On September 15, the 57th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls, a group of prominent Black women launched the Black Girl Freedom Fund. The group’s open letter and social media campaign mark the beginning of a one-billion-dollar effort championing Black girls and their families.
The open letter from the Black Girl Freedom Fund notes that while Black Lives Matter attracts strong philanthropic support, “Black girls and young women still remain adultified, victimized by violence, and erased from the very same social justice movement for which they continue to risk their lives.”
The letter demands that Black girls receive the attention and support they deserve:
On Thursday, September 10th, representatives from Girls Leadership joined a panel of youth leaders to discuss the findings of the new report Ready to Lead. The webinar facilitators included report author Dr. Charlotte Jacobs and report foreword author Dr. Monique W. Morris, Morgan Stanley’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Susan Reid, and Girls Leadership’s Chief Program Officer, Kendra Karr.
This interactive event included accounts from the young leaders’ lived experiences of the findings from the Ready to Lead report, which centers on the readiness of girls in Black and Latinx communities to step forward as leaders. The event drew out some fascinating and emotionally charged conversations, along with frequent encouragement from audience members in the comments.
Part of the impact of a landmark election year is the inevitable urge to look toward the future. Where are we headed in terms of women’s leadership? Are we doing enough to support girls of color and their families? Are we supporting representation in leadership roles, mentorships, and educational leadership?
When it comes to building leadership skills in girls of color, we still have a long way to go. Organizations like LiveGirl and Girls Who Code aim to support girls of color with leadership skills, educational programs, and skills-based training programs, but the research surrounding the efficacy of these programs is unfortunately lacking. We don’t have a clear enough picture of girls’ confidence: particularly, the likelihood of Black and Latinx girls to self-identify as leaders, and see themselves represented in leadership positions within their schools and communities.
Alliance for Girls (AFG), a California-based network of girls-serving organizations, wants state and local leaders to pay more attention to the needs of girls—particularly Black girls and girls of color—in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To investigate this issue further, Alliance for Girls has launched “When Girls Thrive,” an initiative researching and advocating for an expanded understanding of how girls are being impacted by COVID. It includes an online survey, and addresses the lack of data on the needs and experiences of girls and gender-expansive youth up to 24 years of age. This group is particularly vulnerable during this time of increased health risks, extended isolation, and significant disruption and barriers to education and work. Such challenges are even more extreme for Black youth and youth of color.
To those on the outside looking in, the story of women and girls’ social advancement may look like a road paved with victories. To those within the sphere of feminist philanthropy, however, that road has more twists and turns than many realize. We cannot deny the progress we’ve made in recent years, but we also cannot ignore the inequality, violence, and oppression women and girls still face around the world today.
But where does this oppression come from? When did we as a society learn to value boys over girls, to treat women like property or lesser beings? Why do we have to fight against it in the first place?
Imago Dei Fund, through a free program presented by Emily Nielsen Jones and Rev. Domnic Misolo, seeks to answer these questions with a six-month reading journey through the history of patriarchy. Examining the liberation of women through historic and faith-based lenses,“The Girl Child & Her Long Walk to Freedom: Putting Faith to Work Through Love to Break Ancient Chains” offers participants six months a guided tour with readings, group discussions, and reflections centered around the emancipation of girls and women.
On Thursday, August 27th, we gathered for this month’s Philanthropy Women webinar: Women in Media Changing the Game. With guests Lori Sokol, Ruth Ann Harnisch, and Johanna Derlega, we discussed the under-funding and under-representation of female journalists and women’s media outlets, as well as ways funders can work to fix this under-representation.
How To Increase Funding for Women in Media
Editor-in-Chief Kiersten Marek kicked off the call with a reminder to breathe, and introduced today’s theme: Women in Media Changing the Game.
“We know now more than ever how important women’s leadership is,” she said. “COVID has taught us that women leaders in countries around the world have had much better success with managing COVID. And that’s just one example of the women’s leadership differential—the ability to prioritize health and the well-being of others.”
For her new song “Rooted,” Grammy Award winner Ciara has partnered with the non-profit Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC), which will receive a portion of the song’s proceeds. “Rooted,” featuring and co-written by producer/songwriter Ester Dean, is a follow up to their 2019 Black female anthem “Melanin,” and celebrates Black Lives Matter, Black women, Black history and culture, and pregnancy.
“Rooted” was released by Ciara’s company Beauty Marks Entertainment, which is dedicated to creating business opportunities for women at the intersection of music, tech and philanthropy. The song’s video was filmed just before Ciara gave birth to her third child, Win Wilson, and prominently features Ciara’s pregnant body. It was directed by African American photographer/artist/filmmaker Annie Bercy.
In the next ten years, how can we guarantee more women in positions of leadership? How do we address the lack of diversity in our organizations and communities? And how do we empower the next generation of women and girls to never take no for an answer, pursue their goals, and find boundless success?
LiveGirl seeks to answer these questions through leadership and skill-building courses that reach middle school girls where they’re at: By empowering young women to reach for the stars while lifting each other up, LiveGirl aims to support the next generation of brave, inclusive leaders.
“We coach girls to embrace their original, quirky selves and to understand that self-confidence comes not from others liking you, but from you loving yourself,” says Sheri West, Founder and Chief LiveGirl. “Our mentors show them that when they truly believe in themselves, they will become unstoppable and astounding things will happen!”
Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL seriesfeatures Sheri West, the Founder, CEO & Chairperson of LiveGirl, a nonprofit organization that builds confident leaders.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
Prior to founding LiveGirl, I worked at a large, multi-national company for almost seventeen years. So, I had to “unlearn” corporate bureaucracy in order to embrace the competitive advantage of nimbleness in a small organization. Yes, we vet ideas and have approval processes, but we focus on moving fast when responding to the world. We mine for ideas that our team feels passionately about, and then we make them happen. I feel it’s more important to do what you truly believe in and pursue what makes you happy and excited.
Sports 4 Life, a national initiative co-founded by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) and espnW (“a voice for the woman who loves sports”), was established in 2014 to increase participation of girls of color in youth sports. Recently, Sports 4 Life announced their 2020 grants which will help African American and Latino girls overcome barriers to sports participation.
Twenty-five organizations based in 13 states and Washington, D.C. received the awards which totaled $175,000. The grants aim to augment and diversify sports opportunities for more than 7,700 middle and high school girls, and included funding for programs representing 23 different sports.
The impetus for Sports 4 Life is the recognition that the benefits of participation in sports—which include improved physical and mental health, as well as better grades and improved leadership skills—often disproportionately exclude African American and Latino girls. Historic racial injustices lie at the root of disparities in access to sports participation, and these gaps have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.