These are exciting times we live in, as record numbers of women run for political office all over the country. And, of course, there have already been some fabulous victories in the last few weeks including, but not limited to Stacey Abrams and Jacky Rosen (from this former temple president to another, brava!)
But those candidates are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other interesting women running in important races that don’t get as much press. For instance, Deidre DeJear is running for Secretary of State in Iowa and Veronica Escobar running for Congress in Texas. These are amazing women running in tough places for important positions.
As of this past Monday, the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) has launched its newest initiative: Wercspace.org, a free website for women entrepreneurs to build their network and their business. With this new space for women, WFN hopes to provide a community for women-owned businesses of all stripes to come together and support each other.
Wercspace.org acts as a business-oriented social networking site with a feminist approach. It provides access to a community of women-owned business that members can add as contacts, instantly building women into communities to help one another. Another section of the website is dedicated to resources and tools for business owners. These resources range from marketing to certification to self-care, and allow members to receive assistance based on the stage of their business. Furthermore, the site provides links to free and low-cost online courses in a variety of fields. These courses, along with the business stories of female entrepreneurs, emphasize the importance of learning and keeping an open mind as a business owner and a feminist. The site also includes information on funding a business, providing various links and sources of information.
A rare and significant conversation took place recently at Union Theological Seminary, as two thought leaders in feminism — Helen LaKelly Hunt and Rebecca Walker — came together to talk about ways that feminism can heal internally and forge healthier relationships, in order to achieve the shared goal of a more just and tolerant world.
The program began with introductions from Serene Jones, President of Union Seminary, and Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation.
Then came Rebecca Walker. “I am honored to share this stage with the visionary philanthropist, scholar and activist Helen LaKelly Hunt, in the shadows and on the shoulders of all those who have passed through these halls,” began Walker in her opening comments.
Good news for gender equality philanthropy: another large prize is taking on gender issues this year. The 2018 Roddenberry Prize will go to four organizations ($250,000 each) that have realizable plans to address problems at the intersection of girls’ education, women’s rights, and climate change.
Not familiar with the Roddenberry Prize? It was launched in the fall of 2016 at the Smithsonian, in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and in 2017, the first prizes were awarded. The Roddenberry Prize is sponsored by The Roddenberry Foundation, which was founded in 2010 with a mission to support “remarkable people and organizations who can disrupt existing dynamics, challenge old patterns of thought, and discover new ways to help us move towards a better future.” You can learn more about the Roddenberry Foundation here.
Long before she was a meme and pop culture icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a sober-minded jurist, a workaholic and a trail-blazing advocate for gender equality. None of that has changed, but in the last decade Ginsburg has become a celebrity whose image is plastered on t-shirts, mugs and all over the Internet. She’s celebrated as both a gritty feminist badass, and cute old lady.
It’s great that someone of Ginsburg’s intellectual heft and societal importance is famous; still, you worry that the image of the bespectacled RBG is overtaking the person. Part of RBG—which is directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen—explores the hagiography surrounding the diminutive justice: college students express awe at just glimpsing her, and we see Ginsburg sporting a “Super Diva” shirt while working out with her trainer (who, incidentally, has written a book titled The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong … and You Can Too!). The workout stuff is cute, and a testament to Ginsburg’s determination and discipline, but far more important, and interesting, is her work over nearly six decades as a lawyer, professor and judge.
As the global conversation on gender-based violence continues to gain momentum, the New York Women’s Foundation is stepping up to fund more of this unprecedented social change in the U.S. On May 10 at a breakfast celebrating women leaders, Foundation President and CEO announced the launching of a fund in collaboration with Tarana Burke, Founder and Leader of the #MeToo Movement, which will continue the work of ending sexual violence.
While #MeToo revelations continue to roil the globe, what can we all do in our own sandboxes to say #TimesUp? How can we do work in our own lives that gets at not only the more egregious forms of relational abuse, but also at all the layers of harmful gender dynamics—psychological, social, relational, institutional, and yes spiritual—which create the conditions where abuse happens?
Research has now identified a significant health care gender gap, showing how much less we know about the health of women compared to men. Even more underfunded than women, however, are the specific health concerns of women of color. While Black and Latina women together represent less than a quarter of all U.S. women, they make up the large majority of those currently living with HIV. To fight this disparity, the California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness) recently announced $13 million in new grantmaking specifically aimed at helping address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women of color, as well as the health needs of recently incarcerated women reentering society.
There’s the philanthropy that happens when people invest money to promote social change, and then there’s the philanthropy that happens when people take their money and their talent, and employ them in a way that addresses a social problem. Celebrities, particularly multi-talented and highly educated ones, have a unique capacity to combine their financial capital, talent, and public stature in order to push for needed social change.
That appears to be part of what happened when Israeli-American filmmaker Sigal Avin teamed up with several feature actors including David Schwimmer, Cynthia Nixon and Bobby Cannavale, to film a series of six short films called, “That’s Harassment.” In each of these three to six minute cinéma verité shorts, the viewer is positioned as a cringing voyeur while scenes of sexual harassment unfold. Since debuting in the spring of 2017, these films have been adapted into 30 second public service announcements that are getting wide visibility.
What will it take for women to achieve gender equality in the film industry? This question, particularly as it pertains to film financing, was on the minds and lips of some of the newest award-winning female filmmakers in the industry recently.
On Monday, April 9th, the Sundance Institute and Women In Film (WIF) co-hosted a panel entitled Demystifying Film Financing: Two Case Studies. The panel’s objective was to address the obstacles faced by female filmmakers, especially those of financing. The panel was split into two halves, the first focusing on Unrest, an award-winning documentary directed by Jennifer Brea, and the second on Mudbound, an Academy Award-nominated historical drama directed by Dee Rees. Sundance Film Festival senior programmer Caroline Libresco and WIF president Cathy Schulman moderated the discussion.