The Women’s Funding Network (WFN) is back this year with another exciting convening on the many forms of feminist changemaking happening in today’s world. This year’s Women Funded 2021 virtual conference, The Feminist Factor, focused on a wide range of philanthropic and social justice topics as we continue to fight the tide of inequality in a post-COVID world.
The conference’s mainstage plenary introduced some of the superstars of the feminist philanthropy world.
Monica Ramirez and Carmen Perez on Latinx in Feminist Giving
The mainstage event began with a conversation between Mónica Ramírez (Justice for Migrant Women) and Carmen Perez-Jordan (The Gathering for Justice) on the importance of Latinx feminism. Perez described her journey as a Chicana feminist, starting with her realization that her own mother was a feminist and had passed those ideals on to her.
“When I think about my identity as a Chicana feminist, it’s rooted in Black feminism,” said Perez, honoring “all the Black feminists who led the way for modern movements.”
Perez also spoke to the diverse nature of Latinx feminism. With so many lived experiences, backgrounds, and communities held under that umbrella, there are critical conversations taking place every day between Latinx women wanting to move past “othering” and into a more equal and just world society.
“My duality of being Mexican and Chicana is what informs my organizing,” she said.
Ramírez echoed this feeling of Latinx feminism not being a “monolith”. She pointed out that this branch of feminism includes indigenous communities, communities of color, and more.
“What people need to understand is that [members of the Latinx community] are experts on philanthropy,” she said, speaking to the ways that Latinx communities come together to support each other on a personal level as well as a financial and philanthropic level.
“We’re looking forward to your partnership on the way forward,” said Ramírez.
How is the US Government shaping up?
Next up, Jennifer Klein (White House Gender Policy Council) shared updates from the Biden administration on efforts to advance gender equity and equality.
“Every policy issue must be approached with a gender lens and with an intersectional lens,” she said. “In this moment, as the economy continues to cover… one of the most pressing priorities for the Council is increasing women’s economic security and workforce participation.”
Klein described Biden’s plan to lower taxes for working families and take other actions that will lower costs for working families, allowing women to step back into their roles in the American workplace while alleviating the care costs associated with families in the US, both for childcare and elder care.
“Women’s funds move money more rapidly than traditional funds,” she said. “Their support is essential to push for change and accountability and empower new generations of leaders. So thank you for the work each and every one of you are doing to advance gender equity and equality across sectors, issue areas, and regions. We’re excited to be partners in this work and look forward to future opportunities for collaboration.”
Feminist Equation for Transformation: Give Generously, Trust Deeply
The next portion of the plenary featured Denise Raquel Dunning (Founder and Executive Director, Rise Up), Linda Weisert (Director, Strategic Engagement & Communications [Gender, Youth & Equity] Children’s Investment Fund Foundation [CIFF]), Jennifer Okwudili (Interim Deputy Director, Gender Equality, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Alicia Tauro (Project Coordinator, Youth for Voluntary Action, India).
This session on trust-based philanthropy and gender equity started with the speakers sharing their own introductions to feminist philanthropy.
“To enhance gender equity, we not only need to work to empower other women to help them speak out [but] we also need to create systems that are more accountable and responsive to envision a system in trust and collaboration,” said Tauro.
A common thread in this discussion was the importance of diverse voices in philanthropy, as well as diverse approaches to the philanthropy itself. Holistic approaches, cross-sectional discussions, and intersectional lenses all play significant roles in advancing gender equity around the world.
“The pandemic has shown us just how systemic gender inequity is, and we cannot recover from [the pandemic] unless we put gender equity at the center,” said Weisert. “Part of putting the girl at the center of what we do is being mindful of addressing her and the many barriers she faces including racial injustice and socioeconomic injustice.”
The conversation shifted to supporting grassroots organizations. Tauro described stepping away from numbers as a metric of success, focusing instead on less easily quantified indicators. Flexible funding and reporting systems allow grassroots organizations to drive their own narratives, deciding their own priorities and designing sustainable solutions to drive change.
Speaking to shifting power structures in philanthropy, Okwudili described “bi-directional relationships” in community philanthropy. A trend we’re excited about in the industry is the shift away from restricted funding and aggressive oversight from funders — like Tauro said, the rise of flexible funding and trust-based philanthropy has allowed organizations to choose their own priorities and make real impact on the ground.
As a recommendation to funders, Weisert stressed the importance of listening to those who are doing the work. Young feminist organizers, funding groups, and funding networks are taking steps forward in local and large-scale campaigns alike, and the open conversations between funders and the organizations they support allow for more trust and greater impact on both sides of the equation.
“With solidarity and support, we can lead change,” echoed Tauro. “Having that trust and listening and learning from our communities is extremely crucial.”
New Partnership for Gender Equity Research
The final discussion during the plenary featured C. Nicole Mason (President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research [IWPR]) and Elizabeth Barajas-Román (President and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network). These two powerhouses discussed the critical nature of gender equity research — the metrics by which we measure the impact of philanthropy and address the gaps in gender equity that still exist today.
WFN and IWPR used this session to announce their new collaboration on gender equity research. IWPR will be an exclusive research partner at WFN, working all over the country to “provide a better picture of the access points for intervention and support for local narrative change in outcomes and consensus building and action at the local level.”
“Never before has this happened, and it’s such an exciting time for WFN and this movement,” said Barajas-Román.
“It took me 25 years to get here,” said Mason, describing her career from its beginnings working in a battered women’s shelter to her Ph.D. program to leading IWPR in its fight for intersectional gender equity. “It took me to this partnership doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in my work, in my life, in this moment.”
Mason described the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, as well as the ways IWPR has worked to quantify those disproportions and share their findings on the “She-cession” with the world. All of this effort and research points to the campaign to climb out of the pandemic and start economic recover in an equitable way.
“It’s not just about doing a report on gender,” said Barajas-Román. “Other [researchers] will put out a report on gender, [but] it just doesn’t see the things that you and your team will see in partnership with women’s funds who are at the local level. You’re seeing things that other researchers may not see from an ivory tower.”
IWPR’s efforts in gender data will also expand to legislation advocacy, information dissemination, organizing, and policy change.
“That’s what the significance of this moment is to me and also to IWPR,” Mason said. “I’m all about celebration at this point and get us to where we’ve been trying to be for a long time.”
“I’m so excited,” echoed Barajas-Román. “There’s so much more to come.”
The event closed with a grounding exercise led by Antoinette Klatzky (Eileen Fisher Community Foundation). Stay tuned for updates from this afternoon’s sessions!