At Philanthropy Women, we will be working extra hard to be a resource for the feminist giving community on best practices to get us through the COVID crisis. We will work to generate ideas and share news that will help us make system-wide changes that will address this crisis and prevent future crises of this proportion in the future.
We are now heading into our fourth year since our founding in January of 2017 here at Philanthropy Women. Starting and running PW has been a fascinating experience, and in an effort at radical business transparency, I’d like to fill you in on a little of the behind-the-scenes story of why we do what we do, and where we’re going.
Why Do We Do What We Do
Philanthropy Women was born out of my realization that very few people knew about the funders who have made gender equality a growing possibility in our world. Some 93% of these funders are women, and true to gender norms as women, they failed to promote their world-changing work.
This was a loss to society that I wanted to reconcile by showing what feminist givers looks like in real life. I also wanted to expand the definition of feminist giving to encompass a wide array of leaders at every level of society — from direct care workers to CEOs — who are giving their time, energy, and resources for the express purpose of seeing the world become more gender equal.
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.
Philanthropy Women covers funding for gender equity in all sectors of society. We want to significantly shift public discourse, particularly in philanthropy, toward increased action for gender equality. You can support our work and access unlimited and premium content with one of our subscriptions.
And why does it matter? you ask. Why am I prying into the business of a private marriage on Philanthropy Women? Well, as it turns out, we now know that the answer to the question — did MacKenzie Bezos get a fair divorce settlement? — has huge implications for philanthropy. MacKenzie Bezos is one of the newest signatories of the Giving Pledge, committing to give away at least 50% of her assets while living.
Divorcing in a community property state like Washington, where all resources are considered jointly owned in a marriage, MacKenzie was eligible to get as much as $69 billion. Much of the talk before the Bezos divorce was final speculated that it could come out as a 50/50 split, with MacKenzie getting an equal amount. The actual number — $37 billion — is quite a bit smaller than that. Of the $137.2 billion estimated net worth of Jeff Bezos, $37 billion is only 26.9% of that. A far cry from a 50/50 split.
Quite a lot has happened in just a year’s time here at Philanthropy Women. We thought it would be helpful to let readers know about how this initiative is changing and evolving.
The impact of Philanthropy Women has increased significantly. Now in our second year, our writers, including myself, are more experienced and able to explore subjects more deeply and make more connections. Our amplification of content on social media has also increased. We are receiving more requests for media coverage, and our content has been sought for republication on high visibility venues. We have been able to attract top talent for writers, including Julia Travers, Laura Dorwart, Maggie May, and Tim Lehnert.
Recently I read a post on PRI.org by Rupa Shenoy entitled “The US movement against female genital mutilation is at a crossroads,” which discusses how laws to prevent FGM are developing and facing challenges in the US. The article is very informative about the status of the issue at this time, and helps to explore different ways to address the problem including community education and prevention efforts.
A salient point was made by one of the experts interviewed for the article, Mariya Taher, one of the co-founders of the anti-female genital mutilation advocacy group Sahiyo. With regard to the doctor who performed the genital cutting surgery that was the subject of a federal prosecution on FGM, and who justifies the act as part of a cultural practice, Taher said:
Do major league sports leaders have a responsibility to model respect for women in everything they do? This question is fresh on the minds of many due to Robert Kraft, philanthropist and owner of the New England Patriots, being charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute in Florida, where he was allegedly engaging in sex acts with women at Orchids of Asia Salon.
Through his philanthropy, Robert Kraft has funded initiatives specifically aimed at ending sexual exploitation of women and girls. USA Today reports that Kraft gave $100,000 in 2015 to My Life, My Choice, a Boston-based organization that works on ending child sex trafficking. Some might ask how the same man can be both perpetrating sexual exploitation and funding initiatives to end it.
One of the main reasons I started Philanthropy Women was to shine a spotlight on women givers, because I noticed that knowing more about them made me feel better about the world. Rather than logging on to Twitter and reading the toxic political discourse, I decided to fill up my Twitter feed with women’s funds and other feminist philanthropy thought leaders. The result was astonishing — I was suddenly getting new information about so many issues related to women — their health, their money, their professional lives. The process of turning my attention to progressive feminist philanthropy also turned me into a feminist donor, as I realized how well women’s giving to gender equality aligned with my own social justice interests.
As a specialty publisher in the feminist philanthropy field, Philanthropy Women strives to contribute significantly to the pool of stories about gender equality givers. Our guiding belief is that publishing these stories helps other people activate their own change process and do more to address gender inequality in their own lives and in the world around them.
The stories we cover on Philanthropy Women are enjoying more attention all the time, and are also subsequently getting attention on larger platforms, both within philanthropy and in the mainstream media. In addition, more of our content is now making it into the real time news on Google, Bing, and other large search engines. This means we are doing exactly what the Women’s Philanthropy Institute’s research says we need to do if we want to create more gender equality givers — adding to the information about how individuals and groups are giving to this area of philanthropy. By your joining us in watching and learning about feminist philanthropy, you are aiding in the process of creating more donors for the sector.
I’ll be taking a break here for a few weeks, to more fully be present for the holidays with loved ones, but before I go I’d like to share the interview I recently did with the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, since I think it does a good job of distilling my beliefs about feminist philanthropy and why it is so important in the world today.
Peace and joy to you and yours as we head into the New Year!
My Interview with Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
How did you come to know about the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island?
WFRI first came onto my radar when I saw the work you do with educating legislatures about issues important to women. I followed WFRI’s leadership on this from the fund’s founding Executive Director, Marcia Coné, to later Jenn Steinfeld, and now on to Kelly Nevins. It is inspiring to see how WFRI researches and articulates such critical information that helps guide public policy.
What is the background of Philanthropy Women and what is your mission?
I started Philanthropy Women after two and half years of writing for Inside Philanthropy with David Callahan, who introduced me to the world of feminist philanthropy. I soon realized that I was overflowing with story ideas about feminist philanthropy and decided to develop my own platform to ensure the news and information I was publishing was making it into public discourse. Our mission at Philanthropy Women is to shine a spotlight on strategies for creating a more gender equal world, as well as the history of women’s giving for gender equality, so that more people know about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.
At Philanthropy Women, we believe that feminist philanthropy has the capacity to change the game for so many facets of living — for the economy, for politics, for relationships, for corporations, for nonprofits, for animals, for the environment. It is a philosophy and a strategy that we believe could help humans live more peacefully on earth, as it influences all systems to be more inclusive and relational.
How do you see the work you do with Philanthropy Women intersecting with the work of WFRI?
On the most practical level, we are quite related — sort of like cousins in the feminist philanthropy ecosystem. The Women’s Funding Network, of which WFRI is a member, is the fiscal sponsor for Philanthropy Women, which means they help me access grant funding to produce our content. Also, as a publisher focused on women’s funding, I am always keeping an eye on WFRI, and I’ve written several posts about your grant-making and other activities. I enjoy attending WFRI events and meeting other members, so it feels like my local chapter of the women’s funding world.
What advice do you have for women who want to engage in philanthropy, and in particular support organizations like ours?
Forgive me for quoting a corporate slogan, but just do it! I really enjoy being in the community of women givers, and have had some wonderful experiences going to conferences and retreats. Everyone has to find their tribe at some point, and I definitely feel like I found my tribe with progressive women givers. We are concerned with solving big problems that will make the world a better place, and it’s working. Women are moving into leadership in greater numbers. Men are openly proclaiming that they are feminists and are doing more to support gender equality. People are beginning to recognize the negative impacts of inequality, domination, and exploitation at all levels of society.
Is there anything else you feel is important to note about the current environment of women in philanthropy?
It’s encouraging to watch women figure out how to leverage their personal and financial power in order to address gender equality. If you are interested in knowing more about women givers, or in sharing a story about women’s philanthropy and how it has impacted your life, I would love to hear from you.
I’m thrilled to announce that Philanthropy Women will now offer Premium Access content. We have been building our database for over a year, and are now confident that opening up this new revenue stream will be a benefit to everyone. By providing Premium Access content, we will be able to raise funds to expand our work, hiring more reporters and researchers, and finding new ways to serve the community of gender equality philanthropists and activists.
Not all of our content will be behind the paywall. We take seriously the role of publishers to provide access to educational content, and will continue to offer free access to content that serves a pressing public need.
While some of our content will now be exclusive to Premium Access subscribers, we’ll also continue to be very public-facing by remaining active on social media, keeping readers updated on events, research, and trends in gender equality giving. To get our daily news on gender equality philanthropy, please subscribe to our Twitter feed and our daily aggregation of news published via Giving for Good.
With more exclusive content on women’s philanthropy and gender equality giving, we will continue building our unique knowledge base for both advocates and donors — helping donors see strategies in the field, and helping those in the field be aware of where money is flowing for new work. This will foster more cohesion, collaboration, and networking in the dynamic world of feminist philanthropy.