It’s time to change the way we think and talk about gender.
For many of us — women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and others — the last few years have been difficult to digest. There are too many significant human rights issues happening in our country today to easily decide which to give priority.
In response, the voices of activists, philanthropists, and organizations in this social and political climate are louder than ever before. Together, funders and campaigners are making strides to support the causes they believe in, finding new platforms and new opportunities for growth every day. We’ve made progress in legislation, but at the same time, we’ve seen massive legal backslides — like laws barring transgender people from certain bathrooms and abortion bans in nine states — that make it difficult to celebrate our progress.
There exists a problem here: if our country’s mindset is still rooted in phobias and outdated prejudices, how can legislation alone pave the way to a just, equitable, and fair future? Laws on their own can only do so much to solve a problem when that problem really exists in our attitudes and behaviors.
Announced on July 17, the Culture Change Fund is the first of its kind to address this problem. Developed by the California Gender Justice Funders Network in conjunction with several national foundations, the $10 million Culture Change Fund seeks to promote campaigns and organizations that enact change in perceptions and attitudes.
“The Fund was developed out of a recognition that policy and legislative action are not enough to erase the disadvantages that women, girls, transgender, and gender nonconforming people – especially those from communities of color – face in our society,” reads the press release penned by the California Gender Justice Funders Network. “By focusing on culture change, the Fund’s goal is to create broad public support for a new way of thinking that centers gender, racial, and economic justice at the heart of the solution to systemic problems.”
The Fund will advance its mission by focusing on three key areas: direct grants to qualifying organizations and campaigns, the creation of a community of funders, activists, artists, and researchers, and a unique story-driven research project called Story at Scale.
Story at Scale researchers will collect real stories from real individuals affected by gender oppression. The team will use these stories to produce a collective strategy that artists, activists, and campaigners can use to advance gender justice in their campaigns.
“Storytelling is one of the most important human traditions, and stories are an integral part of how we communicate our ideas and values,” says Lucia Corral Peña, senior program officer at the Blue Shield of California Foundation, a member of the Network. “By telling true stories of gender justice in ways that all people can understand, we can change the national conversation around gender, and also change norms and minds.”
At this time, grants from the Culture Change Fund are invitation-only, although the Women’s Foundation of California is coordinating ongoing funder opportunities. The Fund will focus its efforts on campaigns and organizations in communities that are impacted the most by gender-based oppression.
Funders include the California Gender Justice Funders Network (made up of Blue Shield of California Foundation, The California Endowment, Fondation CHANEL, Women’s Foundation of California, and Philanthropy California), along with several national funders. These include the Compton Foundation, Ford Foundation, General Service Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, and many others.
“The national conversation on sexual assault and harassment brought by the #MeToo movement and unconstitutional abortion bans in nine states has shown that problems cannot be fixed through policies alone,” says CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, Surina Khan. “The Fund is invested in accelerating the shifts happening in our culture by supporting local organizing and narrative shift efforts that are attempting to change the way we think and talk about gender.”
This shift in the conversation is designed to shine a new light on gender issues. By focusing on the way our country thinks and talks about social issues, rather than simply focusing on what is or isn’t legal, the Culture Change Fund seeks to transform the American concept of gender through hearts and minds.
“Women, especially women of color, non-binary, non-gender conforming and genderqueer people, are the voices of people impacted by gender-based oppression, violence, and discrimination and are too often ignored in our larger cultural narrative,” reads the Fund’s mission statement. “The tide is changing. In order to experience a sea change, we must ensure that not only the people holding power change, but the culture that we all live, learn, love, vote, and work in changes as well.”
To learn more about the California Gender Justice Funders Network, the Culture Change Fund, and more, visit the following:
Hashtags to use on social media: #genderjustice #culturechange
Facebook: facebook.com/WomensFoundationofCalifornia/ (@WomensFoundationofCalifornia)
Instagram and Twitter: @womensfoundca
Philanthropy Women covers funding for gender equity in all sectors of society. We want to significantly shift public discourse, particularly in philanthropy, toward increased action for gender equality. You can support our work and access unlimited and premium content with one of our subscriptions.