Scaling the Mount Everest of Gender Equality in Minnesota

Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

“We know Minnesotans have many shared values, including equality and opportunity,” says Lee Roper-Batker, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. But getting those shared values to manifest in support for policies that advance women and girls is sometimes a task that feels comparable to scaling the world’s highest mountain. “We have to meet people where they are and bring them with us,” she says, which can often be a daunting task.

Lee Roper-Batker spoke to me by phone from her office at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFM) in downtown Minneapolis, a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River. The WFM is the oldest and largest statewide women’s foundation in the U.S., and its mission is to engage in “systems change” affecting individual, cultural and community attitudes and behaviors. The goal is to move institutions and public policies toward gender equity, something that Roper-Batker describes as “Our Everest.” A Minnesota native, Roper-Batker has headed the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, which started in 1983, since 2001.

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Trending: Kate Coyne-McCoy and the Rise of Activism for Women in Politics

Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office. She wants to know what is still holding many women back.

“The more that philanthropy can do to encourage and support women in running for office, the better,” says Kate Coyne-McCoy, CEO of The Campaign Fixer, who has spent much of her career trying to bring more women into American politics. Coyne-McCoy has trained over 9,000 women to run for office, and she has a message for philanthropy.

“Do more politically, period,” she said in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women, when asked what her message would be to progressive women donors and their allies.  “Until you make an investment in the electoral and political process, you’re never going to see the change you want.”

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How is Walmart Doing with Supporting Women’s Funds and Women’s Empowerment?

Walmart supported the creation of a Women-Owned logo for suppliers, to increase visibility for women-owned businesses in their supply chain.

Given that Walmart is the largest employer in America, second only to the government, the fact that they are taking an active stance in addressing women’s empowerment is particularly important.

We want to make sure Walmart’s grantmaking gets talked about here on Philanthropy Women because they are such a large and influential company, not just in America, but globally. Because of their size, their ability to influence both the economy and the culture is great, and will likely have a growing impact on issues related to women as time goes on.

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Why Listening for Good is Important to Women in Philanthropy

I’ve covered the Fund for Shared Insight before, and I want to call attention to this new announcement, since it’s a great example of how philanthropy is evolving into a more democratic creature — by becoming more aware of what does and does not work in funding strategies.

Many women’s funds and foundations were early believers in incorporating grantee feedback into the grantmaking process. Women’s funds and foundations were also some of the first to bring grantees onto foundation boards to help inform the decision-making process. Some research suggests that women have a leadership edge with their listening and relational skills.  Whether that’s true or not, women leaders in philanthropy can and should engage in active listening to create more effective strategies.

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New Coalition Highlights Need for Gender Equality Investments

Skaters from WomenForward coalition member, Figure Skating in Harlem

The following letter is from a new coalition of gender equality organizations called WomenForward. They are a diverse group, encompassing direct service nonprofits as well as global mentoring networks, and more. The coalition was launched earlier this month by  The PIMCO Foundation, a corporate donor from the financial sector.

These kinds of connections are one of the strengths of women’s philanthropy — being able to build broad-based coalitions that cut across multiple sectors to find a shared agenda. Check out the letter, and make sure to visit some of the organization’s websites, to get a sense of all the good that is happening out there in the world, despite the many challenges for women in our economy and culture.

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How the NFL’s $10 Million Investment in Ending Gender-Based Violence is Activating Youth

One area of philanthropy that impacts women heavily is philanthropy aimed at ending sexual and domestic violence, now also called “gender-based violence.”

An encouraging sign in this arena is the NFL’s recent multiyear commitment of $10 million to a group of affiliated organizations in order to pursue the goal of “ending gender-based violence in one generation.”

Earlier this week, Raliance.org announced the kick-off ThisGEN Youth Summit, bringing together high school students from across the country to build advocacy in the fight to end gender-based violence.

Raliance.org serves as the central hub for three top organizations in the country working to end sexual violence: the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA)-PreventConnect and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV). Other support for this event came from The Close-Up Foundation and It’s on Us.

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Why This Revlon Campaign Is Especially Important to Women’s Leadership in Philanthropy

One of the most important aspects of much of women’s philanthropy is its inclusiveness — the belief that there is always room for one more at the table in a community. That’s one reason why the new Revlon campaign, The Love Project, is particularly important and timely for the growing movement of women’s leadership in philanthropy.

We’re only getting started here on Philanthropy Women, but one of the arguments that we will make repeatedly is that inclusion is a fundamental value for much of women’s leadership in philanthropy. The Love Project embodies that sense of inclusion in several important ways.

The press release for this new campaign explains that The Love Project “is an extension of Revlon’s Love is On campaign, which launched in 2014, and reflects the brand’s belief in the power of love and the diversity of beauty.”

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Gloria Feldt to Women in Philanthropy: Take Risks and Build Big for Social Change

Gloria Feldt, Founder of Women Take the Lead and former Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1996 to 2005.

Talking to Gloria Feldt is like talking to someone who has been through just about everything as a feminist leader, and yet somehow still finds the strength to tackle ongoing social and political challenges. The word unstoppable comes to mind.

In 1996, People Magazine captured her phenomenal early career in a story called  The Voice of Experience. Indeed. And Feldt has just the kind of experience we like to talk about here at Philanthropy Women: experience that mobilizes funding for big visions.

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The List of Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy is Growing, and We Need Your Help

Last year when I was writing for Inside Philanthropy, David Callahan and I co-authored a list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in U.S. Philanthropy. It was a big hit. This year, I have decided to follow up and develop eight shorter lists. The lists will start with Emerging Most Powerful Women.

Why start with emerging? Using emerging women leaders as our starting point helps us get a sense of how these women are influencing some of the changing dynamics of philanthropy. Some of the emerging women are quite different from the more established women leaders in philanthropy. Many of these emerging leaders take a strong stance on the need for philanthropy to be more integrated into the economy and inclusive of marginalized groups. A heightened awareness of the need for collaboration across sectors to achieve systemic change is also a key point for many of them.

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A Global Telecomm Giant Focused on Women’s Empowerment in Multiple Ways

June Sugiyama, Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation

As the economy and job market shift further toward globalization, we see more and more corporations amping up their attention to women and girls. An important new example of this is the Vodafone Americas Foundation, which in March of 2016 announced a fourth core focus: empowering women and girls in the technology field, and helping women use technology to live healthier and more prosperous lives. 

Until recently, Vodafone Americas Foundation had three areas of grantmaking: sparking innovation, improving lives, and strengthening the global development sector. With its fourth newly added grantmaking area, Vodafone is funding initiatives that leverage technology in improving education and opportunity for women and girls.

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