At Obama Summit, Women’s Funds Step Up with New Plans Again

Here’s some good news this week, in case you need a little cheering up: The Obama administration hosted the first-ever United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. With Michelle Obama and Oprah headlining the event, this convergence included many old and new fighters for gender equality including Darren Walker, Gloria Steinem, Matt McGorry and Amy Poehler. Also adding to the excitement: women’s funds.

women's funds
Leaders of Dallas Women’s Foundation, California Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, New York Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and Ms. Foundation on stage at the United State of Women Summit on June 14 in Washington, D.C.

President Obama and Vice President Biden also participated, with the president drawing wild cheers from the crowd as he announced in classic Obama style: “I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.”

Wrapping up today, the summit was convened by the White House Council on Women and Girls, and hosted in partnership with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation. Other sponsors include a long roster of businesses and foundations, such as the Ford Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Pepsico Foundation, the Tory Burch Foundation, and the AOL Charitable Foundation.

The summit included a ground-breaking announcement of $50 million in new commitments to support for women and girls. In one notable move, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation joined with seven other women’s foundations to announce the Young Women’s Initiative, which will fund efforts to improve the lives of young women across the U.S., with a particular focus on young women of color.

Joining Washington Area Women’s Foundation in making this commitment are the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, and the New York Women’s Foundation, which had previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015. We will have more on this effort as we talk with the women’s funds that are involved.

Other big pledges include more than $20 million in new commitments to the Obama Administration’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, which provides girls worldwide with access to education. CARE pledged $15 million to this effort, Oracle pledged $3 million, and the International Rescue Committee pledged $1 million. These new dollars will reach adolescent girls in many parts of the world, including India, Afghanistan, and Egypt, and girls in high-conflict nations in Africa and the Middle East.

There is much more to this announcement, including new efforts directed at reducing violence against women, increasing support for early childhood educators, and providing more funding for STEM efforts that target girls.

The White House also announced commitments from 28 leading companies to conduct “annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations.” In other words: gender equity pay audits! The companies also pledged to review their hiring and advancement practices. The full pledge and more statements from companies are here.

All this action suggests that this was one historic event for women, with more of its kind likely to occur in the coming years. To get a real taste of what the summit entailed, you can watch parts of it here.

We’ve been saying here for a while that there is a big disparity between White House engagement with My Brother’s Keeper and its work on issues of equality for women and girls. After the summit, things are looking a tad more balanced.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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