Rhode Island has some new funds to work on gender equality. Last Wednesday, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) announced its 2018 grant recipients. This year, the fund was able to provide $50,000 in grants to invest in several local organizations. While WFRI is not as big as some women’s funds in other states, the fund still does important grantmaking to support gender equality advocacy and female leadership development. Thirty-four nonprofits applied for grants this year, all being asked to address one or more of WFRI’s priorities in feminist advocacy.Read More
The NoVo Foundation is one of the largest private foundations to advocate for gender equality and has specifically focused much of its funding on reducing violence against girls and women globally. In their most recent initiative, the Radical Hope Fund, the foundation donated $34 million in grants to 19 different organizations around the world.
The Radical Hope Fund began as a response to the 2016 election. Seeing the increase in attacks on women and girls as well as LGBTQ populations, immigrants, people of color, and refugees, the foundation felt compelled to take action in a new, bolder way. Thus, the Radical Hope Fund was born, initially pledging to donate $20 million to selected grantees, but eventually deciding to deepen that commitment to $34 million.
As Executive Director Pamela Shifman explains, “It’s an experiment — one that seeks to support new collaborations that are imaginative and focused on building the movements we need, not simply what we think is possible right now. Radical Hope aims for transformation rather than solely incremental change.”
Since inception in 2006, the NoVo Foundation has emphasized the way in which systemic change needs to evolve out of the communities affected by the problem. The NoVo Foundation reviewed over 1,000 applications to find the 19 best candidates for this new funding, particularly looking for organizations that are community-based and that bring transformational strategies to the table.
To help the public learn more about this new approach to grantmaking, NoVo also launched the Radical Hope Blog Series. This will allow partners of NoVo’s Radical Hope grantmaking to document their work, share what they have learned, and grow their audiences and support teams.
The 19 grantees NoVo selected all have strong agendas, and many have already accomplished significant work for women. One of these is the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), a grant-making foundation that works to support women and women’s organizations in Africa, moving closer to gender equality in the process. The mission of AWDF is guided by five main values: Respect: A basic respect for human rights of all African women; Diversity: An allegiance to non-discrimination and inclusiveness; Feminist Leadership: A dedication to upholding feminist principles and ethics; Professionalism, Accountability and Stewardship: A commitment to be transparent and prudent in administering funds; and Solidarity and Partnerships: A determination to link with other organizations to effect change.
AWDF’s initiative, the Flourish Project, for which they received $985,090, will strengthen feminist movements across Africa. Over the next three years, the Flourish Project plans to accomplish several goals. These goals include inspiring the next generation to be strong proponents of feminism. The initiative also plans to collaborate with AIR, an African professional network addressing trauma and mental health, to implement a pilot model that will allow stressed African feminist leaders to take leave to reflect and heal. The Flourish Project will also work on making connections between feminist activists and organizations working locally and nationally with the African Feminist Forum.
Another grantee is Masimanyane Women’s Rights International, a social justice organization working on gender equality and rights for women on local, regional, and international levels. This organization has worked for over 20 years to make allies in the movement for gender equality across the globe. Much of their work is focused on decreasing crimes against women and girls, providing support to survivors of violence, and helping women affected by HIV and AIDS.
Masimanyane’s project receiving support from the Radical Hope Fund is called International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls. Novo’s grant will allow this program to continue and grow as it works alongside other organizations to increase awareness and about the problem of violence against women and girls. INEVAWG identifies failing state accountability as a major contributor to violence against women and will work with government systems to help address this failure. The project will also continue advocacy to increase society’s understanding of violence against women and other crucial issues of women’s well-being.
These two organizations, as well as Novo’s other grantee partners for Radical Hope, have done impressive work for women globally. The grantee partners appear to have clear missions and are taking many creative paths leading toward accomplishing those missions. Many of the grantee organizations also have strong connections with other partners and a commitment to core feminist values like diversity and transparency.
While there has been a recent rise in the number of women running for offices across the United States, the journey towards gender equality in politics is not moving fast enough. Statistics shown in a recent paper written by Saskia Brechenmacher, an associate fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program, prove that gender equality in politics is still far from reach, yet many European countries have come significantly closer to this goal. Brechenmacher’s paper provides research about the efforts of such countries and identified moves the United States can make to reach gender equality sooner.
As of right now, women make up 19.3% of the House of Representatives and 21% of the Senate. In several Western European countries, women make up over 30% of their respective parliaments. Lack of equality in any government system leads to a structure that does not reflect its population’s makeup, diminishes the voices of women, and weakens the quality of democracy. In the article, Brechenmacher clarifies that this imbalance is less affected by voter bias and more affected by the small number of female candidates. Female candidates tend to be voted into offices just as often as men, yet they are less likely to run because of four major issues.
Four Issues That Need Addressing to Get Women Representing America
Issue #1: Change America’s single-member voting system. This limits the number of candidates a party can support and shrinks the window for women to enter the political playing field. European countries have adapted systems which allow parties to nominate several candidates, bring a much wider range of people to the ballot. While it is not likely the United States would adopt this same system, 11 U.S. cities use a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system instead. This structure allows voters to select several nominees and rank their choices. For candidates, this system encourages a civil approach to campaigning over huge spending. Because of this, it makes it easier for women and minorities to get their name on the ballot, likely not having the same access to funding and connections as men.
Issue #2: Establish gender quotas like European countries have done. These can either be mandatory by law or established within political parties, the latter being more common in Europe. With gender quotas, European parties have established percentages of their nominees and recruits to be female, thus integrating women from the lowest levels. In the United States and Europe, proposed gender quotas have received huge pushback, but unlike the U.S., Europeans have successfully implemented several at the local and government levels. This has been accomplished by female-led campaigns, the contagion effect, self-image of parties and party elites, publicizing research promoting such quotas, and making allies. In the United States, recruitment and training of female candidates have taken the place of quotas as an effort to combat this issue. The Republican party has established Right Women, Right Now to recruit and train women for state offices and the Republican Congressional Committee launched a short-lived program GROW to shine a light on women running for house seats. The Democratic party has seen significantly more success with this, however, through EMILY’s List, Women Lead, and the Women’s Senate Network. However, the numbers do not compare to those of European parties. Other options suggested by the Carnegie report are to set numerical targets for parties to recruit women, systematically recruit and support female candidates, address misconceptions about biases held against women running for office, and prioritize internal equality within parties.
Issue #3: Deal with the problems of publicly funded elections in the United States. Often, U.S. elections require huge sums of money to get noticed, giving the advantage to wealthy candidates with a recognizable name and connections. Because women have been left out of the world of politics, they immediately face a disadvantage when fundraising and advertising. European countries have taken this into account, making reductions on campaign spending. Some countries have made percentages of government funding to parties based on the parties support for and recruitment of female candidates. EMILY’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund have made it easier for women to receive funding, but more steps could be taken. Financial incentives for support of female candidates, specific funding for open-seat races, and overall shifts in public financing could further level the playing field for women running for office.
Issue #4: Address the Gender Issues in U.S. political institutions. European countries suffer from these internal barriers as well, but activists have continued to make moves toward equality. Internal gender equality plans, placement of women in leadership positions, improvements on childcare and parental leave rules, family-friendly working hours, and internal support structures have vastly improved the experience of women in office in Europe. In the United States, the Carnegie report by Breckenmacher suggests we should work toward improving data collection, setting internal gender benchmarks, improving childcare and parental leave rules, and combating sexual harassment. With these changes, the everyday experience of female political figures will be vastly improved. Getting these issues addressed will keep the conversation on gender equality going on the local and congressional levels.
While European countries have made greater strides than the United States, their movement toward gender equality has plateaued as well. Internal barriers and biases are still huge issues that are the most difficult to uproot. Keeping the conversation alive is the most important aspect of our battle. It will allow for incremental change to continue and will break down stigmas and misconceptions about the power of women today.
As of this past Monday, the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) has launched its newest initiative: Wercspace.org, a free website for women entrepreneurs to build their network and their business. With this new space for women, WFN hopes to provide a community for women-owned businesses of all stripes to come together and support each other.
Wercspace.org acts as a business-oriented social networking site with a feminist approach. It provides access to a community of women-owned business that members can add as contacts, instantly building women into communities to help one another. Another section of the website is dedicated to resources and tools for business owners. These resources range from marketing to certification to self-care, and allow members to receive assistance based on the stage of their business. Furthermore, the site provides links to free and low-cost online courses in a variety of fields. These courses, along with the business stories of female entrepreneurs, emphasize the importance of learning and keeping an open mind as a business owner and a feminist. The site also includes information on funding a business, providing various links and sources of information.
Wercspace will act not only as a tool, but as a community for female entrepreneurs. Female-owned businesses often fall under the radar or fail to receive enough support to get off the ground. With this new initiative, WFN is bringing women together from across the globe, regardless of the stage of their business, their available funding, or their background in business. This will allow for women-owned businesses to grow together and build strong partnerships on one platform.
I decided to start my own Wercspace account, being an artist and film editor who wants to start making new contacts in the professional world. I can attest that the process of setting up a profile was easy, and there are resources that I am looking forward to checking out further, including the courses section, which shares educational content like Feminist Business School and Project Entrepreneur.
As the tech industry continues to recognize its gender and race gaps, foundations are committing funds to address these gaps, particularly for girls. A recent example: an announcement by the TE Connectivity Foundation that it will grant $1.25 million to three nonprofit organizations this year: Girl Up, FIRST Global, and SMASH. The foundation’s mission is to bring innovation to engineering and technology by providing opportunities for women and minorities to learn and take part in such innovation.
TE Connectivity is a tech company specializing in the creation of various products for the technology world. With 78,000 employees worldwide, TE Connectivity has 13.1 billion in sales in 2017, and has over 7,000 engineers on staff. The company website describes their work as creating “a world that’s smarter, safer, greener, and more connected.”
Girl Up was chosen for this grant because of the organization’s mission to develop female leadership in STEM fields across the globe. Being an organization of the United Nations Foundation, they have sites and connections worldwide. These sites host GIRLHERO Solution Labs and STEM boot camps. Together, these programs teach STEM skills to girls to both grow their interest in the field and increase STEM job availability for women.
Girl Up also has corporate partners and and foundation support from Disney, BNY Mellon, Caterpillar Foundation, Oath (an advertising subsidiary of Verizon), and Special K Cereal.
There is definitely more room for corporate partnerships like TE Connectivity’s partnership with Girl Up. Imagine if every corporation took an interest in supporting collaborative efforts to address the race and gender gaps in tech — we could make so much more progress. Learn more about Girl Up partnerships here.
The other two grantees for this year from TE Connectivity Foundation are First Global, organizers of a yearly international robotics challenge that reaches more than two billion youth with STEM education, and SMASH, which seeks to reach underrepresented youth of color with STEM education and “access to resources and social capital,” helping them to launch successful careers in the technology sector.
Learn more about the TE Connectivity Foundation.
On Monday, April 9th, the Sundance Institute and Women In Film (WIF) co-hosted a panel entitled Demystifying Film Financing: Two Case Studies. The panel’s objective was to address the obstacles faced by female filmmakers, especially those of financing. The panel was split into two halves, the first focusing on Unrest, an award-winning documentary directed by Jennifer Brea, and the second on Mudbound, an Academy Award-nominated historical drama directed by Dee Rees. Sundance Film Festival senior programmer Caroline Libresco and WIF president Cathy Schulman moderated the discussion.
The Sundance Institute, founded by Pratt Institute graduate Robert Redford, has made incredible strides in supporting female filmmakers. Through its Women of Sundance program, the Sundance Institute has been able to partially overcome the huge gender gap that women in the film industry face. Over the past ten years, 4.2% of top grossing directors in the United States have been female, while 25% of Sundance Film Festival directors have been female. This group is striving to bring this number up to 50%, and hoping to impact Hollywood statistics as well.
As part of Women at Sundance’s efforts to get more women into film, it offers a year-long fellowship including mentorship and professional coaching. The Harnisch Foundation, in partnership with Renee Freedman & Co, provides grant funding for fellowship participants to travel to Sundance Film Festival and participate in all the activities. Prior Women at Sundance Fellows have included Ava Duvernay, Jennifer Phang, Lyric Cabral, Cristina Ibarra and Jessica Devaney.
Film Funding for Women: Unrest
Brea’s film Unrest documents the struggles of chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease she lives with. Because of her deep awareness of the difficulties experienced by those with her condition, she found herself with a huge drive to create the film. “I knew this film needed to [exist] and I never faltered in my faith in that,” Brea told the audience. Brea’s commitment to creating allowed her to get the opportunity to bring her vision to life. “It’s about finding people in the world who vibrate for [your] film,” she explained.
Among its many honors and awards, Unrest has also been approved for continuing education credits for medical providers. This speaks to the film’s ability to capture not only popular attention, but also the specialized attention of medical professionals who can use the documentary to help inform and improve their work.
Film Funding for Women: Mudbound
For Mudbound director Dee Rees, creating that film became possible because of the outreach of her producer, Cassian Elwes. Mudbound was the first time Rees had been offered the opportunity to create a film by a producer. Rees’ experience suggests another important lesson for women seeking entry into the film industry: if you can’t sell your film idea confidently, find a partner who can. Such efforts lead to great achievements in film, as Mudbound‘s Director of Photography Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Cinematography.
Both Brea and Rees emphasized the importance of having unshakeable confidence in the value of your work, so that the powers-that-be see you as an equal competitor. Ultimately, members of the panel also expressed their shared belief in the community value of women producing art. Female filmmakers are some of the most the most zealous and dedicated creators, and this helps them hang on to their dreams in an industry that stacks the odds against them. Alysa Nahmias, producer of Unrest, comments, “It’s really important to keep in mind that it’s not personal. The more you experience the rejections and then you get somebody who is interested, you start to see that the project doesn’t depend on any one ask.”
Women at Sundance receives leadership support from The Harnisch Foundation and Refinery29, and additional support from these donors. Women in Film has support from corporate sponsors, foundations, and individual donors listed here.
Editor’s Note: The Harnisch Foundation and the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation are lead sponsors for Philanthropy Women.