#MeToo and the Power Shift Women’s Funds Helped Create


Check out the Op-Ed piece I wrote recently for Inside Philanthropy, which explores the ways that the #Metoo movement — the mass uprising of sexual abuse and assault survivors seeking justice — is driving a shift in power and gender dynamics in our culture never before seen. With news of sexual abuse occurring for decades in children’s sports like gymnastics and swimming, and agencies like Oxfam facing major repercussions from reports of sexual misconduct of development staff, #MeToo is helping to open up essential litigation and public discussion on sexual behaviors and norms.

From the Op-Ed:

The #MeToo movement is challenging power structures that long enforced the silence of women who endured sexual harassment, abuse and assault. But while the start of this movement is often traced to revelations last October about Harvey Weinstein, it’s important to recognize that there’s a much deeper backstory, here—one in which philanthropy has played an important role. 

In key respects, the #MeToo movement was made possible by decades of work by women’s funds and the women’s advocacy groups they patiently supported. These funds, which have come to operate worldwide, invested in community-based efforts to end sexual violence long before the #MeToo uprising. They listened to the experiences of survivors and responded by funding shelters, public awareness campaigns, and advocacy efforts aimed at shifting social policy. The central practice that women’s funds used to cultivate the ground for #MeToo is openness. In recent months, we’ve witnessed the visible impact of valuing women’s shared experiences, having frank conversations, and collaborating—all critical elements of the kind of movement building long supported by women’s funds. 

This history carries larger lessons for philanthropy writ large. Across the sector, funders are growing more aware of the value of openness—of listening to and engaging with the people they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI), a funder collaborative dedicated to increased openness in philanthropy, is feeding this trend, and added five new foundations this past year, including the Gates Foundation, bringing the number of its funding partners to 39.

These new commitments to FSI come at a time of growing interest in participatory grantmaking—the practice of not just listening to grantees, but engaging them in the grantmaking process to optimize impact. While participatory grantmaking has been gaining momentum lately, many women’s funds have long embraced this approach. 

Read the full text at Inside Philanthropy. 


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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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