The video game industry has long been thought of as a “boys’ club.” Even before August of 2014, when the events of Gamergate painted a horrible picture of the worst case scenarios for women in the games arena, representation of women in games and a lack of female game developers left much to be desired.
According to the International Game Developers Association, women make up 47% of the people playing video games, but only 22% of the people creating them. Likewise, women have been historically under- or misrepresented in games. Too often, female characters in games were (and still are) over-sexualized, cast as tired tropes like the “damsel in distress,” or used as reward fodder for gamers who would normally be expected to play males.
“Raise your hand if your biggest obstacle has been older women,” asked the conference moderator on a panel about building women’s political power. One hundred and twenty young, elected women raised their hands. From the dais, I thought back to my own experience as a 22-year old councilwoman. I know that being a young and female and elected is not easy, but the fact that our own sisters continue to be more hindrance than help is more than disheartening, it’s calamitous. It is the difference between building on a wave election and continuing to grow the number of elected women in the country, or once again stalling out.
This is just a quick post before taking a few days off to enjoy time with family and friends. We will be covering several important events in upcoming posts, including a fascinating call on Gender Alpha with Suzanne Biegel and David Bank, where they discussed how “Gender Alpha” is all about identifying the specific dividends that gender lens investing yields. Biegel and Bank are co-producers of November’s Gender-Smart Investing Summit in London. Guests on the call included Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile of Veris Wealth Partners, which specializes in gender lens investing and research.
And one other quick note to acknowledge the significance of the recent elections, where voter turnout was higher than it has been in 104 years. That’s right — the last time voter turnout was as high as it was in 2018 was in 1914, before women even had the right to vote. Now that women and millennials are getting into the driver’s seat with social change, we hope to see even better voter turnout in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I am mighty thankful that people are finally getting the message (it seems!) about the importance of civic engagement. That could mean in 2020 we elect a President that gets us back on track in terms of valuing safety, diversity, and systems change to address inequality.
Coming up soon, we’ll also be providing some news on Women Moving Millions and its new Executive Director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, and will be sharing and discussing WMM new Board Chair Mona Sinha’s Education Curriculum for WMM members, which will be launching in February.
Two themes are popping up more frequently these days in the gender equality sphere: fearlessness and rage. We’re going to explore both of these themes more here at Philanthropy Women in the coming weeks and months. Tomorrow, I will be interviewing Jean Case, Co-Founder of the Case Foundation and author of the forthcoming title, Be Fearless. Later in October, I’ll be attending a reading and book signing for Rebecca Traister, author of Good and Mad: the Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, and will be writing more about her work.
But today, on the subject of fearlessness, I want to share a piece written by Kathy LeMay, who is serving as Interim Executive Director for Women Moving Millions. LeMay read this piece at the Women Moving Millions Summit, and I can imagine how it helped to establish a unique tone for the event. Very few people have the courage to admit their vulnerability the way Kathy LeMay does, and admitting this kind of vulnerability is a big part of being a feminist in my mind, because it’s about including all parts of yourself in the conversation of change, including the vulnerable and wounded parts.
A week ago this morning, I woke up and I couldn’t quite breathe. My breath was shallow and thin. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have a summer cold. But I couldn’t fully breathe. My chest felt as though it had been filled with weighted, wet cement. I wasn’t surprised. The signs and indicators had been there for months. I thought I had outrun them. How about the hubris of imagining you can outrun loss and grief? I held court, convinced I outmaneuvered, outwitted, and dodged pain. I even smiled one day thinking that I had successfully sidestepped compounded losses. I knew. Of course, I knew. Yet, lying there on my bed not able to move my body or limbs, my mind which had so often been my source of liberation, fought the grief that had arrived at my doorstep and let itself in.
“Wait,” I thought, “I’ve always been strong, capable, competent. Shouldn’t that protect me from despair? I’ve built a full, productive, purposeful life. Wasn’t that enough?” I laid there trying to find a deeper breath, trying to find my resilience, trying to locate my courage. “Get up, Kath.” I couldn’t. The only thing I could feel was relentless surges of loss. I felt angry at myself, at what I perceived to be a petulant self-indulgence. I didn’t want to feel what I knew it was time to feel. Running through my head were the words of Joan Didion, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” I was also thinking of C.S. Lewis, who wrote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
Quietly inside my mind I whispered words I don’t remember having said before in my life: “I am scared.” This doesn’t mean I haven’t felt scared. I have. The only difference was on this steaming hot August morning I admitted it to myself, for the first time. Quietly, then aloud. Saying those words, in that moment I thought I had lost my courage. I didn’t realize that by admitting that I felt broken, I had finally found it. […] Read more here.
Wow, what a read. I had to keep stopping at points to walk around the block and get my core energetics realigned. Jacki Zehner literally pours her heart out in this stunning blog post where she shares about her experiences rising to the C-Suite at Goldman Sachs, as well as her intense love for gender equality philanthropy, which has been expressed in over a decade of devotion to growing one of the most important organizations in gender equality philanthropy, Women Moving Millions.
Zehner starts by letting readers know that this writing is more or less automatic — that is, she is going for a Jacki Unfiltered here. What we learn by reading this piece is that Zehner is a complex leader with significant life experiences that inform her activism for women’s rights.
Ever-considerate of others, Jacki warns us that 14 pages have emerged from this attempt to shine a spotlight on her thinking and feeling life. She then goes on to enter into some of the most exciting (and sometimes painful) thoughts and memories. As just an example, check this out:
If there was such a thing as a ‘finance professional Olympics’, becoming a partner at Goldman, especially as a young woman, would represent a gold medal. Of course, I know that there may be someone who reads this and posts in the comments section something along the lines of “die you wall street whore” as they have in the past when I blog freely about Goldman, but so be it. To that potential person I say in advance, “I hope that has helped you feel better about yourself.” […]
Beyond unflinching glimpses like these into Zehner’s mind, the post also delves into many significant life events, including some serious traumas. Her writing is the kind of material that future (or present) movie-makers will want to read in order to gather key scene details for the inevitable biopic of Zehner’s life. For example, here is just one in a bulleted list breaking down the timeline of Zehner’s progression:
Finding Women Moving Millions – 2002 to 2009. As the years from 2002 onward moved forward, I was spending more and more time with philanthropic groups focused on girls and women, and in particular women’s funds. My interest in supporting women’s leadership poured in to my work with various non-profits, and one of the main reasons I loved Women’s Funds so much. I had joined the board of the Women’s Funding Network, and it was there that I got to the know the incredible Chris Grumm. She became, and still is, a role model for me for courageous leadership. She is the one who invited me to consider joining the Women Moving Millions Campaign, as she was a co-founder of it. WMM at the time was a campaign to encourage women to make million dollar commitments to women’s funds. Again, holy shit, I could go on and on and on right here, but I won’t. The need to know piece for the rest of this story is that this moment was transformational for me. Why? Because the act of making that commitment, the moment of stepping onto a stage at the Brooklyn Museum to have a group photo taken by Annie Leibowitz to mark that moment in history where for the first time women of means came together to fund women at the million dollar level, helped me to see clearly what the next stage of my life would be about: helping to unlock the resources of high-net worth women to support other women, and more broadly, gender equality. […]
It’s quite wonderful that Zehner has the clarity to speak about these experiences and mark how these transformations happened for her. By doing so, she is increasing the chances manyfold that other women will get up their courage to do the same.
One other sentence toward the end really popped out at me for how it evoked the shared effort that Women Moving Millions summits are, and how this results in shared experiences that can refuel our courage and make us more powerful. Zehner writes:
The WMM summit 2018 could not have been more incredible from start to finish. (My next long post will be about it all.) I am in awe of how beautiful the program was (thank you JESS), how perfectly it was executed (the WMM and TES team), how open people were (thank you attendees), how much people shared (thank you speakers), and how everyone trusted that we, WMM, had created a safe place for everyone to be their most vulnerable and by definition, their most powerful.
I don’t want to overshare or overanalyze here. I just want to thank Jacki Zehner (as I have privately and will now publicly) for her brave years of service to the community through Women Moving Millions. And then point everyone to Jacki’s blog to read the post and let it open your heart and mind.
One of the wonderful things about publishing on feminist philanthropy is getting to meet the folks on the ground in feminism, the people who are growing the movements that need to happen to make our communities more safe, secure, and inclusive.
I’m happy to share an interview I recently did with The Woman Project, a new 501(c)4 organization that started in South County, Rhode Island, and is looking to build the statewide movement to protect reproductive freedom. The Woman Project currently has the General Assembly in its crosshairs and is pushing to pass a bill that would codify protection of Roe V. Wade into state law.
1. We are curious about who you are and what kind of work that you do; would you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a clinical social worker by day and a feminist philanthropy publisher by night. I believe in the power of women to change the world and try to work toward that end professionally. As a therapist, I specialize in treatment for trauma, particularly for sexual assault. I also specialize a number of other issues including emotional issues related to financial problems and helping foster and adoptive families. I feel it is incumbent upon me to continuously update my toolbox as a change-work practitioner. Most recently, I became certified in hypnotherapy, to help refine my skills in communicating more fully with my clients in order to guide them toward wellness.
2. TWP has been working to pass a bill that codifies Roe V Wade into RI state law. We are interested in the ways that Reproductive Freedom impacts your life and the work that you do?
It is essential to the practice of health care at every level that reproductive freedom is maintained. As a therapist, I am perhaps more aware of this essential nature of reproductive health care because I am privy to the difficult decisions that women and men make regarding reproduction. I see it as part of my job to ensure that we have all options available reproductively.
3. When you think about your community what is something you would like them to know about Reproductive Freedom in RI? Why?
Planned Parenthood does an admirable job of continuing to be a resource for people in Rhode Island who need help with reproductive health care. There are also more options available for women reproductively and they need to be aware of all the options. We need to maintain the current levels of access to reproductive services for all women.
4. What are the best ways in your opinion to educate people about this issue?
I think we need to ask people to look at their own lives and notice the times that reproductive freedom played a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of themselves or others. When we are honest about how life works, we know that reproductive freedom is a necessity.
Women around the world who are leading the fight against climate damage are to be highlighted by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner, in the hopes of building a new global movement that will create “a feminist solution for climate change”.
Perhaps more revolutionary still, the new initiative is light-hearted in tone, optimistic in outlook and presents positive stories in what the originators hope will be seen as a fun way.
Called Mothers of Invention, the initiative will kick off with a series of podcasts showcasing the work of grassroots climate activists at a local level, as well as globally resonant initiatives such as the legal challenges under way in numerous jurisdictions to force governments to adhere to the Paris agreement goals. Scientists and politicians feature alongside farmers and indigenous community leaders from Europe, the US and Australia to India, Kenya, South Africa and Peru.
Here at Philanthropy Women, we are tracking the grantmaking and strategizing that is happening in the ecofeminist space, from the new Roddenberry Prize seeking solutions to both climate change and advancement for women and girls, to the grantmaking done by the Gender Just Climate Solutions award, which makes grants that share both feminist and climate strategies. We’re also showing how women’s giving collectives like Rachel’s Network are bringing feminist philanthropists together who share a vision of how to integrate climate solutions with gender equality. Stay tuned!
These are exciting times we live in, as record numbers of women run for political office all over the country. And, of course, there have already been some fabulous victories in the last few weeks including, but not limited to Stacey Abrams and Jacky Rosen (from this former temple president to another, brava!)
But those candidates are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other interesting women running in important races that don’t get as much press. For instance, Deidre DeJear is running for Secretary of State in Iowa and Veronica Escobar running for Congress in Texas. These are amazing women running in tough places for important positions.
We thought it would be fun to give you a chance to get to know these under-the-radar women candidates from now until the election. These won’t be the people you’ll read about on the front pages of the New York Times, but they are really smart and committed and courageous and we think they deserve our attention and support.
You can easily find their formal biographies and positions on issues on their websites. What we want to do is allow you to get to know them personally, more like what it might feel like to meet them at a cocktail party rather than a website. Here’s our idea: we will ask under-the-radar candidates a set of questions that will help us get to know her better. Candidates: please keep your answers to under 240 characters so that we can share these answers widely on Twitter and other social media.
A few questions to get us started:
If you could pass one law today, what would it be?
What or who helps you keep going through the criticism and attacks inherent in a political campaign?
If you could have dinner with one famous woman (dead or alive) who would it be?
What’s the first line of your epitaph?
Chocolate or wine?
What is one of your favorite charities, and why?
But these are just our questions. What do you want to know about these candidates? Please let us know in the comments below. And if there are women you think we should highlight, please let us know that also!
A rare and significant conversation took place recently at Union Theological Seminary, as two thought leaders in feminism — Helen LaKelly Hunt and Rebecca Walker — came together to talk about ways that feminism can heal internally and forge healthier relationships, in order to achieve the shared goal of a more just and tolerant world.
The program began with introductions from Serene Jones, President of Union Seminary, and Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of the New York Women’s Foundation.
Then came Rebecca Walker. “I am honored to share this stage with the visionary philanthropist, scholar and activist Helen LaKelly Hunt, in the shadows and on the shoulders of all those who have passed through these halls,” began Walker in her opening comments.
As I sat in the church-like hall listening, I found the cadence of Walker’s voice almost hypnotic, and distinctly descendant of the poetry of her mother, Alice Walker.
Walker offered gratitude to the many liberation theologies developed by scholars at Union Theological Seminary, which have “at their core, a connection to that energy that is larger than ourselves, that transcends race, class, and even religion — the energy that resides in spirit.”
“There is safety to be found here at Union, and I am grateful for it. If we are to come together — black, brown and white, rich and poor, cis and transgender, parent and child, believers and non, Americans and all of our siblings from other nations, we will need safe spaces in which to do it. Not just sanctuary cities, but sanctuary buildings, sanctuary meadows, sanctuary schools, sanctuary markets, and sanctuary workplaces. We must start here and work outward, we must make a sanctuary planet, one building, one street, one home at a time.”
Walker went on to talk about the importance of meeting at Union, “this space of mystery and the divine,” in order to “feel wounds that stymie our efforts.”
Helen LaKelly Hunt spoke next, taking the audience back in time to the 1830’s, a time when a “courageous band of women” came together and fought for abolition of slavery. “They rose up at a time when women had no legal, social, political rights,” Hunt began. “They stepped out and moved into their political power,” said Hunt, as they challenged the institution of slavery.
Who were these abolitionist feminists, these women who stepped up to own their power as human rights defenders? They were both black and white, from different strata of social class, and from different areas of the growing American geography, and they even had some members from England.
As Hunt tells the history, in 1833, William Lloyd Garrison founded an abolitionist society. It was mainly composed of couples who came together to find ways to convince the new American government to dismantle slavery. The women were part of the group from the beginning. They coordinated meetings and attended them, prepared food, took the minutes, and helped write the mission statement. Then came the meeting when mission statement was to be signed asa formal document, and all members of the society were invited to sign. “But when the women got to the desk, they wouldn’t let them sign,” said Hunt.
So the women formed their own group, and not long after, sister groups started to emerge all over the country. In 1833, there were 7 groups. The next year, there were 17. In 1836 there were 42 groups of women meeting to bring an end to slavery, and in 1837, there were 140 of these groups.
It was a popular, but, as the woman would find out, dangerous cause. It was also a cause that women took on who were particularly religious. Their faith in God was the major catalyst for their urge to speak out against slavery.
Hunt described the way in which these anti-slavery women activists were rebuffed by the culture. “The government said, ‘Sorry, you can’t speak in public.’ So they went to their church and their church said, ‘Sorry. Women shouldn’t be speaking in public.’ These women said, ‘The government? Church? God’s telling me to speak out. I’ve got to speak out!'”
Many of these women felt compelled by their religious devotion to become public agitators. They violated the law to get their point across.
The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women was held May 9 to 12. Women representing 140 different groups across the country came together in New York at a little church on Houston Street. Some came by stage coach, some by steam boat. “Some of them came unescorted. That was huge,” said Hunt, as women were generally not allowed to travel without the accompaniment of a man.
“Such a convention the world has never saw,” wrote one of the attendees in her diary. It was the first national convention of U.S. women. It was the first interracial meeting of any size at that time in American history. Seneca Falls, eleven years later, would be all white women.
But these women were ahead of their time. They spoke of the need to change both social custom and religious ideas in order for women to gain stature in the public sphere. Angelina Grimké prepared one of the key resolutions for the 1837 convention. “The time has come for women to move into that sphere which providence has assigned her, and no longer remain satisfied in the circumscribed limits with which corrupt custom and perverted application of Scripture have encircled her.”
Yes, it was time to rise up and demand equality, but events following the 1838 convention sent a chilling message to these women: be silent, or risk your lives with continued activism. An angry mob encircled Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia, the newly-erected building where the women were meeting, and harassed the convention-goers. On the third evening of the convention, after the women had exited the building, the mob set fire to Pennsylvania Hall, and although police and firefighters responded to the scene, they were not able to keep the mob from engulfing the building in flames. The message seemed clear: anyone involved with such work would be risking their lives.
Thankfully, many women were willing to risk their lives to continue this work. Grimké wrote about her conviction to the cause on the day after the mob set fire to the building where the women had met in Pennsylvania Hall. “If persecution is the means which God has ordained for the emancipation of the slave, then I can say: let it come. For it is my conviction that this is a cause worth dying for.”
In our next installment, Rebecca Walker rejoins the conversation to talk about similarities between the early abolitionist feminists and Third Wave feminism of the 1990’s. The conversation closes with both leaders discussing how the next wave of feminism needs to build on a relational culture that values inclusiveness and diversity.
Long before she was a meme and pop culture icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a sober-minded jurist, a workaholic and a trail-blazing advocate for gender equality. None of that has changed, but in the last decade Ginsburg has become a celebrity whose image is plastered on t-shirts, mugs and all over the Internet. She’s celebrated as both a gritty feminist badass, and cute old lady.
It’s great that someone of Ginsburg’s intellectual heft and societal importance is famous; still, you worry that the image of the bespectacled RBG is overtaking the person. Part of RBG—which is directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen—explores the hagiography surrounding the diminutive justice: college students express awe at just glimpsing her, and we see Ginsburg sporting a “Super Diva” shirt while working out with her trainer (who, incidentally, has written a book titled The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong … and You Can Too!). The workout stuff is cute, and a testament to Ginsburg’s determination and discipline, but far more important, and interesting, is her work over nearly six decades as a lawyer, professor and judge.
Nominated by Bill Clinton in 1993, Ginsburg was not the first woman named to the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor served from 1981-2006) but she has been the most passionate defender of women’s rights, including abortion rights. And while she is considered a liberal icon, it wasn’t always the case. When Ginsburg was appointed, she was in the middle of the pack ideologically, but the changing composition of the court has moved her relative position to the left. Moreover, RBG has proven more than willing to dissent from her conservative colleagues, particularly on gender issues. She is able to do this while maintaining a reputation for collegiality, which included a long-running friendship with the boisterous conservative justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow opera lover who died in 2016.
There are plenty of well-known figures who weigh-in on Ginsburg in the film, including Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, NPR’s Nina Totenberg and long-time Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, an arch conservative who nevertheless recommended Ginsburg to President Clinton in 1993 to fill the open Supreme Court seat. “It was the interview that did it,” says Clinton about his choice of Ginsburg from a long list of potential nominees for the position.
Ginsburg’s daughter and son, and a granddaughter, attest to the judge’s sharp mind, prodigious work ethic and serious demeanor. So do two of her childhood friends who confirm, as does nearly everyone interviewed, that Ginsburg is no fan of idle chit-chat or time wasting.
Gender was an obstacle throughout Ginsburg’s rise in the legal ranks. “Being a woman was an impediment,” she notes dryly about her time at Harvard Law School. Ginsburg was one of only nine women in a Harvard class of over 500, and the scrutiny was intense, although professors would not engage the women in the Socratic interrogation that men received because it was felt that females were too delicate for such treatment. Ginsburg also recounts that a dean called the female students together to ask them how they thought they could justify occupying seats that would otherwise have gone to men.
RBG faced other challenges as well, including the death of her mother after a lengthy illness when Ruth was 17. RBG did her undergraduate studies at Cornell, which is where she met her husband Marty. They both went to Harvard for law school, and when Ruth started (she was a year behind Marty) she was caring for their 14-month-old daughter. Ginsburg neatly compartmentalized law time and baby time, she says, but then Marty was diagnosed with cancer, and RBG helped him keep up with his studies while he received treatment. All the while, she was rearing their child, attending classes and serving on the law review.
Ginsburg’s husband survived the bout with cancer, and he proved key to her later success. “Meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that happened to me,” says RBG. Martin Ginsburg, a tax lawyer who died in 2010, was gregarious and social, an ideal counterpart to his more reserved wife. Moreover, not only did he actively campaign for Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the early 1990s, he gave up a high-flying career in New York when his wife was named to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Carter in 1980. The family moved to D.C., and Marty took on much of the childrearing and cooking duties (there are several mentions of RBG’s culinary deficiencies throughout the film).
When RBG graduated from Columbia Law in 1959 (she’d transferred there after her husband took a job in New York when he graduated from Harvard), she had a hard time getting a job in a law firm, even though she’d been at the top of her class. The discrimination against women in the legal profession was not exactly subtle. She became a professor at Rutgers University, and soon learned that she was being paid less than her male colleagues, a situation she quickly moved to remedy.
RBG became a gender equality crusader in the 1970s, and in several cases that she took on, men were as much the victims of gender discrimination and stereotyping as were women. In 1973, she argued a case before the Supreme Court in which a female Air Force lieutenant was not given a housing allowance for her and her husband, even though male service members with wives were automatically granted such benefits. The policy was overturned. In a 1975 case, she represented a man whose wife had died shortly after childbirth. The widower was denied a survivor’s Social Security benefit, which he needed to be able to care for his son, even though in parallel cases women receive such a benefit when their spouse dies.
Once RBG got on the court, she continued to champion women and gender equity. She wrote the majority opinion in a 1996 case in which the Virginia Military Institute was ordered to end its males-only admissions policy.
Ginsburg says her mother gave her two pieces of advice: “Be a lady, and be independent.” By lady, Ginsburg says her mother meant that “One should not be consumed by useless emotions,” like anger. RBG seems to have taken this to heart. She’s certainly passionate about her work, but her career indicates that she is always thinking two or three steps ahead, not getting embroiled in controversies of the day, or recriminations against present or past antagonists. (The lone understandable exception was her misstep as a sitting justice in making disparaging comments about President Trump).
Ginsburg has more energy than most people one-third her age. Still, she is 85 and has survived two bouts of cancer. She dodges the question about whether she should have retired during Obama’s tenure so that a liberal, or at least centrist, judge could have replaced her, as opposed to a Trump nominee should she leave the bench before 2020. It’s hard to argue that someone as vigorous as Ginsburg should step aside before she’s ready, particularly after the outrageous stunt in which the Republicans refused to vote on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in 2016 in the wake of Scalia’s death. It’s a tough one; let’s hope the judge keeps working out, eats right and tries to get a proper night’s rest so that she can outlast the current administration.
RBG was made by a team of women, including director-producers Julie Cohen and Betsy West, and executive producers Amy Entelis (Executive VP for Talent and Content Development at CNN Worldwide, which financed the film) and Courtney Sexton (CNN Films VP). Women also occupy the archival, associate and coordinating producer roles on RBG, as well as the composer, cinematographer, and editor slots.
In November, an unrelated feature film titled On the Basis of Sex will be released. Directed by veteran producer-director Mimi Leder, it will star Felicity Jones as Ginsburg.