Much celebration and excitement accompanied Melinda Gates’s recent announcement that she will devote $1 billion in new funding to women and girls over the next ten years.
There is good reason to be excited. This new funding will be disbursed by Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates in 2015. Pivotal Ventures is going to do things differently, it seems, with the ability to come in with either philanthropic or investment capital. Perhaps Melinda chose to start a new company for this work because she realized it would be easier to start from scratch and be less confined by other Gates organizations in philanthropy or business.
A giant step for gender equality research and knowledge occurred today: the Women’s Philanthropy Institute released its first ever Women and Girls Index (WGI), which measures charitable giving to women and girls’ causes in the United States. This new index helps to establish a baseline for what this giving looks like today, and will help to tally the rate of increase or, (highly unlikely) decrease in the real dollar value of this philanthropy subsector.
These statistics raise a critically important question: American philanthropy talks a good game about wanting more gender equality in our culture, but what are they actually doing about it?
Melinda Gates Commits $1 Billion to Gender Equity in the U.S. : It’s a good day for women’s giving when one of the richest women in the world declares she will invest $1 billion over ten years (still not enough!) in new efforts to address gender equality. Not surprisingly, Melinda lays awake at night worrying about many of the same things I worry about:
Here’s what keeps me up at night: I imagine waking up one morning to find that the country has moved on. That the media has stopped reporting on systemic inequalities. That diversity remains something companies talk about instead of prioritizing. That all of this energy and attention has amounted to a temporary swell instead of a sea change.
The annual Women in Games European Conference kicked off in London on September 11, facilitating a conversation the games development industry has been itching to have since 2014.
Sexual harassment, assault, and unhealthy work environments for women, nonbinary individuals, and other marginalized communities are all far too common in gamedev. In recent years, allegations of harassment and assault have come to light, leading to major restructuring decisions from games industry giants like news sources Polygon and IGN, and developer Bethesda.
Institutions of higher learning are major recipients of philanthropic gifts, and received donations totaling nearly $47 billion in 2018 (a more than seven percent increase from the year previous). This rise is fueled in part by an increasingly wealthy, educated and philanthropically active group of women who are willing to make big ticket donations to colleges and universities.
Major female donors to higher education have included Roberta “Bertie” Buffett Elliott, who in 2015 gave her alma mater Northwestern University $100 million to fund the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies. The gift from Elliott, a member of Northwestern’s class of 1954, represents the single largest gift in the Evanston, Illinois school’s history.
The final lineup of WFN’s conference Leadership for a Changing World felt like a fireworks finale of feminist brilliance across philanthropy, art, business, and politics. Let’s take a look at these amazing blasts of thought and strategy leadership one at a time.
Whose Story Is It?
Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press and the Publisher of Global Press Journal, and Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, discussed how having more women creating and distributing media can have a significant influence on how we interact with, interpret, and change the world.
One of the best ways to leverage support for a community is by celebrating its culture. Angélique Kidjo and the Batonga Foundation seek to amplify their campaign for women and girls in West Africa through a one-of-a-kind benefit dinner hosted later this month in New York City.
Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, was born in Benin and grew up steeped in the rich musical and social culture of West Africa. She attended school at a time when girls’ education was not considered socially acceptable. In answer to taunts from boys in her classes, Kidjo would shout back, “Batonga!,” an invented word that has since translated into Kidjo’s music and philanthropy.
Today started with Kevin Powell speaking on What is a Man? Kevin provided an impassioned plea for society to help men create less restrictive personal and social identities that allows them to be compassionate, empathic partners in the work of growing gender equality.
The first panel of the day, Are Your Clothes Supporting Gender Equity in the Global Workforce? featured Kimberly Almeida, Antoinette Klatzky, Bama Athreya, and K.K. Verdade. The discussion focused on ways to bring more positive change for women and girls into the clothing industry. Kimberly Almeida discussed the Levi Strauss Foundation’s strategy of working with factories that produce their products to enact new policies to address women’s health and safety. “What matters most for determining well-being is working in an environment that is built on trust and fairness,” said Almeida.
The first day of #WomenFunded2019 just wrapped up. With electrifying energy, the 400 people in attendance today engaged with a wide range of issues and topics. Here are some highlights.
MONEY: Where is the Money Going? How Philanthropists, Corporate Leaders, and Investors are Advancing Gender Equity
The panelists spoke from a personal perspective on how they became invested in gender equality. Many spoke of early life experiences of inequality that left a indelible mark. Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation, shared about witnessing domestic violence experiences of friends as a child and young adult and remembered thinking, “This can’t be the reality of so many people I love.”
It would be an understatement to say I am looking forward to arriving in San Francisco today to participate in WomenFunded2019, this year’s annual conference for the Women’s Funding Network.
It’s an auspicious time for gender issues, as feminist givers are rising against a tide of hate and divisiveness, stepping into their power, and urging everyone to join them as they move forward with culture change. Women donors who take a feminist approach are often pivotal in helping to activate others with their leadership. These women listen closely to understand the issues impacting women and girls. To address these issues, they join together and support action that creates a more gender inclusive world.