Challenging Norms and Beliefs with Gender-Lens Grantmaking

Illustration by Pierluigi Longo.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review and is co-authored by Emily Nielsen Jones, Musimbi Kanyoro & Neera Nundy. 

Philanthropists and for-profit investors are increasingly using a gender lens to screen opportunities for funding social change as awareness of the need continues to grow. Funders now take it for granted that empowering women is a linchpin of global advancement. Yet report cards marking the 20th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995—a blueprint created by 189 governments for advancing women’s rights in 12 areas—show that progress toward gender equality has been painfully slow.

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Gender Matters All the Time: Gender Lens Investors

The field of gender lens investing has been on the runway and waiting for take-off for a while now, yet barriers, like the lack of corporations carrying out women-friendly policies and practices, continue to be a problem.

Meanwhile, some funders are right on top of the issue, pushing hard to understand and grow the field of investing with a gender lens. One prime example is the Wallace Global Fund, which provided a grant to the Criterion Institute in the fall of 2014 to create a report that surveyed gender-focused investing. Wallace is a longtime supporter in the arena of women’s empowerment, and also a lead player in the philanthropy divestment movement.

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Through a Gender Lens: New Blended Capital Fund for Urban Cores

We’ve written about Living Cities before, particularly its collaborative work with Bloomberg Philanthropies, and its partnership with the Citi Foundation to create the City Accelerator, a program that builds both local economies and government efficiency. Now, Living Cities has announced a new Blended Catalyst Fund which will bring together $31 million in funding for distressed cities.

This “impact investing debt fund” will address tough urban problems like affordable housing and homelessness, as well as catalyzing overall economic development and reducing poverty in the nation’s urban cores.

This is not the first time that Living Cities has led a collaborative fund to work on economic development in America’s cities. In 2008, the Catalyst Fund was launched by Living Cities using philanthropic capital alongside commercial capital from Living Cities’ members—22 foundations and financial institutions, including Annie E. Casey, Ford, MacArthur, and Surdna, working to “get results for low-income people, faster.”

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Path to Empowerment: A Women’s Fdn Focused on Economics

Nearly every week at Inside Philanthropy I meet another woman leader who shows me a way that women’s funds and foundations are impacting the philanthropy landscape, and breaking down barriers to equality for women and girls. This week I talked to Roslyn Dawson Thompson, President and CEO of the Dallas Women’s Foundation (now the Texas Women’s Foundation) and the chair of the board of directors of the Women’s Funding Network.

Much of our discussion was about the role of economic security in empowering women. “If women are not able to achieve economic security then it has massive implications for workforce development and the economics of every state and the country overall,” said Thompson.

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