Female Film Force: Bumble’s Grants to Women Behind the Camera

Feminist dating site Bumble is making grants to women filmmakers with its Female Film Force competition. (Image Credit: Bumble)

Bumble—the self-proclaimed feminist dating, lifestyle and career app—recently announced the five winners of its 2019 “Female Film Force” competition.

The competition, now in its second year, provides grants to female filmmakers in France, Germany, Ireland and the UK. Female Film Force received over 1,300 pitches by teams of women filmmakers (writers, directors, or producers) and awarded £20,000 (about $25,000 USD) to each winner.

The initial candidates had submitted their applications in March, and were subsequently reduced to a short list, following which ten teams pitched a film industry panel, and then that group was winnowed to the five victors. In addition to the grant, the winners will receive support and guidance from industry experts; the completed films will be released in January 2020.

The five winning projects were:

Ma’am (written and directed by Joy Wilkinson and produced by Jude Goldrei, United Kingdom). Ma’am depicts Queen Victoria’s battle with post-partum depression after giving birth to her ninth child. Her problems come to a head during a photo-shoot arranged by her husband Albert.
‘Sunita’ (written and produced by Joan Iyiola and Chibundu Onuzo, United Kingdom). Sunita is about a young black girl trying to fit in at a British boarding school and the transformation she undergoes when she dons a wig made from an Indian girl’s hair.
Ascending Grace (written by Karen Healy, directed by Claire Byrne and produced by Sharon Cronin, Ireland). A plane enroute to a Catholic pilgrimage in Lourdes has been grounded, and the female pilots don’t see the situation the same way.
Et Chaque Nuit (animated; drawn and directed by comic artist Julie Robert, France). Focused on mental health, Et Chaque Nuit (And Each Night) is about Lea, her friend Maud, and Lea’s pursuit of a ghostly deer.
Viva La Feminista (documentary; produced by Noumia Film’s Silke Meya and Laura Mentgen, Germany). The doc looks at feminism in Germany today through the eyes of six children.

The Bumble Female Film Force competition aims to increase female representation in film making. Seventy-three percent of the 2019 Oscars winners were men, and all of the best-director nominees at the Oscars and Golden Globes were male. The problem is not limited to the U.S.; at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, only a third of the winners were female, and no female directors were nominated. Only one woman (Jane Campion) has won the Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes, and only four women directors have received the Golden Bear award for best film at the Berlin Film Festival over the last 17 years. Mirroring figures elsewhere, a mere 15 percent of films shown in German cinemas are directed by women

Bumble is a women-centered app with three components: “Date,” “BFF,” (a place for users to form platonic friendship connections) and “Bizz” (a place for users to swipe for mentorship, networking, and career-building”). Bumble was founded on, and is best known, for its dating app which diverges from Tinder and similar services in one key aspect, the power it accords women. According to Bumble, “When members of the opposite sex match on Bumble, women are required to make the first move, shifting old-fashioned power dynamics and encouraging equality from the start.”

Bumble was founded in 2014 by Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe Herd and Andrey Andreev, co-founder of Badoo, an international social networking and dating app. (Wolfe Herd had left Tinder in the wake of a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit). Bumble is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has a staff of 70. It is valued at roughly one billion dollars; Wolfe Herd herself, just shy of her thirtieth birthday, is worth several hundred million dollars.

Ten Companies Join UN Foundation, Promise Better Lives for Women

Katja Iverson, President and CEO of Women Deliver, speaks at the Women Deliver conference held in early June, 2019, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau look on. (Image credit: Women Deliver 2019)

Women comprise a large and growing percentage of the global workforce, yet they often work under unhealthy and difficult conditions, including harassment and violence, that are damaging to them, and to their families and communities. In textile, garment and shoe manufacturing, as well as flower farming and tea, coffee, and cocoa processing, women comprise 50 to 80 percent of the workforce. Many of these female workers are underpaid and suffer from pervasive gender discrimination.

A new initiative, under the aegis of the Private Sector Action for Women’s Health & Empowerment, aims to improve the lives of 250,000 working women in 14 countries worldwide. The program was announced at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver in early June. The United Nations Foundation, together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development and Merck for Mothers, is leading the program which is being implemented by ten companies with global supply chains employing significant numbers of women.

Specifically, Unilever, Twinings, Nordstrom, Lindex, Shahi, MAS Holdings, Hela Clothing, Inditex, Share Hope, and Ethical Apparel Africa have committed to providing women workers with services and information in areas including contraception, maternal health, menstrual health, reproductive cancer screening, skill building, and anti-harassment programs.

The Women Deliver 2019 Conference—the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women in the 21st century—was an ideal venue for the UN Foundation and the ten participating companies to commit to do better for female workers, and provide them essential health and empowerment information and services.

Investing in women’s health and well-being in the workplace is the right thing to do, and it also makes good business sense. A healthier workforce reduces absenteeism and turnover while increasing productivity, helping the company and the worker. Robyn Russell, Director of Programs and Innovation at the UN Foundation’s Universal Access Project notes, “Companies employing millions of women in their global supply chains have an enormous opportunity to invest in the health and empowerment of their workforce, helping meet women right where they are – in the workplace – with critical information and services, while building a healthier, more productive workforce.”

The program participants have made the following commitments:

Unilever, informed by the UN Women report “Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces” will invest two million Euros to reduce violence against women and guarantee access to basic health care services for 70,000 people on and around its tea estates in East Africa by 2022.
Twinings, pledges to reach all of its 75,000 female supply chain farmers in Kenya with HERhealth (a training program on topics ranging from nutrition, sanitation, STI prevention and reproductive health) as well as similar women’s health services for 50,000 workers in Kenya, Malawi and India by 2023.
Nordstrom, will source 70 percent of all Nordstrom Made products from factories that support women’s empowerment by 2023, and will reach 75,000 workers in Vietnam, India and Bangladesh through programs including HERhealth, HERfinance and HERrespect.
Inditex (a Spanish multinational clothing company), will expand its Women Empowerment Strategy to reach more than one million female workers with health, protection, and empowerment programs by 2022, including maternity and reproductive health care services for 70,000 women workers by 2022.
Lindex (a Swedish fashion chain with 480 stores in 18 countries), will ensure that 80 percent of its first-tier suppliers have implemented WE Women (a program to boost gender equality and female employee training) and HERhealth programs reaching 20,000 women workers in India, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Myanmar by 2025.
Shahi (India’s largest apparel manufacturer), will partner with the Family Planning Association of India to reach 9,000 workers in six of its factories, along with more than 10,000 community members, with women’s health information and services by 2020. The one-year pilot will lead to a wide-scale roll out of such services across more of Shahi’s factories.
MAS Holdings (South Asia’s largest apparel manufacturer, headquartered in Sri Lanka), will continue its Women Go Beyond program, in partnership with the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka and the UN Population Fund to provide information, services and training in women’s health and well-being to all existing workers, and extend the program to reach an additional 10,000 people, including new recruits and families of workers, by 2021.
Hela Clothing (a Kenyan garment manufacturer), will implement HERhealth and partner with local women’s health and well-being providers to ensure access to health and empowerment information and services for 10,000 workers, in Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Ethiopia, by 2022.
Share Hope (a Haitian organization providing fair, safe jobs, and funding life-changing health and education programs for Haitian garment workers), will enroll an additional 4,000 women workers in four Haitian factories in the HERhealth program, and an additional 2,000 in the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program—with some workers participating in both programs—reaching a total of 5,000 women workers by 2022.
Ethical Apparel Africa (a garment sourcing agent in West Africa), will continue to support workforce empowerment and women’s health programs, including family planning and maternal health care, reaching 1,500 women in garment factories in Ghana by 2023.

The 250,000 workers reached by these programs are a small fraction of the millions of women working in difficult conditions worldwide. Still, the support of the UN and other major foundations, as well as some of the world’s leading companies, will make this initiative highly visible, and a model for other corporations, NGOs, and national and international government agencies.

What Can Feminist Philanthropy Do About Student Debt for Women?

Women report more financial difficulties while repaying student loans, with black women reporting the most difficulty. (Image Credit: AAUW Infographic)

Billionaire Robert F. Smith recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College, an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta. Most commencement speakers impart wisdom about following dreams, giving back, working hard, and so on. But Smith brought a little something extra to his talk: a pledge to pay all of the 396-person graduating class’s student debt (about $40 million dollars).

No doubt, many members of the Morehouse class of 2019 desperately needed this help. But it turns out that women, and particularly black women, are more likely to need student debt relief than men, according to a comprehensive study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). One reason is that in 2019 women will earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. It’s a remarkable shift from just a few decades ago when women trailed men in educational attainment. Unfortunately, this achievement has come at a steep cost, literally, as women owe $929 million—or roughly two-thirds—of the $1.46 trillion in U.S. student debt.

These figures are drawn from the 2019 update of the AAUW’s 2017 report “Deeper in Debt – Women and Student Loans.” Several factors have contributed to greater female student debt levels. Firstly, a greater percentage of women are attending college than ever, with certain demographics, notably women of color, dramatically increasing their rate of college participation. (The percentage of non-white college students increased from 16 percent to 43 percent between 1976 and 2016). Secondly, a college education is much more expensive than it used to be, its cost in constant dollars more than doubling from three decades ago, even though there have been only marginal increases in household income, with most of those gains going to the top quintile. Furthermore, women are more likely than men to take on debt, and they face further headwinds in paying it back because of the gender pay gap.

The above factors have a number of life-long ripple effects; the AAUW notes, “Women take about two years longer than men to repay student loans and are more likely to struggle economically as they do so. As a result, women often put off saving for retirement, buying a home, or starting a business.”

The average total debt for women graduating with a bachelor’s degree is $21,619 (compared to $18,880 for men). Particularly striking is the racial disparity: white men are in debt to the tune of $19,486, and white women $21,993. The figures for black men and women are $26,434, and $30,366 respectively. (Interestingly, Asian and Hispanic student debt loads immediately following graduation are lower than those for whites). This level of debt has serious real-world consequences as, according to the AAUW, 57 percent of black women “report financial difficulties while repaying student loans,” as do 42 percent of Hispanic women, 30 percent of white women and 28 percent of Asian women (the figure for all men is 24 percent).

Student loans, whether public or private, are almost impossible to discharge through bankruptcy or other means, except repayment, and can trail people throughout their lives. Moreover, for those who do not complete their degrees there is a double whammy of serious debt, and little ability to dig out of that hole.

A particularly pernicious source of debt is for-profit institutions. Nearly two-thirds of their students are female, and for-profits enroll disproportionately high percentages of people of color, poor people, and current and former members of the military than do traditional institutions. Graduates—and non-graduates—of such programs have high levels of debt, high rates of default, and often mediocre job prospects.

To reduce female student debt, AAUW recommends expanding federal Pell grants and other forms of student aid, providing resources like child-care to non-traditional students, expanding income-driven repayment plans to help those earning relatively low salaries, and urging congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to combat the gender wage gap.

Programs aimed at partial or full forgiveness of student loans—such as have been proposed by Elizabeth Warren—would be a boon to women, given their disproportionate level of debt. Of course, a more direct road to this goal would be making college cheaper to start with. Such measures could include increasing government support for state-sponsored institutions so that they can reduce tuition (in almost all cases, states are paying a lower percentage of the funds needed to run post-secondary institutions than they did decades ago).

Gender lens philanthropists can act on all of the above areas including funding grants, scholarships, and bursaries aimed at female students, particularly in fields where women are underrepresented. Another avenue is fighting to increase women’s pay and career prospects, including developing internships and mentorships aimed at female students and recent graduates. Finally, advocating for gender pay equity laws and better family leave and childcare policies will increase female earnings and allow for easier repayment of student loans.

Tegan and Sara Want You to Be Proud of Your Feet

The Tegan and Sarah Foundation provides grants for camps serving LGBTQ+ youth. (Image credit: Tegan and Sara Foundation)

The Tegan and Sara Foundation, founded by the eponymous indie/folk/pop musical duo, has partnered with shoemaker Teva to launch a limited-edition, multi-colored sandal to support the LGBTQ+ community. The elevated rainbow sandal celebrates Pride Month, and Teva will donate a portion of sales to the Tegan and Sara Foundation (TSF).

TSF “fights for health, economic justice and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.” Launched in 2016 on a commitment to feminism and racial, social and gender justice, TSF is in solidarity with other organizations fighting for LGBTQ and women’s rights. The Foundation raises awareness and funds to address the inequalities currently preventing LGBTQ girls and women from reaching their full potential.

“We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16,” say Tegan and Sara. “This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation. Teva’s generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth.”

Teva will donate fifteen dollars for each pair of Flatform Universal Pride sandals sold, up to a guaranteed maximum donation of $30,000, to the TSF to continue the movement for racial equality, social and gender justice for young girls and women. The donation will fund scholarships for LGBTQ+ youth to attend summer camps that help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment.

The Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal is inspired by the LGBTQ Pride flag’s message of empowerment and inclusivity, and retails for $80. It’s available for purchase on Teva.com and Nordstrom.com.

Identical twins Tegan and Sara Quinn were born in Calgary, Alberta in 1980 and have been making music together since their teens. (Another out gay singer-song writer from Alberta is k.d. lang, born in Edmonton in 1961). Tegan and Sara both sing and play multiple instruments, and their indie folk/pop style has won them a wide following. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, performed at the 2015 Oscars, and, in addition to their regular touring schedule, have played mega festivals including Coachella, Lollapalooza and Glastonbury. Their first record came out in 1998, and since then they have released seven LPs and many EPs. In their native Canada, Tegan and Sara received the 2018 National Arts Centre Award, part of the Governor General’s Performing Art Awards recognizing “excellence and career achievement of Canadian performing artists.”

There was no public coming out moment for Tegan and Sara as they have identified as queer since the 1989, and have always been LGBTQ equality and gender justice advocates. They are known for their close relationship with their fans, and for being very public about their status as feminists and queer people, having appeared on the cover of LGBTQ magazines including The Advocate, Out, and Curve. The sisters have also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advocate for LGBTQ issues, and they delivered a closing keynote at the 2018 “Lesbians Who Tech Summit” in San Francisco.

According to TSF, “inclusion” is the essential message underpinning Tegan and Sara’s worldview and identity; “the Foundation is an extension of their work, identity and longstanding commitment to supporting and building progressive social change.” TSF debuted in October 2016 following a nationwide “listening and learning tour” where Tegan and Sara met with LGBTQ young people, researchers, legislators and nonprofits. They found that LGBTQ women are underfunded, underrepresented and under-researched, and learned that funding for gay men’s causes is double that of queer women’s. The Foundation was born out of a desire to change these statistics and improve lives.

TSF partners with many different nonprofits doing transformative work for LGBTQ girls and women. It also provides funding for summer camps for LGBTQ youth. Among the organizations and projects that TSF have supported are:

Zebra Coalition and the LGBTQ+ Center Orlando, which provide counseling services for LGBTQ youth in response to spikes in suicide hotline calls;
Equality NC, which has rallied against anti-LGBTQ legislation in North Carolina;
Audre Lorde Project’s community support initiatives for LGBTQ people;
• A DonorsChoose.org campaign to increase LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in public schools;
• Initiatives at concerts to educate LGBTQ women about healthcare options, and support local LGBTQ organizations.

Tegan and Sara will be performing on June 29 in Salt Lake City at the LOVELOUD Festival, which is raising funds to support LGBTQ+ youth. The concert, headlined by Kesha, takes place on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, and the sisters are sponsoring a “Meet Tegan and Sara at the LOVELOUD Festival and win their microKORG Keyboard” contest which will help fund TSF’s summer camp scholarships for LGBTQ+ youth. If concerts aren’t your bag, watch for Tegan and Sara’s memoir High School which will be out in September.

Canada and Equality Fund Commit $300 Mil CAD to Women’s Rights

A new initiative that crosses public/private lines, The Equality Fund, has formed in Canada to address women’s rights in some of the world’s poorest countries. (Image Credit: Equality Fund)

The Canadian government recently pledged $300 CAD (about $225 million U.S.) toward improving women’s rights and economic security in the developing world. Maryam Monsef, who serves as Canada’s Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality, made the announcement on June 2 ahead of the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, where she is a speaker.

The Canadian government is partnering with the Equality Fund to administer the funds. The Equality Fund is a consortium of Canadian and international organizations that is funding efforts to improve outcomes for women and support gender equality globally.

Global Affairs Canada calls the Equality Fund, “the first global platform that brings together the private sector, philanthropists and governments to strengthen women’s organizations and movements by giving them sustainable and flexible funding.” The fund has mobilized initial investments of $100 million CAD to complement the Government of Canada’s $300 million commitment.

The funds will promote gender equity in the developing world, and will go to local organizations with the goals of combating gender-based violence, improving women’s economic security and enabling more women to take on leadership roles in their communities. These are key elements in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

“Women’s rights are challenged the world over,” said Monsef. “With the Equality Fund and domestic partnerships announced today, Canadians are shifting the power to women’s rights organizations and supporting women pushing back against the push back. Behind this effort is Canada’s best in philanthropy, feminist leadership, banking and investment, and international development.”

The Equality Fund collective comprises the Ottawa-based MATCH International Women’s Fund and ten other partners: the African Women’s Development Fund, Calvert Impact Capital, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, Philanthropy for Advancing Women’s Human Rights, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Foundation, World University Service of Canada, Oxfam Canada and Yaletown Partners.

Jess Tomlin, MATCH Fund President & CEO and Equality Fund co-founder, remarked, “With women’s funds, community foundations, large philanthropic institutions, high net worth philanthropists, a leading Canadian bank, an impact fund manager and venture capital aligned, it is unprecedented to have this diversity of willing partners working to reach the ambitious goal of generating new assets to tackle gender inequality – for once and for all.”

The Equality Fund projects that it will “activate a minimum of $1B over the next fifteen years.” The Fund’s grant making approach supports women’s movements in Canada and internationally and will be based on three themes: “shifting power, building peace, protecting the planet. ” According to Theo Sowa, CEO of the Ghana-based African Women’s Development Fund, “Money is a very specific type of power, and we believe that one of the most powerful things we can do is move significant money into the hands of women leaders driving change in their communities. Canada and the world can do more to shift power in this way.”

The consortium finances are being led by the Royal Bank of Canada, and Maryland-based non-profit Calvert Impact Capital, which will apply a holistic gender lens to $75 million CAD of private loans deployed primarily through funds and intermediaries. Calvert will develop a pipeline of deals sourced from their extensive global network that provide intentional, measurable social and/or environmental return across a range of sectors and geographies, with a focus on emerging markets.

The Canadian government is also working on gender justice at home. Through the Department for Women and Gender Equality, it is partnering with the Community Foundations of Canada, the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada to match up to $30 million CAD in funding directed into gender equality efforts.

One of the hallmarks of the Canadian Liberal Party’s Trudeau government has been its public commitment to women’s rights and diversity. The 33-year-old Maryam Monsef is Canada’s first Afghan-Canadian Member of Parliament, and the first Muslim to serve as a federal-level Cabinet Minister. She is behind Canada’s first national program to prevent gender-based violence, has worked with the Minister of Finance on gender budgeting, and was part of an initiative undertaken by multiple federal institutions to pass pay equity laws in the federally regulated sector. Given her portfolios on matters pertaining to women and international development, Monsef is ideally positioned to work with the Equality Fund and others in advancing women’s rights worldwide. As part of her duties, Mosef also heads Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. Closer to home, she is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Peterborough-Kawartah, approximately 80 miles northeast of Toronto

While the Trudeau government has championed gender equity in Canada and abroad, and its inaugural cabinet was split evenly between women and men, it has been dogged by the long-standing problem of the disappearance of large numbers of Indigenous women. The government has been accused by activists of foot dragging on the matter and failing to move more decisively.

Additionally, the Trudeau government took a serious hit in March when two of its top female cabinet ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, resigned. Wilson-Raybould had been attorney general (and was the first Indigenous woman to hold the post) and says she was improperly pressured by members of Trudeau’s staff on a bribery and corruption case involving Montreal-based engineering and construction giant SNC Lavalin. When she refused to budge on her decision to prosecute, Wilson-Raybould was demoted to the position of minister of veteran affairs. She subsequently resigned, as did her cabinet colleague Jane Philpott (who has served as Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and President of the Treasury Board). The two were booted from the Liberal caucus in April, and will run as independents next election.

GOAAAL! Visa Scores by Upping its Commitment to Women’s Soccer

VISA has committed to supporting the women’s team equally at World Cup this year in France. (Photo credit: US Soccer Federation)

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) will be held in France starting June 8. The month-long tournament is held every four years, and is the global marquee event for women’s soccer.

The U.S. team is favored to win the WWC, but the French, German, and English squads are also considered serious contenders. All 24 participating teams had to earn their spot in the WWC by playing in preliminary regional tournaments.

Visa has recently announced that it is making a “substantial investment” in the U.S. Women’s National Team. While the company is sponsoring both the U.S. women’s and men’s squads, it has pledged that at least half of the funds will be earmarked for the women’s side. This is significant, as typically the support from corporate and other sponsors for female athletics is dwarfed by the sponsorship dollars accorded male athletes. Visa is making a powerful statement in its commitment to equality in this area.

“Sport presents a huge opportunity for women to pursue their dreams on and off the field,” said Lynne Biggar, Visa’s chief marketing and communications officer. “Women make the vast majority of consumer purchases and start millions of small businesses a year. By making a substantial investment in women’s initiatives, including soccer, Visa is celebrating this powerful global force.”

Visa’s five-year sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation will help develop women’s soccer and support the U.S. Women’s National Team through 2023. Visa will also become the presenting sponsor of the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team U.S.-based tournament which began in 2016. England beat the U.S., Japan, and Brazil to win the 2019 contest, which was held at venues in Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania earlier this year. The SheBelieves movement is spearheaded by U.S. Women’s National Team players, and aims “to inspire girls and young women and encourage them to accomplish their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise.”

If women’s athletics get short shrift compared to men’s sports, so it is with soccer, which despite its global dominance is given little attention in the U.S. “We are incredibly excited Visa is partnering with us on our overall mission to become the preeminent sport in the U.S.,” said Jay Berhalter, chief commercial officer, U.S. Soccer. “With Visa joining us in our long-term investment in women’s soccer, we will continue to increase opportunities for women players, coaches and referees at all levels. Overall, we are looking forward to Visa helping us reach our mission by increasing participation, developing world class players, coaches and referees, and increasing fan engagement.”

Visa is launching a marketing campaign to celebrate the U.S. Women’s National Team and its star players. The ads will feature Mallory Pugh, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Jessica McDonald, Abby Dahlkemper and Adrianna Franch, and will highlight these athletes’ hard work and determination as they play on a global stage.

“Women’s football is at a tipping point. This year has seen a global wave of support around women’s empowerment and the excitement is spreading with the sold-out opening and final matches for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019,” notes Visa’s Biggar. The sponsorship will include the fan-voted “Player of the Match” for each of the WWC’s 52 games. Visa also has an international ad campaign with the slogan “One Moment Can Change the Game,” focused on elevating women in sports.

Visa is connecting achievement on the soccer field with success in the business world. On the WWC tournament’s opening day, Visa will host the finals of its global competition celebrating women entrepreneurs who are making strides in Fintech and Social Impact. Twelve finalists from six regions will pitch their solutions for a chance to win the grand prize of $100,000 per challenge.

There is a strong correlation between girls and women playing sports, and professional success. Funding for girls’ and women’s athletics at the amateur level is vital, as is raising the profile of the upper echelons of women’s sports. Elite female soccer players represent powerful role models for younger athletes, fostering the growth of the game, and women assuming greater leadership roles in the larger society.

Are Female Presidential Candidates Getting Treated Fairly by the Media?

UltraViolet is calling on mainstream media outlets to be fair and impartial in covering candidates for the 2020 elections. (Image Credit: UltraViolet)

The 23-person field vying for the Democratic nomination for president includes six women: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson. Two of them (Harris and Warren) are seen as having decent odds of taking the nomination, while Klobuchar is a potential dark horse.

But will these women be torpedoed by press coverage that holds them to a different standard than their male counterparts? The women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet Action says that is a very real danger, and decries the sexist coverage so far exhibited by the mainstream media.

According to Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, “The 2020 Democratic Primary includes an amazing field of candidates that represent the growing diversity of our country and party – they span a range of genders, races and sexual orientations. That’s a good thing for the Democratic party and a good thing for our country.”

As Thomas notes, it is certainly an accomplished group and is truly diverse, including Latino, African American, Asian and gay candidates. Nonetheless, there appears to be media bias negatively affecting female candidates, and she writes, “Our country has seen what can happen as a result of inequitable media coverage of presidential candidates. This cannot be our reality in 2020.”

In an open letter sent to executives at MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, Fox News, Univision, Telemundo and PBS, UltraViolet Action states: “[T]he historic number of highly qualified women candidates in the race are given significantly less attention and media exposure than their male peers. And when the media does focus on women candidates, there is often a default to sexist tropes about women in leadership or a lack of focus on the substantive backgrounds and policies of the women candidates.”

The letter further notes, “Concerns about “electability” are often leveled at women candidates using metrics not considered for their male counterparts.” Nearly two dozen organizations have signed the statement, including CREDO, Emily’s List, MoveOn Political Action, NARAL, NOW, Pantsuit Nation, and Women’s March.

UltraViolet Action’s letter was a response to the absence of women moderators on CNN’s April 22 town hall which featured a Q & A with five of the 2020 contenders: Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. UltraViolet Action is demanding that at least fifty percent of town hall and debate moderators are women, and that fifty percent are people of color. The letter also demands that the media take female candidates as seriously as their male counterparts, and they want to see male candidates get asked about sexism, maternal health, abortion access and sexual violence as frequently as are women. During the town hall, only female presidential candidates were asked questions about sexism, including questions about gender pay gap, messages to young female voters, and what could be done to “level the playing field and empower working women.”

These are not women’s problems for women to solve; any candidate, regardless of gender, ideology or other identification, will need to address them. The letter demands that reporters “Ask male candidates about issues that impact women including sexism, maternal health and mortality, abortion access, sexual assault/violence.” This is particularly urgent, writes UltraViolet, given that a sexual predator occupies the White House, abortion rights are under attack, and there is a maternal health crisis with Black women dying in high numbers.

Ultimately, UltraViolet Action demands that the media cover women candidates as seriously as they cover men, pointing to a Northeastern University School of Journalism study which showed that the media devotes less coverage to female candidates, and that this coverage is more likely to be negative, and not focus on the substantive backgrounds and policies of women candidates.

According to the study, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand trailed Sanders, Booker and O’Rourke in terms of positive words used in articles about them. (The data was last updated in late April, prior to Joe Biden’s entry into the race). The Northeastern study explores several fertile areas for analysis, including the double standards applied to male and female candidates. Clark University political science professor Valerie Sperling notes that Hilary Clinton was criticized for shouting during her presidential run, whereas Bernie Sanders is not assailed for this same tendency. Cal State San Bernardino professor Meredith Conroy, author of the book, Masculinity, Media and the American Presidency writes that female candidates receive less policy coverage than males candidates, and that even positive coverage of a women’s personality can be a problem as it can reduce her to that dimension, and reinforce a narrative of who is or is not a serious candidate.

UltraViolet Action is a national advocacy organization driving feminist cultural and political change. Co-founded by Shauna Thomas and Nita Chaudhary, it works to improve the lives of women of all identities and backgrounds. UV states, “We leverage culture, politics, the news, and our rapid-response model to mobilize millions of people, quickly. We founded UltraViolet on the principle that with a combination of organizing, technology, creative campaigning, and people power, we can win.”

The organization focuses on violence, reproductive rights, healthcare, economic security, immigrants’ rights, criminal and racial justice, particularly related to women of color, Indigenous women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. The organization is noted for campaigns to hold accountable powerful sexual abusers and their enablers. Such figures have included singer R. Kelly, Les Moonves, Steve Wynn, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. UV Action has also campaigned in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and Senator Tammy Duckworth’s bill allowing infants on the Senate floor.

UltraViolet’s activism about the process of media coverage, as well as the candidates themselves, provides a strong model for how feminism is working to build awareness about gender bias and its impact on public discourse. By urging media outlets to examine their own lack of gender equality, UltraViolet is facilitating a healthier electoral process.

Knowing When to Say No: Sometimes Leaving Money on the Table Sends the Strongest Message

The Haitian Project President Deacon Patrick Moynihan (right) stands with Louverture Cleary School faculty and administration at an all-school morning prayer and meeting. (photo credit: The Haitian Project)

Patrick Moynihan, President of The Haitian Project, a Rhode Island-based Catholic non-profit which educates poor Haitians, has publicly rejected a $100,000 donation offered by a representative of Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots.

In a May 8, 2019 Skype interview given to the GoLocalProv website, and reiterated in a Providence Journal opinion piece published several days later, Moynihan stated that because Kraft has refused to denounce the sex trade and apologize for his participation in it, it was improper for The Haitian Project to accept funds from the Patriots owner.

In the Journal op-ed, Moynihan also criticizes Florida circuit court Judge Leonard Hanser for soft-pedaling Kraft’s actions, “Prostitution is dehumanizing to the point of enslavement and is potentially physically dangerous,” writes Moynihan. “[Hanser] shows shockingly little concern for the person providing the services or for public health. It is as if all he sees is a misguided old man and not the women oppressed by an abusive industry. He clearly overlooks both the magnitude of the alleged activity (hundreds of arrests were made at one location) and its very public location — strip malls.”

Moynihan says what is particularly troubling for him is that Kraft does not recognize the damage prostitution does to women and society. It’s not Kraft’s isolated “indiscretion” that roils him, but rather a very powerful man’s attempt to steamroll the judicial process and have the matter disappear. It’s telling, notes Moynihan, that Kraft apologized to his family and the team, but never to the women; these are the disposable commodities the sex trade uses to service its consumers.

Moynihan notes that he did not reject the gift outright, and instead contacted Kraft to open-up a dialogue on the matter. In the GoLocalProv interview, Moynihan says he wrote to Kraft, stating, “If you [Kraft] are serious about reclaiming your public reputation and using your platform for good, let’s sit and talk about how that would work and what it would take to make the situation acceptable for us to take the gift. We never got a response.”

And so, Moynihan faced the dilemma confronting many non-profits and charitable organizations: whether to accept money from a morally compromised individual, knowing that the funds could further the organization’s goals. Moynihan found it impossible, “We are looking at his public actions. He has yet to denounce prostitution and the sex trade,” says Moynihan, “He has left it hanging.”

In saying “no,” Moynihan keyed on the feminist aspect of this saga. In short, when “boys will be boys” somebody pays the price, usually women. This has particular relevance to the work that The Haiti Project (THP) does in supporting the Louverture Cleary School (LCS), a tuition-free, Catholic, co-ed secondary boarding school in Port au Prince.

The school’s 350-student enrollment is split evenly between females and males, and it serves academically strong youngsters from Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods. Its “Celebrate Women” and “Man Up” programs aim to empower girls and foster healthy relationships. Louverture Cleary promotes community service and provides 100 university scholarships yearly to graduating students. Its goal is to have LCS graduates remain in Haiti and constitute the professional class needed to help the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, develop. Traditionally, many educated Haitians have left Haiti for the U.S., Canada or France, but 90 percent of LCS graduates are still in Haiti. THP has plans to develop a 10-school network to serve students in all ten of Haiti’s administrative regions.

Haiti has long struggled with the effects of its colonial past, including a degraded environment and a legacy of political corruption and authoritarianism. It has also suffered natural disasters including hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. These are huge challenges, but particularly relevant for Moynihan and THP was the history of the sex trade in Haiti, including sex tourism, in the 1970s and 80s, when Haiti was at the nexus of the AIDS epidemic. “We can’t be seen to have a laissez fair attitude toward the sex trade, because of the devastation done to Haiti,” he says.

Of course, Moynihan could have just declined the money and nobody would have been the wiser, but he has been public about why he rejected the funds. He is in line with much of feminist philanthropy in this regard; it’s not just about the cash, but the interlocking network of relationships that come before and after the donation. The Haiti Project (THP) is devoted to education, and ultimately Haiti’s development; taking money from someone who is unapologetic about participating in the sex trade would implicate THP in an impossible moral quandary.

Feminist philanthropy helps us recognize the boundaries between our moral compass and the moral compasses of those around us. This question is faced by many philanthropic organizations, including an environmental non-profit deciding whether to take money from an energy company, a medical charity accepting funds from a drug maker, or a faith-based organization receiving support from an insider trader. It is also an area where feminist philanthropy seems particularly strong in highlighting the connection between sound practice and a sound moral framework.

More Than Survivors: Developing the Next Generation of Tech Workers

The Foundation for Gender Equality is launching a new initiative aimed at helping female survivors of gender-based violence learn tech skills. (Image Credit: The Foundation for Gender Equality)

The Foundation for Gender Equality aims to foster opportunities and remove obstacles for women and girls facing inequity, and its latest initiative targets female survivors of violence and sexual abuse with a program that teaches them tech skills. The goal is to enable victims to go beyond simple survival to earning a living wage. The Westport, Connecticut-based non-profit, which was founded in 2016 by Richard and Jill Fitzburgh and Theresa Boylan, has partnered with Tech Up for Women to develop the “Give Back” program to achieve this goal.

Tech Up for Women is a collaborative and annual conference that enables women to stay at the forefront of technology. It aims to close the male-female tech gap and provide women opportunities to forge technology careers. Tech Up has worked with companies including CNBC, NASDAQ, and Uber.

The Foundation for Gender Equality (FGE)/Tech Up initiative will provide technology training and tools for economic independence to at-risk women by enlisting AnnieCannons and Sanctuary for Families, two organizations offering such skills-development programs for particularly vulnerable and underrepresented women.

AnnieCannons is named after Harvard astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) who is credited with developing our system of stellar classification. AnnieCannons’ mandate is “transforming survivors of human trafficking into software professionals,” and the Bay Area-based non-profit states, “Our program starts with data literacy and advances through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as students demonstrate mastery. Later phases include full stack development, cybersecurity, visual design, and more.”

AnnieCannons is led by Executive Director Laura Hackney, a software engineer who managed the Program on Human Rights at Stanford University, and who has worked with the San Francisco Police Department on anti-trafficking initiatives, and CEO Jessica Hubley, a lawyer and entrepreneur who has worked with many tech firms.

The other organization that will be teaching survivors tech skills is NYC-based Sanctuary for Families, which serves “over 15,000 survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence every year.” One of its areas of emphasis is education, including its Education Empowerment Program which helps participants avoid low-wage, low-skill jobs by “[providing] clients with literacy skills, professional development, and the advanced IT training that employers seek, so they can find living-wage, career track work.”

The FGE/Tech Up “Give Back” initiative will offer a range of skills including digital training, web development training, interview prep and tips for would-be tech workers on how to represent themselves. “We at FGE are committed to empowering survivors of exploitation and violence, and through this initiative, we hope to help women gain a sense of independence as they advance their skills,” notes co-founder Jill Fitzburgh.

The Foundation for Gender Equality was formed in 2016 with a simple idea: help women and girls achieve equality. Gender equality, with all of its complexity, cultural and global dimensions, is the transformative issue of our time argues the Foundation, and solving this complex problem will improve the world for males and females of all ages and backgrounds. Providing survivors with valuable and marketable skills is one way of making this vision a reality.

Women Missing From Research on Fake News and Politics

(Image Credit: Getty Images)

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has awarded its first round of “Social Media and Democracy Research Grants.” The 12 projects provide “systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.” The SSRC is an independent, international nonprofit led by Alondra Nelson, a Columbia University Professor of Sociology and inaugural Dean of Social Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Facebook data will be used by researchers to better understand the role of social media on politics and society, notably the spread of disinformation and fake news, and how social media users attach themselves to particular online narratives. Several of the projects analyze how social media has affected particular political events, including recent elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany, as well as public opinion in Taiwan. The projects also examine the relationship between Facebook and traditional news media, and delve into the complex question of what constitutes “fake news,” and how it can be distinguished from more fact-based reporting.

The researchers are drawn from disciplines including political science, public policy, communications, journalism and computer science, and are given access to Facebook data via the organization Social Science One, which partners academic researchers with industry to analyze the large amount of socially valuable information held by private companies. The SSRC “Social Media and Democracy Research Grants” initiative received funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Eight of the grantees are from universities outside the U.S., but only two awards went to woman-led projects. Tanushree Mitra, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, is the principal investigator on the project “Characterizing Mainstream and Nonmainstream Online News Sources in Social Media,” while Magdalena Saldaña, Assistant Professor in Journalism at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, is co-principal investigator on an analysis of fake news on Facebook and the 2017 Chilean election. Two of the projects had no female researchers at all (most of the research teams have between three and six members).

The use of actual Facebook data to better understand the role of propaganda in social media, and its effect upon elections and political opinion, is highly valuable. Moreover, the term “fake news” has become a cheap insult that is indiscriminately hurled about, and specifying what this term means and its real-world operation and impact is also important.

Unfortunately, the role of gender is not addressed in any of the projects being funded by the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants. This may be because most of the principal investigators are men. No statistics are provided to indicate what percentage of grant applications were by women. This kind of transparency is important. There is significant concern about how search engines like Google exhibit gender bias. Research efforts on the topic of democracy and media need to be transparent about their efforts to include women and minorities in their grantmaking process.

The research on fake news and bias in media should not replicate the problems of exclusion. We need more women and minority researchers to help us understand how fake news agents are exploiting gender norms in order to influence elections, and how they are particularly targeting female candidates in the upcoming elections with fake news that plays on these stereotypes.

Other questions that bear asking include: How often does gender—either overtly or by implication—factor into what are classified as “fake news” items? Are female politicians more likely to be the targets of fake news than their male counterparts? When social media groups are infiltrated by organized provocateurs, or by lone trolls, how often are gender-based wedge issues used to stir up antipathy to feminism and female candidates? On the consumer end, are there gender differences in how fake news items are perceived by social media users, and how likely they are to be shared? Should gender be a factor in considering how to combat fake news? And what is fake news, do women and men share the same definition of this phenomenon? A future round of grants with more female principal investigators, and a commitment to examine gender in social media, might provide some answers.

Long before we had what is known as fake news, there were more subtle forms of media bias. This bias has affected Hillary Clinton and other women candidates, and now Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and other female hopefuls for the Democratic nomination are facing the headwinds of being ignored, caricatured or tagged with the “unelectable” label. To counter these tendencies, and to inoculate women voters (and potential voters) against not just fake news but also low interest and low information, there are a range of female-centered political advocacy groups, the latest entry being Supermajority.

Supermajority stresses multiracial and intergenerational activism, training and mobilization around bread-and-butter gender equity issues like equal pay and childcare. It is led by former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen Poo.

Supermajority aims to train and mobilize two million women over the next year to become politically active. The organization notes that women have comprised the majority of voters in every election since 1964, and women now occupy 127 seats in the current Congress (102 in the House, and 25 in the Senate).

No doubt Supermajority will be in town halls, living rooms and in the streets, but it’s also on Facebook and other platforms. Libby Chamberlain and Cortney Tunis, who co-founded the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton, are behind Supermajority’s online outreach.