Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
“We need to put pressure on the systems to ask different questions,” says Joy Anderson, in a much-anticipated conversation I had with her recently about gender lens investing and its potential to move the needle on gender-based violence.
I’m particularly eager to see movement to end gender-based violence. As a therapist and social worker specializing in trauma, I have treated many people who were victims of physical, sexual, and emotional violence that related to their gender. Joy Anderson is just the expert I want to hear from: someone who can make the case that society can move in the direction of being healthier and more prosperous at the same time by employing gender lens investing techniques.
Editor’s Note: As a practicing therapist, a feminist, and a writer on philanthropy, I am intrigued and inspired by Safe Conversations. I frequently refer families to the method as a part of therapy and find it has significant impact. In this article, Helen LaKelly Hunt, founding donor to many of the country’s women’s funds, discusses how this method has the potential for global impact as a part of feminist thought and practice.
SAFE CONVERSATIONS®: CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL FEMINISM
By Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. with the assistance of Mary Leah Friedline
I: Safe Conversations and Its Potential Relationship to Global Feminism
Safe Conversations is a dialogue process that helps people learn a new way to talk. The relational sciences are teachable for first time in history due to the breakthroughs in the neurosciences in 1990’s. Safe Conversations helps people maintain connection while accepting difference. With this new development comes the promise of helping people build healthier connections and lasting relationships with spouses, partners, friends, and colleagues, among others. Safe Conversations is well poised to contribute to global feminism.
We have come full circle on one of the most astonishing years for women’s philanthropy in human history. And yet, as we all know, there is still so far to go. As part of that process of moving forward for gender equality, it gives me great pleasure to announce this year’s Philanthropy Women Leadership Awards.
This year we decided to do something different and opened up 6 of the 10 awards to community voting. We had 689 respondents to our voting survey, and the results confirmed the growing interest in and competitive landscape of women’s giving and social movement-building for gender equality.
With the final four awards this year, we decided to open up some new categories, not necessarily based on Philanthropy Women’s coverage, in order to recognize groundbreaking women journalists and filmmakers contributing to gender equality movements. Oftentimes, this kind of media work is very philanthropic in nature, as women journalists and filmmakers often give of their own time and resources for years and years (sometimes decades!) in order to educate the public on critical issues.
Today, we want to believe we are so connected and empowered as women, and yet, Jennifer Schlecht was not connected enough to be protected from the brutal murder of herself and her precious daughter at the hands of her husband. We got many times the average number of page views for this post. Ariel Dougherty did an excellent job of combining resources and analysis in the piece, but the fact that it got so many page views also suggests that this story was vastly under-reported in the mainstream news. While I’m proud to hold up the banner and call attention to this terrible domestic violence tragedy, I also urge other publishers and news outlets to take up the discussion of domestic violence by publishing articles about victims like Jennifer Schlecht, so that we can find more solutions that address violence against women.
This post also got a much higher number of page views than most of our posts. It seemed to hit a nerve, with several commenters dissenting from my opinion that MacKenzie Bezos may have deserved more. It’s an important question that needs further exploration from funders: how to ensure that women are adequately compensated in divorce. The Bezos divorce could have produced billions and billions more for philanthropy, had the financial settlement been a more 50/50 arrangement. In any case, it got people talking, and paying attention to, the philanthropy of MacKenzie Bezos.
With women’s reproductive rights being stolen away in parts of the country, it was heartening to report on Rhode Island’s successful passage of protections for access to reproductive health care. We hope this article provides a template that other states can consider as they find ways to protect a woman’s right to choose.
The lack of women in media was a major topic this past year, with films including This Changes Everything showcasing the data that proves that women continue to lack employment in and coverage by all forms of media. Laura Dorwart’s piece on The Women’s Media Center’s research and its ongoing fight to call attention to this problem did its job: it got seen by lots of eyeballs, and hopefully added to the momentum to actually do something about this problem.
This piece on Paypal’s research on women’s giving patterns also had a very high page view rate, with lots of shares on social media as well. People are drawn to knowing more about the curious fact that women have less to give, and yet manage to give more than men. Bottom line: more research like this needs to happen, so we can begin to understand the way that gender and philanthropy relate to each other and influence social change.
One of the most important conferences this past year was WFN’s September conference in San Francisco. So many amazing leaders attended, and the speakers and workshops provided for a deep and purposeful convergence of women givers and their allies.
Women Moving Millions continues to show itself as an organization with great passion for moving the needle on gender equality. This interview by our Senior Writer Maggie May with WMM’s new Executive Director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, helps to drill down on how this network is refashioning itself to train a cadre of feminist givers who know the strategies for high impact.
Another post that saw a high rate of page views was our piece on the Culture Change Fund, spearheaded by the Women’s Foundation of California. This cross-sector collaboration of corporate, private, and public foundations was a story of great interest to our readers, many of whom are working at different levels to build stakeholder alliances for gender equality movements.
A giant breakthrough has happened for women’s funds and feminist approaches to social change. The Women’s Funding Network, the world’s largest network of foundations investing in women and girls, has announced receiving $1.69 million in grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This funding will be used to establish “a cohort of ten women’s foundations whose collaborative efforts will be harnessed to increase women’s economic mobility in their communities,” according to a press release announcing the new funding.
This funding could not have come at a more auspicious time. Women’s funds and gender lens grantmaking are a tiny but fast-expanding segment of philanthropy, and this historically large grant will put the peddle to the metal for accelerating feminist approaches to social change.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Pat Mitchell, trailblazing media executive, Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated producer, Board Chair of Women’s Media Center and Sundance Institute, and Editorial Director of TEDWomen.
1. Your new book Becoming A Dangerous Woman chronicles your personal journey to becoming a media trailblazer. What was it like to go back and look at your life through the lens of your multifaceted role in advocating for women?
I began the book four years ago when the Rockefeller Foundation president offered me a writing residency at Bellagio, encouraging me to extend my global mentoring and women’s leadership work by sharing my own stories from life and work. That residency was a great head start, but when I returned home, I found it hard to put aside the highly engaged ‘life’ I was committed to (and enjoying!) to write about my life, especially to look reflectively backward, as I’ve always been someone determined to keep moving forward.
How are feminist givers (givers who focus on outcomes for women and girls) different from the rest of philanthropy? Is their approach more impactful than the standard grantmaking approach, and if so, how can it be expanded? A new report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana helps explore the details about how women’s funds approach their mission. The report, entitled Change Agents: The Goals and Impact of Women’s Foundations and Funds, comes at a time when less than 2% of charitable giving supports women and girls.
The report outlines how women’s funds take an approach that blends grantmaking with a host of other activities that create impact, including research, coalition-building, and social policy advocacy. A majority of women’s funds and foundation, 64%, engage in a range of these activities. Women’s funds and foundations are also highly likely to take an intersectional approach to their work, and to incorporate feedback into their grantmaking process with grantees. Nearly three quarters, 74%, of women’s funds surveyed for the research said that feedback from grantee organizations influences funding priorities and decisions.
One of the most significant trends in the women’s philanthropy, and in philanthropy in general, is an increased focus on girls. Particularly on the global level, a growing strategy in philanthropy involves helping girls recognize and actualize their potential to lead, and by doing so make the world a better place for everyone.
Into this evolving context comes an exciting new development: Plan International USA (Plan) recently announced a $12 million gift that will support the launch of programs to that will reach 10 million girls globally over the next four years with improved access to education, opportunity, and health care. This is the largest private gift to date that Plan has received, and comes as a bequest from an anonymous donor. The historic donation will help support GirlEngage, Plan’s new programmatic model aimed particularly at girls.
An important new question has arisen about the “superpowers” of Facebook and how they will use these powers for good.
Facebook attended this year’s U.N. General Assembly and discussed its five-year commitment “to use data to help partners advance progress on the Sustainable Development Goals — and it has narrowed in on gender data as the place to start,” according to an article on Devex by Catherine Cheney entitled, Inside Facebook’s emerging gender data efforts.
“We mapped projects related to SDGs in the company, then got a sense for which SDGs are we currently working hard on, which are we missing out on, then turned to the future,” said Anna Lerner Nesbitt, program manager of global impact for data and artificial intelligence at Facebook. At a convening hosted by Data2X, Nesbitt asked, “Based on what we’re doing now and where the world needs to be in 2030, where are our unique superpowers?”
Did you know that women give more on Giving Tuesday than men?
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s research showed that in 2018, women gave the majority, 64.9%, of dollars donated on Giving Tuesday. Perhaps that’s because women generally look for opportunities to give, and when a new holiday is established where the sole purpose is to give to charity, women are all over it.