The nation’s oldest public women’s foundation recently announced that it will steer in a new direction over the next five years — toward growing its commitment to low-income women and women of color by more than $25 million.
In addition, the Ms. Foundation will form its first-ever political fund, which will support the legislative agenda for women and girls both nationally and locally.
With Teresa C. Younger at the helm, the Ms. Foundation for Womenis joining other big funders in the feminist philanthropy space, including the NoVo Foundation and Prosperity Together (the national coalition of women’s funds focused on low-income women and women of color) in making economic, social and cultural equality for women and girls of color a central feature of its strategic plan. “Women of color are a political force to be reckoned with,” said Younger, in a press release announcing the new strategic plan. “In 2018, we delivered unprecedented electoral wins in Alabama, Georgia, and New York — yet we are sorely underrepresented in philanthropic investment, with only 2% of that spending going to women and girls of color.”
Feminist philanthropy is based on a growing body of knowledge demonstrating how gender equality improves civil society. This research is branching out in new directions all the time, studying and identifying ways that gender equality impacts every level of social functioning, from intimacy to politics to technology. I’ve rounded up just a few examples of the latest research that backs up the claim that a feminist world is a potentially healthier world for everyone.
Both Men and Women Sleep Better in More Equal Societies: A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family confirms that one of the most fundamental building blocks to health and well-being, sleep, is facilitated better in societies with less sexism. When we sleep better, we function better overall, making this study another important example of the deep health and well-being pay-offs that gender equality brings to the table.
BlackHer helps Track the Candidates and Provides Support: A new platform is helping to get the word out about Black women running for office in 2018, and is also a hub for research and advocacy for a more representative democracy. One of the great benefits of the internet is its ability to inform the voting public. This website is a great new place to gather information and help get more progressive Black women elected.
Study: Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used to Promote Gender Equality: It’s true: the tech bots can be on our side in the battle for more equality and less sexism in society. Coming out of Ireland, this article is part of a three-part series that looks at how “AI can help employers promote gender equality, including gender pay gap reporting, encouraging gender diversity and fostering collaborative workplaces.”
Kathleen Loehr’s New Book, Gender Matters: A Guide to Growing Women’s Philanthropy: If you’re a feminist philanthropy newshound like me, you might want to pre-order this one. Kathleen Loehr, a longtime consultant and expert in the realm of women’s philanthropy, is coming out with a new book that promises to identify the specific changes that organizations, teams, and individuals in philanthropy need to make in order to increase support for women. This will be a must-read for fundraisers in the feminist philanthropy realm who want to understand how to get their message across and help donors do more gender equality work.
Feminist Philanthropy of a Different Sort: Donating Your Research and Writing to Wikipedia: I’m always intrigued when women (and men!) find new ways to give of their time and talent for the cause of gender equality. Jess Wade, a physicist living in London, challenged herself to write one Wikipedia biography a day on the undiscovered world of star female scientists. As of 2016, only 17% of Wikipedia entries cover women. Wade decided to use her passion for diversity in the sciences to provide more knowledge to the world free of charge and on her own time, setting a powerful example for all of us on how we can each do our part to build a world where women are seen and recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. Bravo, Jess Wade!
“I think supporting girls and women’s organizations is the greatest hope we have for worldwide transformative change – and my philanthropic choices are grounded in that belief,” said celebrity and activist Emma Watson, at a convening on July 10 in London, sponsored by NoVo Foundation, Oak Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy and Ariadne.
Watson also noted that research across seventy countries concludes that women’s movements are the key factor in enacting policy change. “This makes it all the more shocking that a survey of European foundations found that less than 5 percent of funds were targeted towards girls and women.”
The NoVo Foundation is one of the largest private foundations to advocate for gender equality and has specifically focused much of its funding on reducing violence against girls and women globally. In their most recent initiative, the Radical Hope Fund, the foundation donated $34 million in grants to 19 different organizations around the world.
The Radical Hope Fund began as a response to the 2016 election. Seeing the increase in attacks on women and girls as well as LGBTQ populations, immigrants, people of color, and refugees, the foundation felt compelled to take action in a new, bolder way. Thus, the Radical Hope Fund was born, initially pledging to donate $20 million to selected grantees, but eventually deciding to deepen that commitment to $34 million.
When I told my husband I was going to a three-day retreat on gender reconciliation, he was genuinely excited for me, but he couldn’t help getting in a sarcastic reference to cliché. “Are you going to hold hands and sing kumbaya?” he asked.
I thought for a moment, and then my eyes lit up. “I think so!” I said.
The Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) retreat held in Framingham, MA did indeed involve some hand-holding and song-singing. But it also did much more, traveling into a realm of meaningful communication and understanding where I have never been before.
Take it from Phaidra Knight, retired professional rugby player, who speaks in the above video about the value of funding initiatives like Sports 4 Life:”It really doesn’t matter your speed, your size, it’s just what you bring, your unique self, to the game,” said Knight. She went on to emphasize that with sports, young people have the opportunity become part of a team, which can lead to personal growth and improved self-confidence. “I think it’s so important, especially that girls from disadvantaged backgrounds have that opportunity. That is sometimes their ticket and access to greater things across the board.”
The Sports 4 Life Initiative is particularly aimed at increasing and retaining African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs. Sports 4 Life was cofounded by the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW in 2014. This year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also joined the initiative, providing regional support to eight organizations in Southeast Michigan and Western New York.
Yes, it’s today. Yes, it’s now. Today is Rhode Island’s first statewide giving day, and an opportunity to support your favorite community causes. More than 90 organizations in Rhode Island are participating in this new philanthropy event.
Here is a note from Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, discussing why today is a great day to support WFRI.
Engaging Men as Allies; Women Fighting All Forms of Discrimination; Negotiation Skills Workshops; Gender Equity in the Workplace and in Sports; Public hearings on reproductive health/freedom, fair pay and increased minimum wages... these are the issues and activities that the Women's Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) has tackled in the first half of 2018, through the support of volunteers and donors like you.
What will WFRI do for the next half of 2018? Let's start by celebrating Rhode Island Gives Day together! Join us today with a gift of any size to ride the wave of philanthropy and advance gender equity in Rhode Island. Make your RI Gives Day Gift here or contact us at 401-262-5657.
Your gift today will advance gender equity by funding research on the Status of Working Women of Color in RI, support policy and advocacy through programs like our upcoming Gubernatorial Forum, and fund grants that level the playing field for women and girls. Your dollars will also be used to support additional salary negotiation workshops, address intersectionality in feminism and ignite the fire of young women interested in advocacy.
In other exciting news from WFRI, the women’s fund has also appointed four new board members. From the press release:
Funders for social progress appear to be increasingly recognizing the intersection of women’s rights and climate change. For example, the million dollar Roddenberry Prize, recently discussed on Philanthropy Women, seeks to support organizations with new solutions to both gender inequality and climate change. Additionally, substantial research, such as this recent issue of Gender and Development, highlights how environmental issues are closely related to gender equality problems.
Here’s where Rachel’s Network comes in. One of the most significant funding networks in the ecofeminist space, Rachel’s Network has a mission of promoting women as the leading strategists in addressing environmental issues and climate change. Rachel’s Network is made up of female advocates for environmental justice and women’s empowerment, many of whom work in major environmental organizations across the globe. These women annually donate about $60 million to organizations and projects that are helping our planet and addressing gender inequality.
A novel about a feminist foundation is incredibly rare. A novel about a feminist foundation that is both compelling and reifying is even rarer still. I think it’s safe to say that The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is the first of its kind: an adventure and social critique novel about feminist philanthropy.
At one point Faith Frank, the central feminist in the story, talks wearily about how saying the words “feminist foundation” usually causes most people to stop listening immediately. But as many of us know, some of the most important and fascinating work is happening in the gender equality funding sector. The Female Persuasion helps to elucidate this strange and powerful world where money and idealism collide.
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.