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.
In the fall-out around MIT’s prestigiously respected Media Lab over its acceptance of repeated donations from Jeffrey Epstein, a known sexual predator of underaged girls, a number of sheros shine. Each act of these women highlight a different aspect of the larger cultural problem about misogyny and how deeply masculinist views are entrenched at multiple points in society. I list the women here as the chronology of the story unfolded:
Arwa Mboya, MIT graduate student in Civic Media, a division of the Media Lab
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.
Where are the effects of climate change felt the strongest?
West Africa shoulders some of the heaviest impacts created by climate change, particularly in communities where families live off the land. Many communities in Sub-Saharan Africa have laid claim to lush, verdant farmlands for hundreds or thousands of years—but today, those families find themselves fighting against the very land they’ve called home for generations.
Between desert encroachment, deforestation, and the effects of a rising global temperature, rural populations in Senegal experience some of the worst effects of climate change. Farming families struggle to cope with a shorter growing season, while communities across the continent suffer from a shortage of clean water, food, and fuel.
Rachel’s Network is a prime example of how women donors in particular use networks to enhance their strategy and address multiple levels of culture with their work, from environmental concerns to helping underserved populations. By championing funding initiatives that pair environmentalism and gender equality and acknowledging the intersection between them, Rachel’s Network has become “one of the most significant funding networks in the ecofeminist space,” as Philanthropy Women has previously reported.
The organization, which has donated about $2 million to relevant causes, is best known for looking at the “other side” of commonly-discussed issues like climate change and environmental preservation, noting how certain marginalized groups often go overlooked by media coverage and funding efforts alike.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I wish I’d had a feminist consciousness. Instead, I just accepted the status quo when I embarked on my first profession, as a social scientist at an offshoot of the Rand Corporation, and then, after I returned to law school, as an attorney at a Beverly Hills law firm. I had internalized the cultural devaluation of women – so much so, that when the law firm’s senior partner praised me about how I handled a case, telling me, “You don’t think like a woman,” I thought it was a compliment! That was in the late 1960s, before I woke up, as if from a long drugged sleep, and used my legal training to end women’s subordination, including, through the LA Women’s Center Legal Program, which I founded, writing a brief to the US Supreme Court making the then radical argument that legal equality for women should be protected under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Since then, empowering women has been central to my professional work as a researcher, writer, speaker and organizer.
Superheroes no longer wear capes: they wear gym shoes.
A few days before we spoke on the phone, Gina Luster represented Flint Rising at an activist event in San Francisco. A red-eye flight took her to Grand Rapids, Michigan, then to her home in Flint at 7:30 in the morning. Next, Gina drove to Detroit for a panel appearance at the NAACP’s annual conference. She arrived in the city exhausted and ready for a shower before our interview, only to find out she couldn’t check into her hotel.
Gina took my call from the hotel parking lot, sitting under a tree next to the Detroit River. Despite the insanity of her schedule and the flickering cell phone signal, her attitude was overwhelmingly positive.