Equality Can't Wait Challenge Awards $40 Million to Four Bold Ideas to Advance Gender Equality in the U.S.

Hosted by Pivotal Ventures, MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, The Challenge Will Award Additional Funding to Two Finalists and Feature Top Ideas On the New Equality Can’t Wait Idea Lab Website

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CONTACT: Marc Moorghen, [email protected]

Chicago, IL, July 29, 2021 – Today, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge announced four projects that will be awarded a total of $40 million to support their bold ideas to expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030. The Challenge, which launched in 2020, is the first competition centered on gender equality in the U.S. with an award of this magnitude and represents an opportunity to invest in and empower women leaders who bring a wide range of lived experiences to their work to advance women’s power and influence in the U.S.

Hosted by Pivotal Ventures, with support from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever for Change, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge highlights the groundswell of energy and activism of the gender equality movement.

“The overwhelming response to the Challenge proves there’s no shortage of transformational ideas about how to accelerate progress for women and girls,” said Melinda French Gates, founder of Pivotal Ventures. “The next step is to make sure those game-changing ideas get the support they need to become fully realized and improve people’s lives. We can break the patterns of history and advance gender equality, but we must commit to lifting up organizations, like the ones receiving awards today, that are ready to lift up women and girls."

The four awardees were selected following a multi-phase process. Their ideas center on the voices of women who have been most impacted by gender inequity, focus on action, and leverage the inherent strengths and power of women to tackle the barriers they face today. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge awardees are: Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure, a cross-movement coalition of organizations that will transform antiquated attitudes around caregiving as unpaid work to establish a publicly supported care infrastructure; Ada Developers Academy is Changing the Face of Tech, and will expand their immersive training and internship program creating pathways for thousands of women and gender expansive people into impactful software development careers; Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate, which will accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry; and The Future is Indigenous Womxn, a project to support and scale impactful businesses owned by Native womxn.

“The awardees are strong teams working on the front lines and from within communities to help women build power in their lives and careers,” added MacKenzie Scott. “And best of all, they’re not alone. This challenge received so many bold ideas to activate new levers, remove old barriers, and push forward for gender equality. It’s exciting to see all the ways people are making a difference.”

The projects varied in their approach and closely aligned with Challenge goals ─ advocating for caregiving infrastructure; increasing pathways for the next generation of women to advance in key sectors like technology; and advancing economic empowerment for Indigenous womxn. Collectively, they will implement their bold ideas, so that more women, particularly caregivers, young women, Indigenous women, and women of color, are in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces, and communities.

“The awardees, led by Native women, Black women and multi-racial coalitions of women, are driving work critical to ensuring that all people can have access to equal opportunities and realize their full potential,” said Stacy Schusterman, Chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. “The leaders who stepped forward with bold ideas through the Challenge give me hope that by investing in women-led solutions, we can achieve true gender equality. The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the future of our families, communities and economy depend on it.”

The response to the Challenge was enthusiastic, with more than 550 proposals submitted from nearly every state in the U.S. As a result, the Challenge hosts will also be launching a new website called the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge Idea Lab to increase the visibility of the top projects, as determined by peers and experts.

Additionally, two finalists were awarded supplemental funding from the Challenge in recognition of their track records of building women’s economic and political power, and their potential to leverage their experience to positively impact the lives and influence of more women across the country: FreeFrom’s A Call to Action: Holding Society Accountable for Intimate Partner Violence, which will continue fostering an ecosystem of long-term services and public policies to support survivors of intimate partner violence and IGNITE’s Training Next Gen Women to Flex Their Political Power, which will dramatically scale its impact-driven programs to train young women to flex their political power as voters, activists, policymakers, commissioners, and candidates.

“If we are going to achieve gender equality in the U.S., we need a philanthropic system capable of supporting sustained transformative change on a historic scale,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge has provided a compelling model, not only by encouraging larger grants invested over longer periods of time, but also by nurturing more collaboration among funders and among problem solvers. As a result, the Challenge has identified dozens of bold ideas that need funding, including these outstanding award recipients.”

Anyone interested in supporting Equality Can’t Wait projects may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy at Lever for Change.

Details on the awardees and finalists of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge are listed below: 


Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure ($10 million): The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the National Women’s Law Center, The Arc, MomsRising Education Fund, and Family Values @ Work will transform attitudes around caregiving which are heavily influenced by gender and racial biases; coalesce existing movements for child care, paid family and medical leave, and long-term services and supports; and mobilize public demand for high-quality, flexible care options that include valuing the work of paid and unpaid caregivers.

Changing the Face of Tech ($10 million): Ada Developers Academy supports women and gender expansive adults, particularly from underserved and disinvested communities, in technology through an immersive training and internship program. Through this project, Ada will expand nationally by providing corporate social justice and management training to 500 of the world's leading technology companies and expand its immersive coding program to develop 6,000 new tech leaders, and prepare another 3,600 women for software development training, increasing their incomes and earning power, and diversifying this critical sector.

Project Accelerate: Increasing Young Women’s Power and Influence ($10 million): Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate will accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry, leveraging partnerships with corporations and social impact organizations to ensure their preparation and access to positions of influence. Through a network of 78 affiliates, Project Accelerate aims to lift 5,400 diverse women into corporate positions of power and influence, shifting the equity landscape for generations.

The Future is Indigenous Womxn ($10 million): Native womxn interested in entrepreneurship do not enjoy equitable access to capital, business development resources, financial capability, or career opportunities. New Mexico Community Capital and Native Women Lead will catalyze the investability and economic liberation of Indigenous womxn by scaling impactful businesses owned by Native womxn. Their growth will increase power and influence within their families and unlock potential for wealth creation through community employment opportunities.

Awardees of the additional funding:

A Call to Action: Holding Society Accountable for Intimate Partner Violence ($4 million): In partnership with thousands of survivors of intimate partner violence across the country, FreeFrom will build an ecosystem of long-term support—including banks, employers, health insurance companies, religious organizations, and state and federal governments—to reframe our understanding of intimate partner violence as a systemic economic issue, hold society accountable, and help survivors to build collective power and influence.

Training Next Gen Women to Flex Their Political Power ($4 million): IGNITE will scale its impact-driven programs to train hundreds of thousands of young women by 2026 to flex their political power as voters, activists, policymakers, commissioners, and candidates. IGNITE leads with issues young women care about, connects them to elected women making decisions around those issues, then trains them to run and lead.


Building Power Among Grassroots Social Justice Feminist Leaders:  Family Values @ Work will scale their leadership development programs that help caregivers step into power while deepening their social justice feminist analysis and practice (meaning an intersectional, holistic feminist movement-building approach).

Equality Starts Here: Advancing Black Women’s Rights in the South:  The Equality Starts Here Collective, comprising of Oxfam America, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, and A Better Balance, will increase the power and influence of Black women in the South using advocacy, rights training, policy reform, and research.

Last Mile Education Fund: Investing in Degree Attainment for Technical Women: Last Mile facilitates degree attainment for low-income women in high-demand sectors of technology and engineering, increasing both women's earning power and contributions to technology innovation. This project has the potential to scale to invest in 7,500 women technologists over the next five years, diversifying the sector and expanding women’s leadership and influence in these vital fields.

The 19th*: News That Represents:  The 19th* will transform the media landscape by giving marginalized women and LGBTQ+ people the news and community they need to equally participate in our democracy. The 19th* proposes to dramatically expand its storytelling, investing in sophisticated distribution technology and introducing a groundbreaking fellowship program that furthers equity in the field of journalism and will help ensure a robust pipeline of diverse, next-generation journalists for the nation's newsrooms.

For more on the Challenge, visit https://leverforchan.ge/ECW.


Pivotal Ventures

Pivotal Ventures is an investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates. We work with organizations and individuals to accelerate momentum where progress has stalled and use philanthropic and investment capital to substantially improve people’s lives.

MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett

MacKenzie and Dan support organizations that have strong track records of addressing inequities, with particular focus on leadership teams with lived experience in the issues they seek to address. They have posted about their giving at The Giving Pledge and on Medium (116 Organizations Driving Change, 384 Ways to Help, and Seeding by Ceding).

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies 

Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies (Schusterman) is a global organization that seeks to improve lives, strengthen communities and advance equity. Our philanthropic vision is grounded in a commitment to pursue justice, repair the world and treat all people with dignity and civility. We invest in efforts to improve public education in the United States, strengthen the Jewish people and Israel, and address the needs of marginalized individuals and communities. www.schusterman.org

Lever for Change

Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, helps donors to find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, ranging from racial and gender equity to economic development and climate change. Building on the success of the MacArthur Foundation’s $100 million competition, 100&Change, Lever for Change customizes and manages open and transparent competitions for donors. In addition, the organization matches donors with nonprofits and social enterprises in its Bold Solutions Network, which includes solutions to significant social challenges that were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of Lever for Change’s competitions. The organization has developed and managed nine competitions, ranging in size from $10 million to $100 million, unlocking $790 million in funding for high-impact solutions and strengthening dozens of top organizations. For more information, visit www.leverforchange.org.

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