Sheri West on Getting Closer to an Inclusive, Equal World

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Sheri West, the Founder, CEO & Chairperson of LiveGirl, a nonprofit organization that builds confident leaders.

Sheri West is the Founder, CEO, and Chairperson of LiveGirl, a nonprofit organization that builds confident leaders. (Image Credit: Sheri West/LiveGirl)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

Prior to founding LiveGirl, I worked at a large, multi-national company for almost seventeen years. So, I had to “unlearn” corporate bureaucracy in order to embrace the competitive advantage of nimbleness in a small organization. Yes, we vet ideas and have approval processes, but we focus on moving fast when responding to the world. We mine for ideas that our team feels passionately about, and then we make them happen. I feel it’s more important to do what you truly believe in and pursue what makes you happy and excited.

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(Liveblog) Equality Can’t Wait Challenge Q&A

On Tuesday, August 4th, the organizers of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge hosted a Q&A via Zoom webinar. The discussion focused on the contest itself: what it was, how to enter, and more. Starting with an introductory presentation on the Challenge application and finishing with a lengthy Q&A, this webinar focused on audience participation and a clear explanation of the contest rules and goals.

What is the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge?

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is a $40 million venture funded by Melinda Gates (through Pivotal Ventures), MacKenzie Scott, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and facilitated through Lever For Change, Pivotal Ventures, and Common Pool. Designed as a peer-reviewed and panel-evaluated contest, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will offer grants of at least $10 million to at least three winning projects that help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030.

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The 12 Most Promising Trends in Women’s Philanthropy

Since I launched Philanthropy Women in 2017, and even before then, I have been paying close attention to the trends, as well as the big plays and strategy shifts, happening in feminist giving. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to enumerate some of those gender equality giving trends and other happenings, and flesh out what they mean both now and for the future of philanthropy.

feminist giving trends
State-based women’s funds such are getting more powerful as large foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation begin to recognize the value of their existing infrastructure to leverage social change. (Image credit: Women’s Foundation California)

1. Women Funders Are Getting More Ambitious With Their Strategies

I see women funders getting more ambitious with their strategies in many different ways, both in terms of the subjects they will fund as well as the approaches they are willing to try. This means they are doing bolder things with their money, which often translates into helping our culture to become more inclusive and knowledgeable about difference. For example, Mona Sinha, Chair of the Women Moving Millions Board, has done some amazing work lately supporting the documentary Disclosure. This film does groundbreaking work in terms of exploring the growing world of gender transition, helping this community to be seen and valued by society. Being unafraid to cross the barrier and fund the LGBTQ community is just one of the many bold strategies that more feminist funders are adopting more frequently.

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MacKenzie’s Pledge: Leaders Driving Change to Fix Inequality

Last June, MacKenzie Bezos (now MacKenzie Scott)’s $37 billion divorce settlement made headlines — as did her signing of the Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of her wealth while still alive.

MacKenzie Scott has pledged to donate at least 50% of her wealth within her lifetime. (Image Credit: The Giving Pledge)

This $18.5 billion commitment bodes well for philanthropy (although the true 50-50 split that was rumored would have boosted that number to something like $69 billion for MacKenzie and $34.5 billion for philanthropy). To date, MacKenzie appears to be putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to fulfilling the Giving Pledge.

On July 28, MacKenzie published a list of her contributions to 116 nonprofits around the world. This list is exciting not only because of her deep-set and clear commitment to feminist philanthropy, but because a number of the nonprofits and NGOs on MacKenzie’s list are organizations we’ve worked with here at Philanthropy Women.

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Liveblog – What Donors Can Do About Lack of Funding for Women and Girls of Color

Today marks our third webinar at Philanthropy Women! On Thursday, July 23rd, we gathered for “Lack of Funding for Women and Girls of Color: What Donors Can Do.”

We kicked off our third webinar with a warm welcome to our participants. Kiersten Marek, Editor-in-Chief, began with an overview of the funding issues outlined in Pocket Change, the Ms. Foundation’s report on the funding gap for women and girls of color.

Kiersten pointed out other issues impacting the funding environment for women and girls of color, including the recent announcement of downsizing at the NoVo Foundation, and the potential for funds being redirected to address the COVID crisis. However, there is some encouraging action happening now, as new corporations and foundations have stepped up for intersectional giving.

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What Melinda Gates Says, and Doesn’t Say, About Women in COVID

“Architects of a better world” is how Melinda Gates frames the role of women in the age of COVID. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the co-founder of the world’s largest philanthropic organization makes the case that women’s leadership is the beacon of light the world needs most right now.

Gates starts off the essay by recognizing the silent pandemic of violence against women happening during COVID. She goes on to detail in full the many ways that women are losing access to health care and jobs, all while being piled with more housework and childcare duties.

(Image Credit: Oladimeji Odunsi at Unsplash)

Maternity Care Needs to Develop Workarounds for COVID

Gates is particularly worried about expectant moms in COVID, and with good reason. She relates some of the staggering losses suffered in the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in Sierra Leone. One suggestion that Gates makes for COVID: separate facilities for COVID and non-COVID pregnant women in some countries so that women can still get maternal care, even if they are COVID positive.

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Equality Can’t Wait Holding Webinar on August 4

Editor’s Note: The following announcement is from Lever for Change, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Affiliate, which is facilitating the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge.

Equality Can’t Wait will be holding a webinar for prospective applicants to their funding competition.

Please join us Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Central for a Q&A webinar to learn more about Equality Can’t Wait Challenge and ask questions. Please sign up for the webinar and note that the webinar will be recorded then made available shortly after.

On Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Central, we’ll host a second webinar for registered applicants to provide a technical demonstration of the online application platform and to answer questions.

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Rachelle Suissa on Increasing Women in Public Office

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Rachelle Suissa, Founder and President of Dare to Run. Dare to Run is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and empower women with the skills necessary to run for public office at the local, state and national level of government. The organization offers female college graduates the chance to participate in a one-year certificate program in pursuit of a career path in public service. Dare to Run gives women the opportunity to be a voice for their communities by committing to run campaigns in search of elected office within two years of graduation from the program.

Rachelle Suissa is the Founder and CEO of Dare to Run, an organization that provides women the leadership skills and training they need to run for office in New York State. (Image Credit: Dare to Run/Rachelle Suisa)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

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Beyoncé: “Vote like our life depends on it, because it does.”

“We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does,” said Beyoncé in her pre-recorded acceptance speech for the 2020 BET Awards. The performer and philanthropist is 2020’s recipient of the Humanitarian Award, bestowed for her work through the BeyGOOD Initiative and other campaigns.

International superstar Beyoncé is the recipient of the 2020 BET Humanitarian Award. (Image Credit: BET/Twitter)

“Thank you so much for this beautiful honor,” she said. “I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change. Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain.”

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Women Leaders Condemn Supreme Court Birth Control Rollback

There was a big shift in how health care functions for women yesterday. An estimated 70,000 to 126,000 women will be prevented from accessing contraception due to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the right of employers to refuse to provide birth control coverage for women.

 Elizabeth Barajas-Román, President and CEO, Women’s Funding Network, issued a call to action for donors to support women’s funds and other organizations protecting women’s reproductive rights. (Image Credit: WFN)

Women leaders across the country decried the decision for its devastating impact on women, including women leaders in philanthropy. Elizabeth Barajas-Román, President and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, called attention to how this decision is particularly detrimental to women and girls of color.

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