproportionately affect women and girls, who already suffer the most from global poverty, inequality, and humanitarian crises. Many of the proposed cuts fall most heavily on gender equality programs.” DFW’s advocacy position on these cuts is fully explained in Raise Your Voices for Women and Girls, DFW’s advocacy guide.

In her call to action, Dunklin also helped members understand the added impact of their advocacy by providing the context in which DFW operates as a member of the US Global Leadership Coalition — a 500 member nonprofit and business coalition. “We have the power as US citizens living in a democracy to stand up for women and girls around the world,” she wrote.

Doubling Down: How Some Organizations Become Sustained Grantees

Another way that Dining for Women amplifies the work they do is by choosing certain organizations formerly funded as a featured grantee for sustained funding. Starting in 2012, DFW began making two- and three-year grants totaling $40,000 — 60,000  to organizations chosen by a Grant Selection Committee. Grantees who have demonstrated significant progress toward achieving grant goals are eligible to become sustained grantees. Organizations such as Girl Determined in Myanmar and the Nepal Youth Foundation are able to get help to achieve specific goals, such as in Nepal, where Napal Youth Foundation is helping to eradicate  “Kamlari,” the traditionally-accepted practice of selling young girls into servitude.

The Impact, Globally and Locally

In January of 2018, DFW Chair Susan Stall shared the latest 2017 stats on impact with members in the newsletter. “Thanks to your record-breaking donations, in 2017 we were able to fund grants and partnerships that directly impacted the lives of nearly 40,000 women and girls in 18 countries around the world,” she wrote.

In the still-small-but-growing world of gender equality philanthropy, that is a significant impact. Imagine if DFW’s membership went from 8,000 to 80,000 — and 400,000 women and girls were reached. Then we might really see the way that gender equality can shift economies and cultures in a positive way.

What It’s All About: Feeding Ourselves, Feeding the World

In case all of this isn’t enough, there are also the DFW recipes — a wide-ranging collection of favorite dishes from all over the world like Bolivia, Guatemala, Myanmar, and Chad. Joining DFW might also mean you get to try out new foods and recognize how different cultures provide nourishment in amazing and creative ways.

Another big plus: in joining DFW, you don’t have to worry about the level of your financial commitment. There is no pledge or yearly minimum. Members pay what they can, with the hope that as they get more supported by and investing in the group, their donation will organically grow.

“As we share food, we share something of ourselves and we honor each other.” So begins the Dining for Women Affirmation that women say collectively when they come together. The affirmation also recognizes the added burden that women experience as the main food providers in much of the world. If you’re one of the main family cooks like me, you probably suffer periodic episodes of cooking burnout. But the benefits of feeding others ultimately seem to outweigh the burdens, particularly for longtime members of DFW who continue to feel inspired and supported in their efforts to value and improve the lives of women and girls.

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Ms. Foundation Shifts Strategic Course Toward Women of Color

The Ms. Foundation’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan targets low-income women, many of whom are women of color. (Photo Credit: Ms. Foundation Strategic Plan, Building Power: Advancing Democracy)

The nation’s oldest public women’s foundation recently announced that it will steer in a new direction over the next five years — toward growing its commitment to low-income women and women of color by more than $25 million.

In addition, the Ms. Foundation will form its first-ever political fund, which will support the legislative agenda for women and girls both nationally and locally.

With Teresa C. Younger at the helm, the  Ms. Foundation for Women is joining other big funders in the feminist philanthropy space, including the NoVo Foundation and Prosperity Together (the national coalition of women’s funds focused on low-income women and women of color) in making economic, social and cultural equality for women and girls of color a central feature of its strategic plan. “Women of color are a political force to be reckoned with,” said Younger, in a press release announcing the new strategic plan. “In 2018, we delivered unprecedented electoral wins in Alabama, Georgia, and New York — yet we are sorely underrepresented in philanthropic investment, with only 2% of that spending going to women and girls of color.”

The Ms. Foundation’s announcement comes at a time when women’s rights and equality are under new threat from regressive local and national political movements. The new grants from the Ms. Foundation will provide both financial support and capacity-building and strategic support. Another important feature of this new strategic plan will be its first-ever formation of a 501(c)(4) fund specifically designed to amplify political movements. “It’s time that we champion and do all we can to ensure that women and girls of color are in power, at the tables of power and are supported as movement leaders,” said Younger.

One more thing this new feminist philanthropy strategic plan will emphasize: relationships, of course! “In response to the fragmented state of the women’s movement and promising new practices that are evolving, our Ms. Foundation for Women team will pilot cross-movement, cross-sector, and cross-generational strategies that can amass a much larger base of supporters and hold diverse social movements accountable for advancing a gender and racial equity agenda,” explains the Ms. Foundation’s strategic plan,  Building Power: Advancing Democracy.

As is often the case in feminist philanthropy, this new strategic plan is  about the relationships and building power among the grassroots. For more information, please visit the Ms. Foundation’s website here. 

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Why Feminist Philanthropy? For All the Relationship Reasons

Gender Equality Research Round-Up: AI, BlackHer, Wikipedia, Sleep

Feminist philanthropy is based on a growing body of knowledge demonstrating how gender equality improves civil society. This research is branching out in new directions all the time, studying and identifying ways that gender equality impacts every level of social functioning, from intimacy to politics to technology. I’ve rounded up just a few examples of the latest research that backs up the claim that a feminist world is a potentially healthier world for everyone.

  1. Both Men and Women Sleep Better in More Equal Societies: A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family confirms that one of the most fundamental building blocks to health and well-being, sleep, is facilitated better in societies with less sexism. When we sleep better, we function better overall, making this study another important example of the deep health and well-being pay-offs that gender equality brings to the table.
  2. BlackHer helps Track the Candidates and Provides Support: A new platform is helping to get the word out about Black women running for office in 2018, and is also a hub for research and advocacy for a more representative democracy. One of the great benefits of the internet is its ability to inform the voting public. This website is a great new place to gather information and help get more progressive Black women elected.
  3. Study: Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used to Promote Gender Equality: It’s true: the tech bots can be on our side in the battle for more equality and less sexism in society. Coming out of Ireland, this article is part of a three-part series that looks at how “AI can help employers promote gender equality, including gender pay gap reporting, encouraging gender diversity and fostering collaborative workplaces.”
  4. Kathleen Loehr’s New Book, Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy: If you’re a feminist philanthropy newshound like me, you might want to pre-order this one. Kathleen Loehr, a longtime consultant and expert in the realm of women’s philanthropy, is coming out with a new book that promises to identify the specific changes that organizations, teams, and individuals in philanthropy need to make in order to increase support for women.  This will be a must-read for fundraisers in the feminist philanthropy realm who want to understand how to get their message across and help donors do more gender equality work.
  5. Feminist Philanthropy of a Different Sort: Donating Your Research and Writing to Wikipedia: I’m always intrigued when women (and men!) find new ways to give of their time and talent for the cause of gender equality. Jess Wade, a physicist living in London, challenged herself to write one Wikipedia biography a day on the undiscovered world of star female scientists. As of 2016, only 17% of Wikipedia entries cover women. Wade decided to use her passion for diversity in the sciences to provide more knowledge to the world free of charge and on her own time, setting a powerful example for all of us on how we can each do our part to build a world where women are seen and recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. Bravo, Jess Wade!

Related:

Why Feminist Philanthropy? For All the Relationship Reasons

Difficult, Disturbing Times at Oxfam, but Gender Equality Mission Endures

Top 10 Happenings in Feminist Philanthropy for Mid-Summer 2018

WFN Summit Explores What it Will Take to Get More Women Into Office

Women’s Funding Network recently hosted a summit in New York, bringing together thought leadership to grow the movement for women’s equality.

Feminist leader and journalist Marianne Schnall’s eight-year-old daughter had a striking question after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Why have we not had a woman president?

The question wouldn’t go away for Schnall, and soon she found herself bringing it up to thought leaders and scholars, trying to figure out what it would take to put a woman in the highest governmental office in America.

One thing Schnall realized in this process was the need for stronger coalition-building across progressive movements. “This isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. It’s an issue of having a reflective democracy, and that’s why we need to have men be part of these conversations,” said Schnall.

Marianne Schnall, Founder of Feminist.com, introduces the panelists.

Schnall went on to talk about how “Right now, we’re in this moment we’re realizing that we need women for their voices and their visions,” but she also stressed the need for stronger alliances with men as a critical factor in what it will take to get a woman elected as President, and to bring more women into political leadership in general.

Susannah Wellford on Why She Doesn’t Believe the Hype

“There is all this hype that this is the year of the woman, and we are really going to be able to change things now, and for two reasons that I’ll tell you, I don’t feel very hopeful about it,” said Susannah Wellford, Founder of Running Start, a nonprofit organization that educates young women and girls about running for office.

Susannah Wellford, Founder of Running Start

Wellford referenced the 2008 election as a time when there was a big surge of interest in Running Start’s programs to help high schoolers and others learn about running for office. More recently in the run-up to the 2016 election, Wellford said there was not this level of enthusiasm about women joining the legislative bodies of our country. “It didn’t happen,” said Wellford.

Wellford’s second reason for concern about the success of this year’s women running for office relates to the huge advantages enjoyed by incumbents in our election process. “We would be wise to do more to change that system,” said Wellford.

She also spoke about the critical need for women’s equality to become a more gender neutral cause.  “We have to make a good, strong, persuasive argument that this is not just about being fair to women….it’s really about creating a stronger, better society for everyone.”

Peeler-Allen Stresses the Need for More Inclusion

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, Founder of Higher Heights

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, Founder of Higher Heights, talked about how to bring in more intersections when building the pipeline for political leaders. “I run higher heights, harnessing the power of black women to run for public office. When we’re talking about inclusion and talking about more inclusion of women, it often has two W’s — white women. It’s incumbent on all of us who are very aware of this to include ALL women. Make sure those voices are at the table, because often they are not.”

Neuwirth on the Future of ERA and Beyond

Jessica Neuwirth, Co-founder of Equality Now and President of the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition, talked about the Equal Rights Amendment and the ongoing strategy to pass a national bill in the United States protecting women’s rights. A lot of people under a certain age have no idea what the ERA is, said Neuwirth.”ERA was passed in 1972 by congress, but 10 years later, we still did not have enough states to ratify it. We had 35 states and needed 38. In 1982, when it still wasn’t ratified, it sort of fell off the radar screen.”

Jessica Neuwirth, Co-founder of Equality and President of the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition,

But Neuwirth said that there has been a recent resurgence in people wanting the ERA to pass. “It shouldn’t be that hard.” There are always men in the movement for ERA, but a lot has changed since the 70’s that should make it easier, not to mention the wave of #MeToo that has just come up recently.” Neuwirth talked about the critical role that legislators like Carolyn Maloney have played in continuing the fight to keep ERA on the table and ready for passage.

Neuwirth shared that there is also another strategy being attempted to pass ERA, which would involve removing the deadline on the legislation. In the meantime, work has gone forward with getting three more states to ratify ERA. “Nevada recently just ratified the ERA. Illinois is now considering it.” If Illinois ratifies the ERA, Neuwirth explained that that would mean only one more state needs to ratify it to get it passed.

Most constitutions already have prohib against sex discrimination,” said Neuwirth then talked about new legislation being floated to broaden the definitions of racial and gender and equality. The new legislation “defines sex very broadly to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and  defines race very broadly and includes other forms of discrimination.”

“Why should men care about gender equality movements?” asked Neuwirth. “Inequality is bad for everyone, and equality is good for everyone, and there are so many studies that show that,” said Neuwirth.

Katz: “He’s not just a white man. He’s an aggressive bully white man.”

Jackson Katz, Author of Man Enough and Macho Paradox, wanted to add a few points about the 2016 election to the conversation. “So often Trump’s ascendancy is linked to race, but what gets short shrift is that it’s about white male resentment, and it’s a white male identity movement.”

Cultural recognition is what white men want and need, argued Katz, and Republicans have figured out how to work this fact in their favor. Katz argued that since Nixon, the Republican party has been successfully exploiting the cultural need of white males for respect, and getting white men to vote against their own economic interests in the process.

Jackson Katz, Author of Man Enough and Macho Paradox

Katz discussed how Donald Trump works this political lever in extreme ways. “He’s not just a white man. He’s an aggressive bully white man. […] His masculinity is a central feature of his personality. His bully personality is a central feature of his political success.”

Katz described how, in the Republican debates, Trump attacked the other candidates’ masculinity, signaling to voters that he is the “real man” that no one can stand up to. “It works fabulously,” said Katz.

Katz noted that in conversations about which voters, demographically,  elected Trump, attention is often quickly drawn to his support from white women “What about white women?” said Katz, is often the first question. But much more significant to Trump’s win, said Katz, was his domination of his base of working class white male voters, a demographic where Trump won  72% of the vote.

Katz also pointed out that Hillary Clinton did win  the vote with college-educated white women. “White women had been voting Republican for decades,” said Katz.  “Hillary Clinton was not successful at bringing enough of them back [to the Democratic party],” said Katz, but she still brought in 2% more votes from white women with a college education than any other Democratic presidential candidate. “There  is a class gap among white women,” said Katz.

Katz went on to describe how he and other progressive male thought leaders are looking for ways to engage more men in gender equality work. “You have to speak to those white men,” he said.  Katz argued that men don’t get approached enough to have conversations on where they stand on gender equality.

Marianne Schnall closed by noting that the stakes in this election are high, and encouraging everyone to check out websites from the panel, including Whatwillittake.com which has more information about electing women. “One of the most important things we can do is vote,” said Schnall.

Related:

Praising the Deeds of Women: How Gender Equity and Reconciliation Can Change the World

Ecofeminism to the Rescue: Mary Robinson Launches New Podcast

Carnegie Endowment Identifies How to Increase Women in U.S. Politics