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.
Many experts have argued that nothing is more important for global development than empowering women to play an equal role in all societies. Lately, that view has growing sway at the world’s biggest foundation.
Signs have been emerging for a while now that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving more attention to women’s empowerment, with Melinda leading this shift—while also becoming more independent in her philanthropy. This could be a very big deal over the long term.
Here are some of the tea leaves we’ve been reading.
First, Melinda Gates has recently raised her profile as a leader on women’s issues. In the past 18 months, she’s given interviews to several national media outlets, including Fortune and Elle, about her increasing focus on women’s empowerment, and authored an opinion piece for CNN about the need for more data on women. She even recently said she would like to see a woman become president. No clear endorsement here, but that’s a pretty big hint about how this powerful female leader sees the world. She is making more videos in which we hear her voice and see her face. She’s making it crystal clear that one of the richest women in the world is also a huge believer in women’s empowerment.
Second, Gates created her own unit at the foundation last year called Pivotal Ventures, which operates through her executive office. (Bill also has his own office, by the way, called bgc3.) According to Geekwire, she established the effort to “further her work on issues of gender inequity and women’s empowerment.” Pivotal Ventures has a number of staff members, including Haven D. Ley, who is senior director for program strategy. Ley has worked with Gates for a few years, and before that, she worked on the foundation’s agricultural development grantmaking. There, she led work focused on women in agriculture, which she once pointed out as a crucial issue: “The majority of farmers in the developing world are women working on plots of less than two hectares; it is women who produce food for most of the world’s poor people.” The foundation’s emphasis on gender-responsive agricultural development is one example of its growing work on women’s empowerment. Other examples include the creation in 2014 of a new Grand Challenge: “Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development,” which the foundation described as an effort “to effectively reach and empower the most vulnerable women and girls to improve health and development—including economic—outcomes as well as gender equality.”
Third, Melinda Gates recently penned her own section of the Gates Annual Letter, separate from Bill, for the first time. Bill and Melinda have issued other letters together, but they mainly seemed to have Bill’s tone and subject focus. This year, Melinda carved out her own section in the 2016 letter, and devoted it to the concept of “time poverty” and how much unpaid work is done by the world’s women. This is probably something Melinda knows about firsthand, having just mothered three children nearly to adulthood, with the youngest, Rory, being 16. Now she has time (finally!) to speak to the world about how to work on the inequality caused by time poverty and its impact on women.
Fourth, the Gates Foundation has awarded big grants for data mining on women. Gates partnered with The Clinton Foundation in 2014 to fund No Ceilings and the Full Participation Project, the largest data research and analysis projects to date on the global status of women. On another front, Gates made a $2.1 million grant to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute last year to explore questions related to women and giving.
All this paints a picture of a different level of action and leadership from Melinda Gates on women’s issues. How much this shift might ultimately reshape the priorities of the world’s largest private foundation remains to be seen, but clearly, some changes have already been put in motion over the past year or two. We expect more going forward.
This is definitely a story worth watching closely.
Wow, impressive lineup for this event on January 12 in Southport, CT. Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, will be speaking, among other luminaries. Miles also spoke at the last Clinton Global Initiative winter meeting in February of 2016, which I attended to report on the No Ceilings project of The Clinton Foundation.
Many of these presenters will doubtlessly have interesting things to say about how women are influencing philanthropy — making it more collaborative, inclusive, and organically integrated into the economy, to name just a few of the changes that women bring to the field.
Public events and discussions like this will help women in philanthropy shift the conversation and shed light on this fast-growing movement. From the Fairfield Hamlet Hub:
Save the Children and Pequot Library present local philanthropic leaders discussing how women are changing the face of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, on Thursday, January, 12, 2017 at 7:00pm in Pequot Library’s Auditorium.
Learn about ways you and your family can get involved and make a positive impact in our community and around the world. There will be an Introduction by Stephanie Coakley, Executive Director, Pequot Library, and Mike Tetreau, First Selectman, Town of Fairfield; the program is moderated by Bianna Golodryga, News & Finance Anchor, Yahoo!
The panelists include: Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children; Susan Friedlaner Calzone, President and CEO, Foundation Source; Fiona Hodgson, VP for Development and Philanthropic Services, Fairfield County’s Communication Foundation; Emily Tow Jackson, Executive Director and President, Tow Foundation. There will be a wine and cheese reception to follow. For questions and additional information, please contact Amy Sinclair, firstname.lastname@example.org , (475) 999-3077.
We live in a world where the first thought about a piece of news needs to be: what is the source? With so much fake news and misinformation out there, the Knight Foundation is amping up its support of high quality community-driven media with new funding.
Jennifer Preston, Vice President of Journalism at the Knight Foundation spoke to Philanthropy Women this morning, the day of the launching of this new funding initiative.
She said most of those organizations receiving matching funds from this new initiative are Knight Foundation grantees from over the past three years. “Amid all of the concerns about fake news, supporting nonprofit journalism is a great way to address those concerns. Battle Fake news with smart news,” said Preston.
Preston talked about one of the grantees receiving matching funds called Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent reader-supported project that is important to parents and the education community at large in Philadelphia.
“The organizations receiving matching funds are news organizations serving local communities as well as those larger organizations like Pro Publica and the Marshall Project,” said Preston.
“The project launched this morning and is already getting traction on social media,” said Preston. She said the Knight Foundation is already getting emails from grantees and members of the community “that would put a smile on any funder’s face.” She said some of the non-profit outlets are already reporting getting thousand dollar donations today.
“We are hoping that the $1.5 million will provide incentive for non-profit news to expand their donor base and build that community that we know is important for journalism’s survival.”
“We are concerned about the historic low level of trust in the news media,” said Preston, and emphasized the importance for all journalists to focus on rebuilding that trust in the coming months and years. “That means engaging more directly with the community, using social media to listen more than broadcast content, and it means really involving the community in the news-gathering process.”
From the Knight Foundation’s press release:
Amid concerns about fake news, the decline of print media and the rise of unreliable sources of information, the Knight Foundation is launching its Knight News Match to provide $1.5 million in matching grants to nonprofit news organizations. The initiative will support individuals who are eager to contribute to a vibrant press using the proven success of matching campaigns. This is in keeping with the Foundation’s long-standing tradition of supporting high-quality journalism.
From December 19 through January 19, individuals can donate to help one or more of 59 nonprofit news organizations that will be eligible to receive up to $25,000 in matching funding. This includes prominent national organizations, local outlets that have long-served their communities, and others whose coverage will be crucial after this election season, such as:
The Center for Public Integrity, one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations, and winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize;
Inside Climate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment;
Michigan Radio, part of the NPR digital network and the state’s most listened-to public radio service.
Needless to say, this is just the kind of news we are very excited about here at Philanthropy Women. The need to support quality journalism has never been greater.
More information about how to donate and a list of the organizations receiving support is available here. Use hashtag #newsmatch to follow developments of the initiative online.
Jacki Zehner, chief engagement officer of Women Moving Millions, wants to see corporations—particularly financial services firms—put their money where the research is when it comes to gender equity, and more specifically, women’s empowerment, inclusion, and leadership. Why? It is not only in their best interest, but key to economic stability and growth.
Zehner is one of a new breed of philanthropic leaders who transitioned from a successful career in business, bringing that knowledge and experience with her. She knows the gap between talk and action on gender equity in corporations well. Though Zehner’s career was made in fixed-income trading, rising at Goldman Sachs to make partner in 1996, her passion was women’s issues, and that passion led her to a position in the firm’s executive office where her role was, in part, to champion diversity and inclusion.
“In the early 2000s there were some studies out there making the business case for women, but nowhere near where we are today,” Zehner says. “Now, the case has been made.”
This case holds that companies with more gender diversity on their boards, leadership teams, and workforces do better in multiple ways. As well, researchers stress the growing wealth in the hands of women investors and also the critical ways in which women entrepreneurs drive new business creation and job growth. More broadly, there’s now widespread understanding that empowering women is a key to any nation’s overall economic growth and dynamism.
Just how many credible studies point to the benefits of women’s participation? Hundreds. Zehner may be one of the world’s more obsessive collectors of research on women and girls. She has aggregated and summarized more than 250 reports about women and girls in a document with over 16 sections, ranging from arts to violence to entrepreneurship. Her favorite sections include those on wealth and gender lens investing. “Women are increasingly not only the holders of wealth, but the decision makers as it relates to giving, investing and spending. If we were to employ a gender lens to all three of these, holy smokes. Things would change very quickly.”
Goldman Sachs grasps gender issues better than nearly any other financial services firm. It has produced over a dozen major studies on women, put major financial support behind its 10,000 Women Initiative, which supports women entrepreneurs worldwide, and is creating innovative financial products to address the issue of “capital punishment”—the way in which women have been excluded from capital markets.
While Zehner celebrates Goldman’s production of more research on this topic than any other major investment bank, she wishes that the percentage of women in leadership positions at the firm was more reflective of the evidence. And she wonders why the financial services sector overall has been so slow to align its practices with such evidence. “For an industry that prides itself on research, it is time for money to follow,” she says.
Zehner feels strongly that no major financial services firm has capitalized on the opportunity to better serve women, and particularly high net-worth women. And she would know. Women Moving Millions is a global community of over 250 women, each of which have given at least $1 million to nonprofit organizations that serve women and girls. “I ask our members this question. Do you feel well served by your primary financial services firm? The answer is no.” That answer is supported by a recent study done by the Center for Talent Innovation called the Power of the Purse, which found that women are being shockingly underserved by a financial industry with “misperceptions about female investors” and a “tendency to perceive women as a monolithic market.”
There are pockets of leadership, for sure. Zehner points to U.S. Trust and women like Jackie Vanderbrug, one of the “godmothers of gender lens investing,”—a financial expert who has advanced gender equity issues in the sector. She also gave UBS props for its recent Rent the Runway women’s entrepreneurship project. She described Morgan Stanley as somewhat late to the party, but noted that it has recently created a framework for gender diversity, “a quantitative framework to show that a better balance of men and women in the workplace can deliver returns with less volatility.”
But is there a single financial services corporation that really owns the space of gender equity? “None of them,” says Zehner.
Zehner is excited to see new tools become available that create greater transparency when it comes to understanding where a given company stands on gender. Just this month, Bloomberg announced a new “Gender Equality Index” as part of its menu of financial services products. The index recognizes 26 financial services firms that scored a 60 or more on their index for gender equality. High scorers include UBS, Bank of America, Citigroup, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, and MetLife. “It’s a great start,” she says.
Apart from the financial services sector, Zehner says there are a number of companies that have thoughtful strategies related to women. “Dell is a corporation that is really doing it,” she says. “They have a Women’s Entrepreneur Network, they hold conferences, they do funding and movement building, they produce research. To me, that’s a company that I would hold up,” she said.
Zehner cites the role of Jennifer “JJ” Davis, executive director of Global Client Solutions and Global Brand Communications at Dell, who also serves on the Advisory Board of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, which is how Zehner came to know her. “Knowing more about the work JJ Davis is doing at Dell could help other corporations understand how to advance a gender equity agenda more seriously.”
One leverage point for changing companies that Zehner stresses is consumer buying power. “If, as people who care about gender equity, we were more willing to buy products and services from companies who share this commitment, we would drive that greater alignment.” Zehner recommended the Buy Up Index, an app that helps consumers support companies that care about gender equity. The app ranks companies on their demonstrated commitment to gender equality across four areas: women’s employment, leadership, corporate citizenship, and marketing. “Women make upwards of 70 percent of the decisions of what products and services are bought,” Zehner says. “Imagine if we used that power more intentionally?”
Of course, investing is another lever for change, and here, Zehner sees an important role for philanthropists and impact investors. Women Moving Millions is launching a program that will support collective learning and engagement for its members around gender lens investing. Zehner says: “There are quite literally billions of dollars that could be flowing to support women and girls while seeking some financial return. That’s exciting.”
Zehner’s vision for a better world for women and girls spans many directions, including envisioning her ideal financial services firm for women, and offering advice to the next president of the United States on a gender equity agenda. She writes regularly as an influencer on LinkedIn, where she has amassed over 300,000 followers, and sees LinkedIn as a powerful platform to share knowledge and inspire action. She also travels frequently giving talks on “Women, Money and Change.”
In addition, Zehner is an active investor in women-led start-ups. While she still works to change the big companies, she hopes that by supporting women entrepreneurs directly, she can help create successful companies that do the right things by women at the outset. Some of her recent investments include Seed and Spark, Mogul, APolitical, Unitive (through Plum Alley), and Vonk. She is joining forces with other women investors to not only provide seed capital, but social capital, to help fledgling companies become successful.
For all her many activities, though, Zehner hasn’t forgotten where she came from, namely the powerful universe of banks and finance firms that govern so much of the U.S. economy. She sees changing the behavior of this sector as all-important. “My history lies in financial services, and I want that industry to become a true leaders when it comes to gender equity. I think the world will be better for it.”
Here’s the story of how Emily Nielsen Jones and her husband, Ross Jones, discovered their niche of integrating a gender focus into their faith-inspired philanthropy. The Boston-based couple once funded Christian Union, an Ivy League campus ministry, to launch a new branch at their alma mater, Dartmouth College. They were impressed with the organization at first because of its interest in mobilizing students to engage in combating human trafficking.
But as Jones got closer to the organization and started asking gender-related questions, she uncovered that within its own organization, the Christian Union promotes what it calls a “complementarian” leadership structure, which excludes women from top leadership positions. Once the couple gained more awareness about this policy, which creates gender ceilings for both staff and students, they engaged in a dialogue to encourage Christian Union to reconsider its practices of limiting women in the organization.
“After much dialogue back and forth encouraging change, the organization remained resolved that it would continue to reserve top leadership positions for men. That seemed so contrary to the ideals of student life and equality presumed by Ivy League schools.”
On a very personal level, this gender incongruity at a new ministry at Jones’s own college struck a sensitive chord with her, at a time when she was engaging more globally and seeing how girls and women are still subjugated around the world. Jones says that “after a few years of patiently nudging and hoping for change, we decided to pull our funding.”
Jones is on a delicate mission to address these faith-based gender contradictions and work for change not only on a humanitarian level, but also on the deeper level of ideas and beliefs that continue to sanction a harmful consolidation of power in the hands of men. By having one foot in the world of gender-based philanthropy, in which best practices are still being developed and work is unfolding in new directions all the time, and one foot in the “faith pond,” as she calls it, Jones is buidling bridges to help faith-based organizations develop a stronger integration between their faith narratives and basic human rights for women.
Through the foundation that she co-founded with her husband in 2009, Imago Dei Fund (IDF), Jones is bringing heightened gender awareness to religious-based philanthropy and equipping faith-inspired nonprofits to align their own gender norms and practices with their stated humanitarian goals of freeing the world of slavery and injustice. Jones has many days when she feels frustrated. “The nexus of religion and social change can feel exasperating at times with so many regressive movements happening around the world.”
During our interview and subsequent email exchanges, Jones led me down many disturbing rabbit holes of contradictory policies and practices within organizations right in my own backyard of New England, as well as around the globe. “On the one hand, many of these organizations and ministries are trying to achieve humanitarian goals like freeing girls and women from trafficking and other forms of injustice, while they themselves are still caught in the same male-dominated social structure which lies at the root of these problems,” says Jones.
This is one reason I love writing about women leaders in philanthropy—many have a keen eye out for gender inequities embedded in a range of institutions. While I was aware of the way that fundamentalist religion subjugates women, Jones illuminated it in a new way—one that connects the problem with real steps that can transform gender norms within religious organizations and communities.
The strategy of IDF is to work from within the faith pond to shift from a male-dominated social structure to create more gender-balanced families, communities and organizations. For Jones, the desire to focus on supporting the ongoing process of “gender balancing” faith-inspired organizations grew out of seeing firsthand the “gender incongruencies” of so many evangelical development organizations doing important anti-trafficking and development work around the world, yet whose humanitarian goals were undermined by the same disempowering gender norms that are so oppressive to girls and women.
“As I started doing more engaged, hands-on philanthropy after we started the IDF, I was so excited to learn about and partner with some great Christian NGOS and organizations working to promote justice. Yet I hit this point of acute disillusionment where, in a short period of time, I uncovered so many gender inconsistencies.” Jones found these inconsistencies among many of the donors and foundations supporting these groups. Many of these organizations did not have any women on their boards, hosted all-male speaker panels, and did not invite spiritually mature adult women into the leadership.
The more Jones dug around, the more she found that many of these ministries are part of a coordinated neo-patriarchal movement led by an organization called the Gospel Coalition, which uses the antiquated word “patriarch” and authoritarian titles like ‘CEO’ and even ‘king’ and ‘priest’ to reclaim an all-male leadership norm.
“I kept saying to myself, ‘How could this be in the 21st century?’ Looking back, I can see that my own angst at the gender regressions happening in my own evangelical faith pond has propelled me to channel my voice and philanthropic platform to look for strategic and grace-filled ways to support an internal process of change in these organizations.”
In 2015, IDF made grants totaling roughly $5 million to 150 small, medium and large nonprofits, with grants varying in amount based on the capacity, size and mission alignment of the organization. Within the U.S., IDF has partnered with a number of organizations, including Christians for Biblical Equality, which works around the world to promote interpretations of the Bible that teach the fundamental equality of all genders and races. IDF has also partnered with Gordon College, and sponsored a study beginning in 2014 researching progress toward gender parity in evangelical higher education and nonprofits. This study is in its final phase and will spotlight examples of institutions that embody best practices of gender-balanced organizations.
On the global front over the past three years, IDF has prioritized funding indigenous-led efforts to engage faith leaders in transforming harmful traditional practices, beliefs and gender norms that consolidate power in the hands of men. As part of this work, Jones is co-authoring a book with Domnic Misolo, an Anglican pastor in Kenya, titled The Girl Child & Her Long Walk to Freedom: Putting Faith to Work, Through Love, To Transform Enslaving, Harmful Gender Norms At Their Root. The book-in-progress speaks to Jones’s hands-on, collaborative approach to IDF’s philanthropy, and how deeply she goes into the trenches to hear, support and amplify the voices of change agents who are enlisting faith to “co-create a more just, free, gender-balanced world”, the tagline of the IDF.
One point that Jones emphasizes about gender equity work is that even promising interventions like keeping girls in school and freeing girls from sex trafficking are not silver bullets. “Philanthropists need to invest in a deeper social transformation of the very ideas and beliefs which devalue and disempower girls and women in the first place, making them so vulnerable to human rights violations and enslavement,” says Jones.
Jones told the story of one young woman she interviewed for the book who left an indelible impression on her about the stark inequalities women still face. This woman was college educated and had been raised by her uncle in a traditional home in Tanzania, where girls get up early to do housework while their brothers sleep, and where they are expected to serve food on their knees to their brothers and father. After the young woman graduated from college, she returned to her uncle’s home and suffered an incident in which her brother beat her with a cane in public, because she didn’t make him food.
“A girl can go on to become a doctor or a lawyer, but when she sets foot in her own home, she is still expected to serve food on her knees,” said Jones of the young woman, who now has an impressive career within World Vision. “Her story embodies for me how critical it is that we work on changing the social norms about who has power.”
IDF’s work in developing nations spans a number of organizations doing this culturally sensitive work of transforming religious and cultural norms to affirm human rights, including Tostan’s Religious Leaders Program, World Vision’s Channels of Hope for Gender, Beyond Border’s Re-Thinking Power, the Global Fund for Women, World Relief, and the International Justice Mission. To carry out this work, Jones finds inspiration in meeting indigenous faith leaders around the world “who have this deep faith and are saying, ‘we can read the Bible in a different way, one that grants women full equality and shared authority as image-bearers of God.’”
Jones regards Women Moving Millions and the Women’s Donor Network as a needed “social tribe” that engaged her when belonging to her “faith tribe” was feeing more tenuous. Being around all the inspiring women activists in these networks gave her more power and confidence to grow into her own mission. “They modeled for me the importance of using a gender lens, and gave me the language to bring into our philanthropy more internally and effectively.” She went on to describe how one of the founders of Women Moving Millions, Helen LaKelly Hunt, a leader in the women’s funding movement who, like Jones, also grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, was instrumental in affirming for her that funding at the intersection of faith and justice can yield powerful dividends for our world.
But every day, new challenges arise. In recent weeks, Jones discovered two more “distressing gender incongruencies” in upcoming Christian justice conferences, both of which are convening conferences with churches still rooted in an all-male leadership model. Shared Hope’s Just Faith Summit is co-sponsored by a network called Northland Church, which has no female pastors or “governing elders,” and World Relief’s The Justice Conference is hosted by Park Community Church, which has many of the telltale signs of a highly patriarchal church, including a male-only slate of church elders.
“Not exactly the most stellar picture of a ‘just faith,'” says Jones. “It is so discouraging that despite the lofty Biblical language of ‘letting justice roll down’ and inspiring Nelson Mandela quotes that talk about yearning for justice and not just charity, so many Christians and even Christian NGOs seem to not fully connect the humanitarian and theological dots.”
Jones has already communicated her concern to both organizations, and World Relief has “responded very receptively to the concern and reiterated its commitment to gender equality.” But Jones remains a wary and vigilant, given that World Relief partners with a range of churches all over the gender norm continuum, and still at times struggles with how to balance its own organizational commitment to justice for women in a larger faith context in which women’s leadership is called into question by partner churches. Shared Hope, which the IDF funded a few years ago to conduct a review of Massachusetts laws and policies around prostitution and sex trafficking, has yet to respond to her concern.
This is not the first time Jones has challenged the Justice Conference. At one of the early conferences, Jones discovered that World Relief’s church partner, the Antioch Church—led by Ken Wytsma, author of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things—did not allow women to serve on its elder board. She confronted him about how contradictory this seemed with the ideals of the conference, and this has led to a friendly dialogue between Jones, World Relief, and Wytsma that Jones says “has been really constructive and has led to some positive changes in the right direction.”
Jones affirmed her support for World Relief as an example of faith-based work committed to justice and shared leadership of women and men in the Evangelical world.
Straddling the ponds of faith and women’s empowerment can be uncomfortable, but Jones has persisted and is getting traction. “It is mind-boggling to me, but somehow it is easier for people to go to the other side of the world to ‘rescue’ girls and women than it is to put a little skin in the game right in one’s own pond to gender-balance one’s own board, one’s own organization, and most importantly, one’s own beliefs about how we live together as male and female,” says Jones.
And while she acknowledges inspirational moments of transformation that can happen in faith communities, she remains a steely-eyed realist about the prickly nature of this problem. “Our world is still very much caught in a web of disempowering, subjugating gender norms laced with tradition and theology. We sometimes don’t see that the very ideas in our own brains and ministries are human rights violations waiting to happen.”
You can’t get much closer to the epicenter of creativity, social justice, and women’s empowerment than the Harnisch Foundation (theHF). Through its focus on empowering women and girls of all backgrounds, its innovative grantmaking toward women and media, and its latest Funny Girls grant initiative that teaches resilience and leadership through improv, theHF’s work spans some of the most relevant and important missions in philanthropy today.
How did Ruth Ann Harnisch rise to her current position, with an amazing career in journalism and media under her belt, as well as 17 years at the helm of a foundation carrying out many unique and creative initiatives for women and girls?
Well, she didn’t get there by being quiet and demure, and she is of the opinion that women have to do much more to defy the gender norms and expectations that hold back progress. “In recent years, I have stepped up to accept that an institution can be a leader and a role model,” said Harnisch, in a recent telephone interview with Inside Philanthropy. “Those of us who want to see more women’s leadership have to be willing to model it.”
Ruth Ann Harnisch is president of theHF, which was founded in 1998. Since that time, theHF has given hundreds of grants to not-for-profit organizations, mainly to pursue creative work in women and girls empowerment, film and media, and journalism. A recent example? theHF’s support for the Sundance Female Filmmakers Initiative. Here, theHF is developing women’s participation as directors, producers, writers, editors, and as chiefs of photography in the film industry.
But that’s not the only angle that theHF is taking on this issue. The foundation has also sponsored research through the Media Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC, which studies Hollywood and gender roles—both how women are portrayed on screen, and how women participate off-screen. This initiative of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is regarded as one of the leading think tanks addressing issues of inequality in entertainment, bringing much-needed evidence and insight to the industry. As part of the this, theHF supported a study released in August of 2015 on gender, race/ethnicity, and LGBT characters in 700 films.
Much of the genesis of theHF’s mission around media, journalism, and women’s empowerment has grown out of Harnisch’s life experiences. Harnisch is a self-described “recovering journalist” who started as a teen deejay in Buffalo, New York, and went on to devote three decades to journalism and media, including working as a television reporter and anchor at Nashville’s CBS-TV affiliate. She also worked as a columnist for 17 years at the Nashville Banner.
What did all of this life experience teach Harnisch? “Modesty does not serve women’s leadership,” she said. “So many of us of my generation—I’m 65—were raised to be ladylike and modest, and not tooting one’s own horn and waiting for others to recognize us and acknowledge our accomplishments. We were taught to believe that it would be unseemly of us to speak for ourselves and promote ourselves.”
But Harnisch sees these norms as part of what is keeping women from rising to the leadership roles they deserve in society. “When we step out and become willing to lead, then we become visible to others who can see us as examples to follow.”
Harnisch sees it as part of her philanthropic obligation to allow herself to be visible, and she has taken it upon herself in recent years to raise that visibility through social media, newsletters, and publicizing of the foundation’s grantmaking, so that others, particularly women, can imagine themselves in similar roles.
Harnisch credits Nashville-based philanthropist Annette Eskind with inspiring her to make philanthropy her vocation. “I was inspired to become a philanthropist and to dream about giving gifts of a million dollars long before I had a million dollars.” Harnisch described her experience of witnessing Annette Eskind giving a million dollar gift (more about the Irwin and Annette Eskind Family Foundation). “It was thrilling and shocking to me that a woman would (a) have so much money to give and (b) be willing to be seen as giving that much money.”
From then on, it became a dream of Harnisch’s to one day do likewise. “I believe that every time a woman steps up, she inspires someone else’s dream, so part of what I invest in at theHF is women’s leadership.” Harnisch described organizations the foundation has supported such as Vote, Run, Lead, which trains women to run for public office.
Harnisch also talked about the foundation’s new initiative called Funny Girls, which is developing leadership skills with a curriculum of improv and movement for girls grades three through eight, “so that girls can learn early to lead with strength and warmth,” said Harnisch. “Improv also teaches resilience, because the world will knock you down. People will say things that hurt you. People will say things that surprise you. To be able to handle what life throws at you is a skill that improv teaches beautifully.”
Going forward, Harnisch sees theHF getting more involved in funding media and storytelling for social change, and in harnessing the power of social media to maximize impact for positive social developments. Harnisch observed how the landscape of philanthropy is being changed by digital and social media storytelling, and how social media in general, and the digital generation, are driving new trends in giving.
“It’s very encouraging to see how social media has changed the game for philanthropy, how the digital generation is completely unintimidated by using social media to fundraise for causes they care about. Kids use social media to dedicate their birthdays to fundraising, or their bar and bat mitzvahs to fundraising. Young people are getting married and using social media to dedicate their wedding to a charity. It’s wonderful to see how this new form of communication has transformed giving and opened it to all.”
With regard to theHF’s part in this transformation, Harnisch said the foundation will increasingly fund media and storytelling for social change. She is an executive producer of The Hunting Ground, a documentary that’s being shown at hundreds of colleges this year, and which is slated to air on CNN this fall.
“It has changed the discussion about campus assault,” said Harnisch of The Hunting Ground. “It has changed college administrators’ attitudes. It has changed the student body’s awareness of what their institutions do and do not do, and it’s provoking a conversation about the culture of consent, so that young people will learn that only enthusiastic consent is the standard. We’re saying goodbye to ‘no means no’, and welcoming a culture of ‘an enthusiastic yes means yes’.”
Contributions raised by the film are being deposited in the Hunting Ground Fund, which is hosted by NEO Philanthropy, and will eventually be granted to groups in the field.
Harnisch is also a big believer in the power of social media and technology to bring together women into powerful giving networks. She belongs to Women Moving Millions, as well as the Women Donors Network, Rachel’s Network, and 100 Women Who Care.
Additionally, she is a strong believer in racial justice as an integral part of the agenda for women and girls. In fact, theHF has funded journalism efforts aimed at addressing racial disparities since at least 2010, when it supported Race Forward, which “advances racial justice through research, media and practice.” More recently, theHF made a $100,000 pledge to Funders for Justice, in response to the recent police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, in an effort to bolster movement building and ending violence against communities of color.
The field of gender lens investing has been on the runway and waiting for take-off for a while now, yet barriers, like the lack of corporations carrying out women-friendly policies and practices, continue to be a problem.
Meanwhile, some funders are right on top of the issue, pushing hard to understand and grow the field of investing with a gender lens. One prime example is the Wallace Global Fund, which provided a grant to the Criterion Institute in the fall of 2014 to create a report that surveyed gender-focused investing. Wallace is a longtime supporter in the arena of women’s empowerment, and also a lead player in the philanthropy divestment movement.
As part of its research on and development of gender lens investing, Criterion held “convergences” — four of them, once a year, in Simsbury, Connecticut. These meetings served as incubators for defining and consolidating the field of gender lens investing. The convergences also helped develop new language for the work, such as seeing gender lens investing as an “opportunity” rather than a “screen,” and shifting from “counting women” to “valuing gender in finance.” And while these changes may sound semantic, they represent much larger shifts to investment theory and approach, which produce significant results.
Criterion’s final report,The State of the Field of Gender Lens Investing, was issued in October of 2015. The central argument that the report makes, and that is worth repeating here, is that gender matters to everything, and impacts everything. This was the line from the report that put it all together for me: “Making the claim that gender matters is in and of itself potentially transformative, and by ensuring that gender matters in finance, the field of gender lens investing has the potential to transform the core assumptions underlying a massive system of power.”
Indeed. And that’s why, at Inside Philanthropy, we want to help identify more of the leaders of this powerful new vehicle for social change that involves us all.
To that end, we have developed a short list of 9 powerful gender lens investors in the field. This list is in no way comprehensive. There are more leaders out there in gender lens investing who we have undoubtedly left off (email us your thoughts on that for future work!).
The goal here is to help the field of gender lens investing become more visible and integral, particularly within philanthropy, as this sector pivots toward impact investing in a big way.
Joy Anderson, President and Founder of the Criterion Institute
Joy Anderson appropriately starts off this list, and not just because her last name starts with “A.” Anderson is the President and Founder of the Criterion Institute, which has done some of the most groundbreaking work in the field of gender lens investing. She has been a great convener of gender lens investors with her yearly “Convergence” meetings in Simsbury, CT, and has helped the field take shape by producing some of the most groundbreaking research on the subject. The list of organizations and participants that Joy Anderson has convened to develop the field of gender lens investing is profound. (See Appendix A of Criterion’s report, by Joy Anderson and Katherine Miles, which, by the way, should be required reading for anyone in the field.)
Suzanne Biegel, Founder, Catalyst At Large Ltd, Founder and Chief Catalyst, Women Effect
In terms of being connected to the world of gender lens investing in myriad ways, you can’t get much more active than Suzanne Biegel. She is a founding member of Women Effect, a community with both online and offline components, working to “accelerate the women effect in the most strategic and efficient way.” But that’s not all. Biegel also serves on the board of directors of Confluence Philanthropy, the advisory board of Cornerstone Capital Management, and is a member of the Wharton Social Impact Investing in Women Advisory Council. She was also founding co-chair of the Values Based Investing Circle within Women Donors Network and is a long time member of Social Venture Network. With all this going on, you would think she would have her hands full, but there’s still more. Biegel is also a Senior Advisor for the Criterion Institute and is now working on a new initiative called Women Effect Investing.
Catherine Clark, Director, Duke University’s Case Initiative on Impact Investing
Clark is known as one of the earlier pioneers of gender lens investing strategies. Having worked with diverse players across the spectrum, including the White House Office of Social Innovation, the Omidyar Network, the Rockefeller Foundation, Calvert Foundation, USAID, and others, Clark has her roots in social innovation, but with a strong awareness of the critical value of investing with a gender lens. Prior to her academic career, Clark was a professional investor, and was also Vice President of the Markle Foundation, giving her a wide range of professional experiences to inform her current work.
Kristin Hull, Director and Founder, Nia Community Fund and Partner and Portfolio Manager, Green Alpha Advisors
Kristin Hull has been a force in gender lens investing for nearly a decade, and has now established her own fund. Through her fund, Hull has created Nia Global Solutions, an equity product that brings together 35-50 companies from around the world with a focus on equity. Each of the companies in this portfolio has women in executive management and board leadership, and each is committed to diversity and sustainability. While still somewhat newer to the scene than some, Hull is a powerful advocate for gender lens investing, as evidenced by her recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, where she gives a strong overview of action in the field of gender lens investing. Hull also recently became a Partner and Portfolio Manager at Green Alpha Advisors, expanding her work into new territory all the time.
Diane Keating, Executive Director, High Water Women
As the leader of High Water Women (HWW), Diane Keating is charged with bringing together women in the finance industry to do impact investing. HWW started in 2005 with a group of women in the hedge fund and investment industries coming together to promote economic empowerment of women and youth. Since then, more than 4,000 business professionals have come on board to help others through programs in financial literacy, particularly for teens and young adults. In 2013, HWW launched the HWW Symposium on Investing for Impact, which had a strong conference this year that included leaders like Debra Schwartz, Director of Impact Investing for MacArthur, and leaders from innovative foundations like Heron, Rockefeller, and the Omidyar Network. This is a power hub for women in philanthropy that deserves attention and one that you can expect to hear more from in the future.
Joseph Keefe, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pax World Management LLC and subsidiary, Pax Ellevate Management LLC.
Keefe has been hammering away at gender lens investing pretty much from the start. Keefe is Co-Chair of the Leadership Group for the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint program of the United Nations Global Compact and UN Women, and is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of Women Thrive Worldwide. The author of a 2013 Pax World report, Gender Equality as an Investment Concept, Keefe is a vocal and articulate leader on the subject, winning him accolades such as being names the sole male recipient of Women’s eNews’ “21 Leaders for the 21st Century,” and being listed as a top 10 feminist man of 2015 by the Financial Times. In his top-level role at Pax World Management, Keefe has served as one of the most visible men advocating for a gender lens investing approach.
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest
Known as one of the most senior women on Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck is a mastermind of finance who has now broken out on her own to make gender lens investing a priority. Formerly president of the Global Wealth and Investment Management division of Bank of America, Krawcheck is widely published on issues ranging from Wall Street regulatory reform to how to manage a start-up. Krawcheck is on a mission to close the gender investing gap, and help women everywhere figure out a good equation for money in their lives. In a recent interview for CNBC about Ellevest, Krawcheck was quoted as saying, “If I were to go very Gloria Steinem on you, I’d say until we get this gap closed, we’re not going to be equal.” Her new platform, Ellevest, is just getting started on cashing in on the $11 trillion market of assets controlled by women.
Jackie Vanderbrug, Senior Vice President and Investment Strategist, US Trust
Vanderbrug is one of the earlier and most dedicated leaders in the new field of gender lens investing. She comes from Criterion, another pioneer in the field where she helped develop the Women Effect. Vanderbrug’s awareness of the interrelated nature of social change began when she was a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Congress. Along with Sarah Kaplan, Vanderbrug recently authored an article entitled the Rise of Gender Capitalism, published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, which discussed in detail how investing with a gender lens creates financial and social impacts, while also helping women.
Jacki Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer, Women Moving Millions and President, the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation
Zehner was an early supporter of both Joy Anderson and Jackie Vanderbrug in their missions to build the field of gender lens investing. She’s written numerous articles on the subject, and has been one of the primary leaders working with high net worth women to take advantage of new tools for gender lens investing. An avid aggregator of research on women and girls (this collection has a dozen article on gender lens investing alone!) and a leader of all things related to money and women’s empowerment, Zehner and Women Moving Millions will be introducing a program focused on impact and gender lens investing starting this fall. This an area where Zehner is playing multiple roles to cultivate the terrain, with big plans to take it further.
If you spend time reading about women and philanthropy, you will invariably come across Helen LaKelly Hunt. Along with her sister, Swanee Hunt, these two feminist philanthropists are major players in the women’s funding movement, which hit the big leagues in the past decade as high-net-worth women began to make gifts of over $1 million dollars to fund causes for women and girls.
While researching for her dissertation on the origins of American feminism, Hunt discovered that 19th century women didn’t fund the suffrage movement. Instead, they funded things like their husband’s alma maters, churches (where they had no voice) and the arts. Years later, when women began pledging and making million-dollar gifts to women’s funds, Hunt captured that history in a book called the Trailblazer book, which was circulated to other women donors. This compilation of women’s testimonies helped catalyze the founding of Women Moving Millions.
Hunt has co-founded some of the largest and most influential women’s funds in the country, including the Dallas Women’s Foundation, the New York Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Funding Network, and Women Moving Millions. In 2007, Women Moving Millions emerged on the scene with a public launch, and began a two-year campaign to raise $150 million for the global network of women’s funds. During the financial meltdown of 2008, Women Moving Millions became one of the only campaigns to exceed its fundraising goal, with a total of $182 million raised during the economic crisis.
Along with being part of the history of growing women’s funding, Helen LaKelly Hunt is also destined to rewrite the early history of feminism in America. Her forthcoming book, And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost Radical History of America’s First Feminists, gives an up-close and personal rendition of some little-known history: the first meeting of feminists in the 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women held in New York.
In the process of researching her dissertation in the Barnard Library, Hunt discovered the primary source manuscript titled Turning the World Upside Down: The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women Held in New York City May 9-12, 1837. The men’s abolitionist movements had been all white men, and the Seneca Falls Convention was all white women. But this cross-race, cross-class meeting was so meaningful that years after the Seneca Falls Convention, feminist Lucretia Mott told Elizabeth Cady Stanton to write the history of American feminism starting at the 1837 convention, saying, “That’s where the battle began.” Ultimately, Stanton chose to start feminism’s history at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.
Hunt is therefore shifting the spotlight of the history of American feminism in her forthcoming book, illustrating how its origins contained essential elements of movement building that are still relevant today.
“The window on history that I opened up in the Barnard Library unsealed a parallel window into my past,” she writes in the introduction to her forthcoming book. The window helped Hunt liberate herself from the “golden handcuffs” of gender-normed behavior that still confined her, and begin to accept more fully her power and purpose in building funding networks for women and girls. “I am grateful to be part of feminism and to add my labor to such meaningful work,” she writes.
Hunt’s research has also opened up what she sees as the next wave of feminism: Teaching the culture about the importance of relationships. “Relationality needs to be high on the agenda of the feminist movement. Feminist activism can become siloed: focusing in fields like domestic violence, or trafficking or economic justice. A relational vision encourages intersectionality, and an understanding of how these issues resonate with one another.”
For several decades, feminist theorists such as Carol Gilligan, Robin Morgan, Judith V. Jordan, Janet Surrey, Irene Stiver, Carter Heyward, Beverly Wildung Harrison and Gloria Steinem have articulated a vision of culture that is “linked, not ranked,” as Steinem says.
“The problem is that, while women have been proponents of a relational culture, it’s only in the last 20 years that the relational sciences have developed to create tools that help people shift from conflict to connection,” said Hunt. She and her husband, Harville Hendrix, are experts in the field of relationship counseling, and are now disseminating a new process called Safe Conversations, a structured conversation that allows two people, even if they disagree, to speak with mutual respect for one another. “This helps shift the cultural dynamic from the vertical to the horizontal,” said Hunt.
“The next stage of feminism can emphasize more explicitly the primacy of relationships, and shift language away from competition and toward collaboration,” said Hunt. She sees state and city-based women’s funds as developing a new model for how foundations can be more inclusive and responsive to the particular needs of a community.
“Look at what was accomplished in the women’s funding movement,” said Hunt. “These women’s funds were not isolated: they emerged in relationship with each other, and they were all about relationships: they brought in grantees and community members to their boards, they brought in representation from populations served. They reached out to many different marginalized populations—women and girls of color, as well as women affected by poverty, by violence, by health issues.”
Hunt also sees women’s funds as playing a key role in showing the culture how women can wield financial clout. “Women’s funds have transformed women’s relationship with money from one of ignorance and ambivalence to one by which she began to unleash her voice into the culture.”
“Both philanthropy and feminism must celebrate the fact that women’s funds embodied for the culture a visionary organizing methodology, a relational vehicle for connecting all women, locally, nationally, globally, to set an important agenda,” she said.
Hunt also sees great potential for relationships to be more central to our culture in politics. “Hillary’s slogan is ‘Stronger Together’,” she said. “It’s a relational slogan. What makes us stronger together is our capacity to maintain our relationships. And only until recently has there been a relational technology that shows us how to do just that.”
“Feminists have been a prophetic voice, warning against a culture that promotes a ‘winner take all’ and ‘get to the top of the ladder’ attitude. Both feminism and philanthropy need to promote values that strengthen the safety of the culture.”
The safety of relationships is a key area where Hunt sees philanthropy and feminism converging to foster significant change. “It’s only with safety that the world can thrive. That’s why Harville and I created Safe Conversations, which can help make that vision possible. We see ourselves as contributing to the fulfillment of a vision articulated by feminist theorists and feminist philanthropy over the past four decades.”
So this is news that everyone can use, but I particularly thought of philanthropy for women and girls and how they might cash in on the matching funds for Facebook-generated fundraisers on Tuesday. From the press release:
This Giving Tuesday, people are looking for ways to give back and do good. For that reason, we are thrilled to share Facebook’s recent announcement for new tools that will allow everybody to raise money for, or donate to their favorite charities.
Facebook expands its Fundraisers to include 750,000 US nonprofits to donate to:
Everybody can now support causes they care about this holiday season by creating a fundraiser on Facebook! Fundraisers allow supporters to set up a dedicated page to share their story, tell others about a nonprofit’s mission and rally around a fundraising goal – just in time for the season of giving! The over 750,000 US-based registered non-profits which focus on causes like animals, health, education to arts and culture make it easy to do good no matter what you support. The process is easy:
From the Facebook home page:
Check left of newsfeed and then Click ‘+ Create Fundraiser’
Select your nonprofit, cover photo, goal amount and end date
Fill in your fundraiser title and tell your story
Click ‘Create’ to publish your fundraiser and start collecting donations.
More ways to donate with the introduction of Donate buttons in Live and in posts:
Facebook also introduced Donations in Live video and posts to allow people to add a Donate button for their chosen fundraisers. If somebody is supporting a cause and goes Live their friends and family can learn more about the cause from the Live broadcast and donate directly to the Fundraiser. Everybody can now add a Donate button directly to a post to collect donations for a nonprofit directly on Facebook.
$1 million contribution by Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this Giving Tuesday for all fundraisers created
On Giving Tuesday, people will see a message at the top of their News Feed, encouraging them to create a fundraiser for #GivingTuesday. All fundraisers created as part of #GivingTuesday will be matched up to $1000 total per fundraiser up to $500,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Facebook will be waiving fees up to $500,000.