It seems, in the feminist philanthropy community, everyone is waiting for that tipping point to come, when women’s leadership finally establishes its value to the world. COVID, it seems, is helping to accelerate our awareness of the added value of women’s leadership. By showing that countries led by women having strikingly better COVID survival and containment rates, we should finally be at that point where you could practically pour the product of women’s leadership into a bottle and sell it on the open market.
Well, think again. I have been on my own quest to establish the value of women’s leadership, particularly women’s leadership in philanthropy, over the past five years. I went in with the theory that feminist strategies are more powerful strategies, and once people get to know more about them, lots of folks would flock to our website and build up our subscriber base to the point where, eventually, it might even turn into a for-profit market product. Though fiscally sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network, our budget and strategy is built around the idea that only a small portion of our funding should come from grants, and that as our subscriber base grows, eventually, we could become attractive to a regular small business publication or larger progressive media platform.
Merging Problems for Women Leaders and Publishers
Five years in, it’s clear that there is a growing audience for news about women’s philanthropy, and ideas and strategies centered on gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and systems change. But the path to making this platform into a sustainable small business, or even a partially subsidized non-profit, is unclear. Throw COVID on top of that, and it’s like a wet blanket on a dying fire.
One potential merger partner told me they had a hard enough time staying on top of the work they had, and they couldn’t afford to take on any more of the updating and technical headaches of merging and running another platform. Another potential merger partner said they would love to provide more media on feminist giving, but they have no confidence that there is a big enough donor base to support this topic of journalism.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. The world will start actually changing when we start valuing women’s leadership correctly. It all comes back to recognizing women’s work and not trying to get something for nothing. One thing I’ve vowed to do is stop subsidizing the cheap and sexist practices of the patriarchy that affect me directly. I hope you’ll join me in fighting to protect the value of yourself as a (fill in your occupation) and do your part to create a world where women’s leadership has market value.
Last I heard, large, powerful publishers like Forbes still don’t pay most of their gender equality freelance writers at all. The women who write all those columns on gender equality philanthropy for Forbes, many of which are on the same subjects we’ve just covered, get zero dollars for their work. They’re expected to live off the prestige and exposure. That is the world we live in. Not a world where women’s ideas, women’s work, and women’s leadership are valued.
The Experience of One Feminist Philanthropy Media Start-Up
As a woman publisher focused on feminist giving, what I find is, there just aren’t a lot of possibilities out there on the merger scene. The reasons are complicated. One thing I have learned is that, within the feminist giving community, only a small percentage of women want to be public-facing about their giving strategies. While many male philanthropists are comfortable plastering their names on buildings and/or demanding publicity for their philanthropic work, women are different creatures. It seems that while many feminist givers are ahead of the curve in terms of their strategies for giving, they have not come to terms with how to have a public presence about the role they play. As well, many would probably prefer to keep their giving activities on the down-low to avoid right-wing harassment and inundation with requests for funding.
Such is the world we live in.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 20, 2020, and with small updates was republished on December 11, 2021.