As we reported both in October and December of 2023, the good work of the Fearless Fund has come under attack from right-wing extremists. The American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER) which is led by anti-affirmative activist Edward Blum, is the same conservative organization that convinced the Supreme Court to reject affirmative action criteria for college admissions in June 2023.
Since the Supreme Court decision, AAER has expanded its scope to target seemingly all efforts to promote social justice and equity. The Fearless Fund is a venture capital fund that provides pre-seed, seed-level, or Series A financing to businesses led by women of color. As their website states, “Our mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth aggressive companies.”
The AAER claims that only allowing women of color to apply for the grants is discrimination.
After some delay, the cause of the Fearless Fund is being taken up by national media. Since the court actions against the Fearless Fund are taking place in Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the paper of record for that city has been following the story since summer of 2023.
The AAER and like-minded organizations are attacking not only organizations that provide funding to underserved communities. Since the Fearless Fund suit, a number of similar lawsuits have sprung up across the country. Many of these legal actions target Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs implemented by numerous corporations. AAER believes that corporations do not have the right to educate employees. Apparently, AAER and the rest have forgotten that corporations are people, too, and people have the right to free speech.
“They’re trying to shut everybody down, but using us,” Fearless Fund’s co-founder Arian Simone said in her new podcast that launched last week. “They are trying to stop all diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s an attack on that.”
In the past few weeks, the story has been picked up by Newseek and CNN. Links to their stories are provided below.
Link to Newsweek Story: https://time.com/6554929/fearless-fund-lawsuit-arian-simone-ayana-parsons-interview/
Link to CNN Story:
Link to story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Fearless Fund Story, Philanthropy Women 12/19/23
Fearless Fund Story, Philanthropy Women 10/30/23
One: Inspire Access Launches Platform to Flow Philanthropic Capital to Businesses Led by Women and People of Color
Inspire Access announced the launch of a new platform that facilitates the use of philanthropic capital to fund companies led by women and people of color. Inspire Access is a pioneer in investing that focuses on this realm of underrepresented founders, narrowing the gender and racial investment gap,
Inspire Access seeks to reform the traditional funding model by activating the $234 billion in charitable dollars currently sitting unallocated in donor advised funds (DAFs), and then use this inactive money to invest in companies that have historically lacked access to investment capital.
By using the platform provided by Inspire Access, individuals can direct charitable dollars from their DAFs or from tax-deductible donations into ventures led by women and minority founders who are shaping the next generation of change-making companies, while also gaining returns for future giving.
“Today, less than 3% of investment capital goes to women and people of color, which is a startling statistic,” remarks Patrice King Brickman, founder and CEO of Inspire Access. “By restricting financial access to this group of remarkable leaders, we lose the potential for powerful new companies that are solving problems in creative and effective ways. At Inspire Access, we are passionate about mobilizing the $234B mountain of unallocated capital to move the needle on the disproportionate flow of investment capital that currently exists in order to close the gender and racial investment gap.”
HOW INSPIRE ACCESS WORKS
- Make a charitable contribution to Inspire Access from personal funds, DAFs, or private foundations.
- Recommend the investment you want Inspire Access to make in an underrepresented founder through a working capital loan, a direct equity investment, or limited partnership position in a private equity fund.
- Any financial returns go back to your charitable account, to fuel future giving or can be reinvested to continue working to close the investment gap.
Inspire Access has already invested in a roster of the next generation of legendary companies and aims to expand funded organizations throughout 2024.
ABOUT INSPIRE ACCESS
Inspire Access seeks to close the gender and racial investment gap by investing philanthropic dollars to fund companies led by female and diverse founders who have historically lacked investment capital. Inspire Access allows individuals to use funds sitting in their Donor Advised Fund (DAFs) to direct investments in for-profit companies of their choosing, with the return flowing back to those personal charitable entities to make an even greater impact.
For the full Press Release:
To reach the website:
Two: Athletes Unlimited Expands Advisory Board with Leading Women in Media, Advocacy, and Business
At a time when it seems opportunities for women are shrinking, one organization has followed through on a commitment to raising women into positions of leadership.
Athletes Unlimited (AU) announced a full slate of women as the newest members of its advisory board:
Deena Bahri was StockX’s first-ever chief marketing and was named to the Forbes CMO Next List in 2021 which recognizes 50 innovative marketers who transformed business amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Beth Brooke, the Former Global Vice-Chair, EY, has been named eleven times to Forbes “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” (MPW) list, and is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Molly Levinson, Chief Executive Officer of The Levinson Group Levinson. She was one of the strategic architects of the historic U.S Women’s National Team players’ equal pay effort.
Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code and Moms First. During her tenure at Girls Who Code, 300,000 through in-person computer science education programming.
Pam Wasserstein is the President of Vox Media, where she oversees all editorial brands and content creation. She received a 2018 Spirit of ABNY Award recognizing distinguished service to New York City, and was named to Crain’s New York’s 40 Under 40 class of 2017.
Danielle Weisberg & Carly Zakin collaborated in 2012 to create theSkimm, a daily newsletter aimed at sparking the interest of millennials who often avoid traditional news sources. Since launching, the Skimm has grown to 250 staffers and 7 million subscribers.
Athletes Unlimited believes the traditional model of pro sports is not built to bring out the best in athletes, or to deliver the most to its fans. So it developed a new paradigm for pro athletes and sports – and for everyone.
AU is using this innovative player-centric model to create leagues across sports. Since we launched Athletes Unlimited on March 3, 2020, we’ve seen success in our women’s professional softball, volleyball, basketball and lacrosse leagues, and we have more exciting ventures on the horizon.
Here is a link to the full article:
Three: NYC Mayor Adams Unveils $43 Plan to Lead on Gender Equity
New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced, “Women Forward NYC: An Action Plan for Gender Equity.” This is an investment of more than $43 directed towards making New York City a national leader on gender equity, including for transgender and gender expansive New Yorkers, with the ambitious goal of becoming the most women-forward city in the United States.
The program will combine municipal funding with private donations, private and public partnerships, academic institutions, and federal grant funding. The plan’s strategy is to connect women to professional development, the goal to reduce existing gender disparities between men and women. It will also work to reduce barriers to sexual, reproductive, and chronic health care, as well as diminish gender-based violence against women. The program will operate with a holistic approach, including housing services, that will also serve formerly incarcerated women and survivors of domestic and gender-based violence.
The need for programs like this remains acute. Nationwide, women across the country are still facing systemic, gender-based inequities. In New York State, women are paid 86 cents for every dollar a man is paid — 64 cents for Black women and 57 cents for Hispanic women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 250,000 mothers left or downshifted their jobs in New York City due to lack of access to quality child care. Black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Finally, 75 percent of women in New York City reported being harassed during their daily commutes in 2018.
The one-stop shop website women.nyc, has been re-launched andis available to New Yorkers to learn more about the action plan and access city services to support women and families. The action plan was announced, as part of Mayor Adams’ State of the City address. The action plan builds on the Adams administration’s record of investments and policies that uplift and support women across New York City.
For a much longer and more detailed description of the plan, please use this link:
Four: Leading Femtech Company Partners to Provide Better Prenatal Care
Sonio today announced that Pediatrix Medical Group, the U.S.’s leading provider of highly specialized health care for women, children and babies, has deployed Sonio, a cloud-based, AI-powered prenatal care reporting and image management solution. This new technology is intended to simplify and streamline ultrasound workflow, while enhancing quality assurance and clinical outcomes, resulting in an improved experience for both patients and providers.
Women comprise 50% of the team and 65% of the board.
This new technology works to simplify and streamline the ultrasound process. It also enhances quality assurance and clinical outcomes, resulting in an improved experience for both patients and providers.
“We are excited to work with Sonio,” said Dr. Alan Fishman, Pediatrix Specialty Medical Officer for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM). “Pediatrix has long been committed to accelerating health care innovation. We’re proud to be the first MFM practice in the United States to implement Sonio’s fully integrated solution.”
Birth defects occur in approximately 3% of babies born in the US. In almost half of these cases, the issues had not been detected during the ultrasound. Sonio’s mission is to improve maternal and children’s health through access to quality care, technological innovation, and medical expertise.
The use of AI enhancements reduce workflow challenges and enable seamless integration with electronic health records (EHR), picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), while providing AI-enabled viewing and reporting.
As a company, Sonio’s goal is to support practitioners around the globe in prenatal screenings and diagnosis by ensuring the completeness of their examination with increased accuracy. Sonio Detect, the FDA-cleared AI medical device powering the full platform, enables healthcare professionals to raise the bar on quality control of ultrasound exams while ensuring improved efficiency overall. In real-time, it automatically detects and views anatomical structures within supported views and verifies the quality criteria of the supported views.
Sonio’s AI-enhanced¹ software empowers prenatal sonographers and ultrasound readers and assists them in performing prenatal examinations that meet the highest quality standards, while ensuring the completeness of each examination, streamlining their workflow, and increasing the accuracy of prenatal diagnoses. Sonio’s software is the product of more than five years of research and collaboration between leading experts in the areas of maternal-fetal medicine and AI.
To learn more about Sonio, use the link below:
To read the entire press release, use the link below:
Five: The Status Quo Continues to Stagnate for Women of Color in Venture Capital
The intent here at PW for this week’s entry was to link to a Business Insider article about the lack of Venture Capital (VC) funding available to women. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall.
In an attempt to perhaps find another source with the same information, I conducted a Google search: decline of venture capital for women. The results were extremely disheartening. There were a couple of entries from late 2023 and early 2024, but there were numerous links to articles on the topic. The problem is that the articles referenced date back to early 2023, to 2022, 2021, 2020, and one from 2016. They all pretty much say the same thing, that the percentage of VC allocated to women is in the low–the very low–single digits. The bright spot is the Business Insider article which pegs the percentage at 2.8%, which is actually an improvement to the numbers cited for prior years.
This is a link to a blog/post on Linked-In. The post comes from Michelle McDaid, and Olivia Coates-James added a lengthy comment. In it she stated that the percentage fell below 3% last year, which doesn’t quite square with the other articles. Regardless, low single-digit is paltry, to say the least.
From the Harvard Kennedy School, Woman and Public Policy Program.
The page is not dated, but it doesn’t matter because the conclusions are the same.
One interesting point can be found in one of the subsections labeled “Entrepreneurship Explanation”. These subsections have to be opened by clicking on the down arrow. Here is how entrepreneur explain the low percentage:
“Research shows that women are generally less risk-taking than men, which could be associated with both their lower rates of entrepreneurship and their clustering in less high-growth sectors for their ventures. Research has also documented women’s lower propensity to ask and negotiate in some contexts, but not all. Moreover, women are more pessimistic about fundraising, which is potentially due to investors’ differential treatment of women vs. men”.
In other words, “blame the victim”. But then most entrepreneurs are men.
Finally, here is a link to an article from Fast Company, dated October 2023: What Percentage of VC Funds Goes to Black Women: