Oxfam did the world another service recently by producing a report called A Leap of Faith: Conversations with Funders of Women’s Organizations. The report, which was written by I.G. Advisors, tells the story of how the funding landscape for women and girls feels close up — the ways that these funders struggle with trusting their grantees while also finding useful metrics to measure their work.
Dr. Fenella Porter of Oxfam introduces the report by examining the profound power imbalances that exist between grantees and grantmakers across the board. She suggests that one form of power that grantees have is the power inherent in being the information collectors — the bringers of knowledge. “Knowledge is certainly power,” Porter continues, “but we must also recognize the many other power imbalances” that exist in philanthropy.
Around the world, girls and teens are exposed to violence, environmental devastation, societal exclusion and harm, and other difficulties. MADRE is an international women’s rights organization that typically partners with women-led groups dealing with war and disaster. It is now stepping up to specifically support girls’ growth as they face diverse challenges through a new grantmaking program: VIVA Girls.
With a focus on listening to and uplifting girls’ voices and solutions, MADRE wants to reach “girls from marginalized communities who endure many forms of discrimination; what some people would call ‘girls on the last mile,’” Executive Director Yifat Susskind says. Susskind offered us insights into how VIVA Girls works. MADRE plans to devote about $3 million to this initiative during the next three years.
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Suzanne Lerner, activist, philanthropist, and co-founder and president of fashion brand Michael Stars. She serves on the board of the Ms. Foundation, ERA Coalition, and A Call to Men, as well as being a member of Women Moving Millions and Women Donors Network. To learn more about Suzanne, go to www.suzannelerner.com.
What is the most important message people need to understand about why gender equality is so important?
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.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, provided the keynote address for Women Funding Network’s conference, Leadership for a Changing World, held in San Francisco in September. With a message of urgency about our climate crisis combined with a call for more women’s leadership, Robinson brought the audience to their feet with applause for her words.
“Unless women take leadership in dealing with the climate crisis, then all the other issues, and I fully believe in the intersectionality of all the other issues, but all the other issues will actually fade, because we won’t have a livable world for our children and grandchildren,” said Robinson. “It’s as simple as that, and as stark as that, and as real as that, and that’s why it’s so important that women are now taking that leadership.”
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?
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.
In April of 2019, Aimee Allison, Founder of #SheThePeople, brought together 8 of the strongest contenders for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 2020, and had them speak to a key constituency in the upcoming election: women of color. The forum was held at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, and featured Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
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.
Divorce is often a difficult process, and it disproportionately leaves women struggling with financial challenges. As we covered in regard to MacKenzie Bezos’ settlement, after a divorce, men’s standard of living generally rises by about 33%, while women’s drops by about 20%. Other studies have shown that women’s income after divorce drops by an average of 41%. These stats outline the divorce gap, one of many overlapping economic gaps women continue to face, including the wage, debt, unpaid labor, funding, investing and “pink tax” (consumer pricing) gap.
The Divorce Gap
There are many reasons women can find themselves struggling after a divorce; some stop working to raise kids during marriage and then find it difficult to re-enter the workforce and earn adequately. Others take on full-time caregiving for the first time after a divorce, which can conflict with their career paths and keep them from making enough to support their families. Some women haven’t chosen or been able to invest independently for the future and find themselves without a safety net or backup plan. The other financial gaps all come into play. Women are generally paid less, have more debt, receive less funding, invest less and are charged more for products designed for them. And the unpaid labor gap is significant here; women often take on care giving, housekeeping and other crucial contributions to families and societies that are uncompensated.