Will Bezos $10 Billion Address Gender Equality?

As a feminist, reading the news that Jeff Bezos has pledged $10 billion to fight climate change feels jarring, and a little frightening, especially as I scanned through several articles and realized there was no real plan for all this money, and no mention of gender as part of the strategy. I started to feel a little like a wife learning that her husband wants to work on improving their marriage, so he’s bought a boat to prove it, without considering whether she like boats or has any interest in the sport.

Jeff Bezos on vacation in Spain with Lauren Sanchez in January of 2020 (Photo credit: Twitter)

Slow your roll, Jeff. It seems like a better plan would be to step back and take a look at what the business you created has done to women, men, children, workers, the environment, and the global economy, and figure out a path to a more sustainable business model for Amazon.

But that’s not how the world works. How the world works is: time and time again, capitalist business titans reach a point of such excess in their accumulation of wealth that the guilt starts to kick in. They genuinely start to feel badly about all the destruction and ruination that came along with their business model. In the case of Amazon, that business model included upending the publishing industry, crushing brick and mortar retail, eroding worker’s rights, and leaving a huge carbon footprint.

Jeff Bezos seems to have reached that point. Should we all be glad? I guess so, but I return to my first point above: get your business to run in a humane and environmentally sustainable way, Jeff!

Jeff Bezos and Amazon did not need to crush the publishing industry the way that they did. Jeff Bezos and Amazon could have done more to facilitate a collaboration with the retail sector, rather than picking off stores one by one in a death of retail by a thousand cuts across the country. Jeff Bezos could pay his workers a living wage and provide benefits that keep workers safe and more financially secure.

But he didn’t, and he doesn’t. And now, here he is, 25 years later, with a peace offering: $10 billion to try to fix the planet.

What About Ecofeminism, Jeff?

Poor women and children bear the brunt of the ill effects of climate change across the world. Will the new pledge from Jeff Bezos take this fact into account?

It seems somewhat hasty for Bezos to come out with this announcement about $10 billion to fight climate change, and then to have very few details to offer about the strategy. It brings me back to my initial metaphor of a wife finding out out her husband bought a boat, and not knowing why or how this is going to fix their marriage.

But, ultimately, no one wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, and especially one that is offering $10 billion for planet aid. So here’s my Dear Jeff letter, where I make my preferences known for how the $10 billion gets spent.

Dear Jeff: Fund Women. Then, Fund More Women. Finally, Fund Women Again.

Honestly, you could have started by giving MacKenzie 50% of all your assets in your divorce. But I know that’s personal. That’s not your philanthropy.

So I’ll get back to my point: A huge portion of these $10 billion dollars, to my mind, should go to the ecofeminist movement, to the many leaders and activists who have forged the path with strategies for addressing both climate and gender issues. Why? I’ll let Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, explain:

“We need to recognize the unequal effects of the climate crisis on women, but also that women’s participation brings with it creative and sustainable solutions to both the climate emergency and social injustices. Tackling climate change and environmental degradation without the full inclusion of women will not succeed: gender equality is a prerequisite to the collective effort needed to address the climate emergency.”

Does that make sense for you, Jeff? Gender equality is a prerequisite. So when you announce your more detailed strategy for how your $10 billion is going to make all the difference in addressing the climate emergency, let’s hope you don’t leave out how gender equality is going to be part of the plan. To do so would be tragically inept.

Which Organizations Could Bezos Fund/Collaborate With/Learn From?

Here’s my shortlist of the funders that the Bezos Earth Fund needs to consider collaborating with/joining/funding to develop their gender justice climate strategy:

  1. Rachel’s Network
  2. Women’s Funding Network
  3. Mary Robinson Foundation
  4. Ms. Foundation for Women
  5. Global Fund for Women
  6. Global Greengrants Fund

There are many others, but that would be a good start.

In The News

Kiersten Marek

Author: Kiersten Marek

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

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