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.
The murder of two women joggers in the past week has focused new attention on sexual violence against women. Over the past few years, this issue has been on the agendas of several key sectors of society—including universities, which have grappled with campus sexual assaults; professional sports, where top players have stood accused of attacks; and the military, where rape is common.
Philanthropy is another sector paying attention, with new sources of funding appearing in recent years.
Last year, we mentioned that a documentary on campus sexual assault, The Hunting Ground, had inspired a funding effort that includes resources at NEO Philanthropy, an intermediary that works with both funders and nonprofits. It’s not clear how much money that effort has raised, or what these funds have been used for. What is clear that the film brought major attention to campus sexual assault, an issue that has drawn in other funders, too—most notably the Avon Foundation, as we’ve reported.
Here’s some good news this week, in case you need a little cheering up: The Obama administration hosted the first-ever United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. With Michelle Obama and Oprah headlining the event, this convergence included many old and new fighters for gender equality including Darren Walker, Gloria Steinem, Matt McGorry and Amy Poehler.
President Obama and Vice President Biden also participated, with the president drawing wild cheers from the crowd as he announced in classic Obama style: “I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.”
Wrapping up today, the summit was convened by the White House Council on Women and Girls, and hosted in partnership with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation. Other sponsors include a long roster of businesses and foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Pepsico Foundation, the Tory Burch Foundation, and the AOL Charitable Foundation.
The summit included a ground-breaking announcement of $50 million in new commitments to support for women and girls. In one notable move, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation joined with seven other women’s foundations to announce the Young Women’s Initiative, which will fund efforts to improve the lives of young women across the U.S., with a particular focus on young women of color.
Joining Washington Area Women’s Foundation in making this commitment are the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, and the New York Women’s Foundation, which had previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015. We will have more on this effort as we talk with the women’s funds that are involved.
Other big pledges include more than $20 million in new commitments to the Obama Administration’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, which provides girls worldwide with access to education. CARE pledged $15 million to this effort, Oracle pledged $3 million, and the International Rescue Committee pledged $1 million. These new dollars will reach adolescent girls in many parts of the world, including India, Afghanistan, and Egypt, and girls in high-conflict nations in Africa and the Middle East.
There is much more to this announcement, including new efforts directed at reducing violence against women, increasing support for early childhood educators, and providing more funding for STEM efforts that target girls.
The White House also announced commitments from 28 leading companies to conduct “annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations.” In other words: gender equity pay audits! The companies also pledged to review their hiring and advancement practices. The full pledge and more statements from companies are here.
All this action suggests that this was one historic event for women, with more of its kind likely to occur in the coming years. To get a real taste of what the summit entailed, you can watch parts of it here.
We’ve been saying here for a while that there is a big disparity between White House engagement with My Brother’s Keeper and its work on issues of equality for women and girls. After the summit, things are looking a tad more balanced.
Do you ever wonder what motivates someone to give money? Obviously, the answer is “yes” if you’re a professional fundraiser. But those who give may also wonder what’s really causing them to reach for that checkbook.
Research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute sheds light on this area, particularly as it pertains to women at every level of society. Now, WPI has released a study showing for the first time that women are motivated by personal experience to give to causes that benefit women and girls specifically.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, it’s actually significant, useful information. Women’s tendency to donate money to specific causes based on experiences like having a child or discrimination suggests that philanthropy might take off in new directions as women become primary asset-holders in society and further increase their giving.
On January 29th, 2009, a mere nine days after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was his first piece of legislation as President, and it set the stage for a presidency that has been visibly committed to equal rights for men and women.
Since that historic day over seven years ago, Obama has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, signed into law the Affordable Care Act, created the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the White House Council on Women and Girls, issued an executive order that mandated federal contractors to publish pay data according to gender and race in order to combat the wage gap, and this May, the White House will host The United State of Women, a three day summit in Washington DC that will tackle gender inequality across a range of issues, including education, health, leadership, and economic empowerment.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has never been shy in declaring his commitment to gender equality, often referencing his two young daughters as his inspiration, but with his presidency soon coming to an end, it’s time to look to the future. Come November 8th, the United States will have a new President, and regardless of who that President is, I have one question I want to ask them: What are YOU going to do to improve gender equality in this country?
Like many who follow philanthropy, I pay attention to the Rockefellers. No family has done more to shape modern giving over the past century. But what are the Rockefellers doing these days to change the world?
Well, for one thing, as most of us have heard, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund took the major step not long ago of beginning to divest from fossil fuels—a move that received enormous attention given that the family’s wealth is famously derived from Standard Oil. Less well known is that the Rockefeller Family Fund is also divesting.
One member of the Rockefeller clan deeply involved in these issues is Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a fourth generation Rockefeller who previously served as a trustee and vice chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She is also President of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve in Maine.
Currently, Goodwin (that had originally been her middle name, after an ancestor on her mother’s side) is Co-Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. She is also a Research Associate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Director of Frontier Thinking in Sustainable Development and Human Well-Being, a digital Social Science Library that was created at Tufts for distribution to 100 low-income countries that have poor internet access.
Here’s the story of how Emily Nielsen Jones and her husband, Ross Jones, discovered their niche of integrating a “gender lens” 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 lens questions, she uncovered that within its own organization, 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.
We’ve written about Living Cities before, particularly its collaborative work with Bloomberg Philanthropies, and its partnership with the Citi Foundation to create the City Accelerator, a program that builds both local economies and government efficiency.
Now, Living Cities has announced a new Blended Catalyst Fund which will bring together $31 million in funding for distressed cities. This “impact investing debt fund” will address tough urban problems like affordable housing and homelessness, as well as catalyzing overall economic development and reducing poverty in the nation’s urban cores.
But what’s really going on here? What’s the impact of women’s leadership in philanthropy in terms of (a) where resources are actually going; and (b) how things are done in the philanthrosphere?
These questions are important to the sector, but they also link up with the larger perennial debate over just how much change occurs when women start calling the shots. Philanthropy offers an intriguing case study in this regard.
Our own impression from IP’s ongoing reporting in this area is that there are good reasons for all the excitement about women’s leadership in philanthropy. In fact, this leadership has mobilized new resources to advance gender equity and does seem to be affecting how philanthropy writ large operates.
Coming up soon on Inside Philanthropy: interview with Emily Nielsen Jones, co-founder of the Imago Dei Fund! To get you started on understanding this amazing leader, check out this article she co-wrote with Musimbi Kanyoro about new ways funders are using a gender lens to choose where to put their money. From SSIR:
Philanthropists and for-profit investors alike today are apt to talk of using a gender lens when screening opportunities to fund social change. When my husband and I (Emily) began our foundation—the Imago Dei Fund—in 2009, I gravitated immediately to the idea of empowering women and girls. Little did we know then that it would grow into a powerful movement changing the face of philanthropy.
At the cusp of a new round of global gender goal setting, we find ourselves asking: Where is the gender-lens movement going, which now takes as conventional wisdom that gender balance is a lynchpin of global progress? The answer lies in moving beyond redress, mitigation, and even women’s empowerment programs—though these are still sorely needed—to more directly fund culturally led efforts to re-examine and transform underlying beliefs that systematically disempower females in the first place.
Two years ago, we published a list of the 15 most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy. The idea for that article emerged because we were struck by how many women are involved in philanthropy at a high level—and equally struck by how little attention they tend to receive. In particular, while the spouses of billionaires often play a lead role in charting a couple’s giving, the spotlight usually falls on their better-known husbands when major gifts are made. Not only is this unfair, but it misses the real story of how today’s big philanthropy is unfolding as new mega-donors enter the scene—with women in the lead.