“In every decision you make, in every strategy you make, ask yourself a question: Where are girls?”
This is a statement from one of The With and For Girls Collective’s teenage activists, quoted in an article for Inside Philanthropy, and it rings true for philanthropic organizations around the world.
The growing influence of women on philanthropy is starting to draw attention, in the best possible ways. As more women work together to enact true social change, and as more female pioneers lead the way toward a more gender-equal future, mainstream media outlets are beginning to observe and comment on the trend.
“I recently went to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery Alabama. It’s an incredibly powerful place, but the stories of women are not as prominent as they could be,” says Surina Khan, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of California (WFC), in a recent interview about the principles guiding her leadership.
The experience of visiting the Legacy Museum reinforced for Khan the importance of gender justice impact assessments — of organizations and institutions regularly assessing whether they are paying enough attention to gender issues. Since returning to the helm of WFC in 2014, Khan has taken an increasingly intentional approach to employing a gender lens to everything they do, meaning from caterers to banking services to program grantees, it’s all about doing business with partners who align with WFC’s values.
Teen girls are becoming movers and shakers across the globe in areas like gun violence, environmental activism, and gender equality, as well as advocacy for inclusiveness and systems change of all kinds.
And rather than simply accepting the hands they’ve been dealt, teen girls and young women are taking the lead to change their lives and the lives of those around them. A Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, has recently made waves and garnered well-deserved media attention for her work around climate change. She has protested outside of the Swedish parliament and has spoken about the need to protect the environment for future generations at Davos and the United Nations. Thunberg has also inspired others her age, mobilizing school-based climate change protests in Sweden and worldwide. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and stands to be the youngest recipient since Malala Yousafzai if she wins.
Increasing women’s participation in portfolio management and executive leadership is key not just to the financial world, but society as a whole. Investment professionals are charged with making major decisions on behalf of venture capital and private equity firms, as well as managing funds invested in by corporations, governments, pension funds, endowments, foundations and non-profits.
One organization heavily involved in correcting this problem is Girls Who Invest (GWI). GWI aims to increase the number of women in asset management and finance, fields where females are highly underrepresented. To help in its efforts to recruit more young women into the fund-management pipeline, GWI recently received $1.5 million in funding from the venture capital and private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners.
“The deeper I get into impact investing, the more I’m persuaded,” says Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at the Philanthropic Institute (TPI), after a 25 year career in finance and philanthropy. “Personally, when I changed advisors and started doing impact investing, it connected me to my money in new and different ways, and it was so much more interesting. I was always bored by [traditional investing]. Now it was interesting, because it was about social and environmental change.”
Remmer is part of a minority of women in our culture who has pursued her interest in impact investing to the point of actually doing it. While more women are finally moving into impact investing now, Remmer wants to add to that momentum and make sure they are equipped with knowledge and guidance to do impact investing well.
When you think of San Francisco, the first thing to come to mind is probably the Golden Gate Bridge, or the picturesque houses lining multi-million-dollar streets. You likely don’t immediately think of the wealth disparity that Silicon Valley brought to the city’s families, or the racial tensions that still crop up in a “dark blue region of a blue state.”
San Francisco faces the same problems that plague any city of its size. But what if that could change?
The San Francisco Foundation recently announced that it is committing $50 million to “investments that are aligned with its mission to building inclusive prosperity and racial equity in and around San Francisco.” In other words, the Foundation is committing 6.3% of its $800 million endowment to investment opportunities that will be good for the city of San Francisco — and they’re looking to invest with women- and minority-owned asset managers.
Micro-loans, in which poor people are provided small loans so that they can jump-start or grow an enterprise, are often associated with least developed countries, but, according to a new study, this model has proved highly effective when applied to poor American women over the last decade.
The Grameen Bank model was pioneered in Bangladesh during the 1970s and 80s, and aimed to reduce poverty through the provision of loans, financial training, and peer support to those unable to access traditional credit mechanisms. It turned out a that small amount of funds enabling the purchase of such basics as tools, seeds, and livestock enabled many to lift themselves out of the most desperate kinds of poverty.
When we last checked in at the newly formed Obama Foundation, the former First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband, President Barack Obama were laying the groundwork for cultivating a new coalition of organizations focused on girls globally.
Through a collaboration with GoFundMe, the Obama Foundation has established the Global Girls Alliance Fund, helping to raise funds for grassroots organizations to make more headway with educating girls. The initiative accepts applications from eligible nonprofits already working to increase educational opportunities for girls.
Now Global Girls Alliance is highlighting a Chicago-based nonprofit named The Women’s Global Education Project and is recognizing the work they are doing both in the field and with a compelling new documentary about female genital mutilation (FGM).
In 2014, Sweden made waves by becoming the first country across the globe to adopt an explicitly feminist foreign policy. Drawing both controversy and acclaim, the foreign policy was the first of its kind to focus so pointedly on international gender equality across every level of government. Since Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was confirmed to a second term on Jan. 18, 2019, activists have called for even more emphasis on continuing the successes of the feminist foreign policy.
But what exactly is a feminist foreign policy? In Sweden’s case, the policy focused on funding initiatives across the three “Rs” in which women tend to be underserved and neglected: resources, representation, and rights. Donors who are interested in promoting gender equality through their efforts and outreach can look to the Swedish model of feminist foreign policy to know where to begin.
“There’s a time and place just for grants, and there’s a time and place for gender lens investing, but if you can find that sweet spot where they come together, that’s what gets me going,” says Katherine Pease, Managing Director and Head of Impact Strategies for Cornerstone Capital.
For Pease, the two strategies of gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing can play a complementary role, particularly when using the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) as an investment vehicle. For women’s funds and foundations, Pease sees an expanding use of DAFs to create new ways to reach women at all levels of society with resources to grow their power.