Like many organizations in the women’s funding community, Women’s Funding Network had a robust year of working on the issues most important to women, including financial empowerment, collaborating with men as allies, and strategic leveraging as a donor and an advocate.
To go a little deeper into this past year of activity in feminist philanthropy, we decided to talk to Cynthia Nimmo, CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, and hear about what it felt like to run one of the most important organizations in the women’s funding space.
By operating regionally or at the state level, women’s funds add an essential level of leadership to gender equality work, since they are not controlled by government or corporate entities. This gives women’s funds the freedom to speak and act on issues that impact women, with less fear of political or corporate retaliation. By forming large collaboratives like the Women’s Funding Network, women’s funds are able to advocate for progress on the issues that women are dealing with on the ground — harassment, for example, or lack of access to health care — and support ways to address issues systemically through partnership between all sectors of society — business, nonprofit, and government.
This is why I support Women’s Funding Network as a donor. This year, I am urging all feminists to support WFN as a way to address gender issues and help us build a healthier world for all. In Cynthia Nimmo’s responses below, you will hear how WFN increased knowledge and strategy for gender equality on so many critical issues this past year. I am confident that WFN brings added strength to gender equality movements both in the U.S. and globally, and I hope you will join me in supporting the critical role they play in moving toward a more gender equal world.
And now, some questions and responses with Cynthia Nimmo:
Kiersten Marek: What were some of the highlights of this year at WFN?
Cynthia Nimmo: Bringing together leaders in gender equity is what we do best, and this year we hosted three powerful summits across the U.S.: Women + Money; Women and Men as Allies; and Women + Power. Each were sold-out and drew influencers from sectors beyond philanthropy, including fashion, finance, technology, and sports. It’s been an absolute highlight to widen our circle to include the ever-growing audience of those who invest in gender equity.
There’s an alchemy that takes place at our summits, and it doesn’t end when the day is over. Beyond programs and grantmaking, a majority of the members and allies within our network are advocating successfully for policy changes to improve the lives of women and girls. This multi-pronged approach is what creates lasting change, and this year they asked for opportunities to use their voices together. Members signed a joint statement decrying the separation of children from their parents on the U.S. border, as an example. When foundation leaders representing $50 – 80 million/year in grantmaking stand together, it’s meaningful.
KM: What epiphanies about gender equality came up for you or your staff this year?
CN: The epiphany came around how many people are involved in gender equality, men and women, from within philanthropy and beyond. Another is about necessity of including a racial equity lens in gender equity work. One cannot exist without the other. For those of us working within philanthropy, tasked with funneling resources, we need to be ever-vigilant about who we partner with, how we partner with, and whose leadership is present.
KM: What inspires you most about WFN’s work?
CN: On the days it feels like there is a backslide for women and girls, I am energized and inspired by the massive number of women using their voice, their money, and their influence to be a part of the universal demand for gender equality. This wasn’t the case 15 years ago when I joined a movement that many considered to be outdated or unnecessary. The work was being done by nonprofits, researchers, and others. It wasn’t part of the mainstream conversation.
Now, women from all walks of life and in all professions are looking at aspects of their lives – from their paychecks, to childcare, to the ads they see – and are asking for something different. If the change isn’t forthcoming, they themselves are taking up the mantle. Making the case for gender equity, highlighting ways to get there, and creating opportunities for others to be involved has been our mission for 30 years. It’s always inspiring!
KM: In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
CN: The conversation will become far more nuanced than a general push for equal rights. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this, from why it’s important to have more women in the corporate boardroom, to why having a representative government is critical for our democracy, even down to things like the authors of books being taught in public schools and the faces on our currency.
In 10 years, women’s leadership will be visible in every facet of society. Advances in technology will support immediate sharing of information and opportunity for collective response in real time, in ways we can’t imagine. The programs that are being piloted now to educate boys on gender norms, will become commonplace. Women economists will be in demand, as they will have brought a deeper understanding to the general public about the policies and structures which have created the long-established wealth gap that is detrimental to the health of our families and our countries.