The past year has tested the resilience of women worldwide. Half of our global population continues to grapple with unequal access to opportunities, an injustice that persists even in nations like America, where women secured the right to vote just a century ago. We recognize that the path ahead is steep, but we remain steadfast in our determination to build a more equitable world for all.
We’re clear-eyed about the stubborn problems our country faces: declining reproductive rights, an unstainable care infrastructure exacerbated by the pandemic, and continued pay inequity. However, we also see those problems as potential turning points in our nation’s story.
Despite the disheartening trends, women continue to show up and make a difference every day: more girls and women have been gaining access to quality education at all levels, more women than ever hold political decision-making posts, there has been progress in closing the gender pay gap, and women-owned businesses and startups have been on the rise, just to name a few examples. Our impatience with the status quo is fueled by an optimism that progress is always possible—especially when we seize the moment together.
But we need more women to join the movement if we truly want to create a lasting change for future generations of women. Specifically, we need more women philanthropists.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented transfer of wealth to women. According to research firm WealthX, ten percent of ultra-high-net-worth individuals around the world are now women, while they represent thirty-six percent of Forbes’s 2021 list of billionaires. We need them to step up their giving as well.
At this critical time of social upheaval, we must accelerate the pace of progress for more women to be in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces, and communities – because equality can’t wait any longer.
The good news is that women are already doing the hard work – particularly women of color –we just need to fund them.
We have investment-ready ideas that are creating a real impact. In 2020, Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda French Gates' company, with additional support from MacKenzie Scott, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and Lever for Change, launched the $40 million Equality Can’t Wait Challenge to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender equality in America.
Two years ago, when we announced the award recipients, we hoped to catalyze immediate action but also to spotlight the urgency of the issue of gender equality and rally collective efforts to create a more equitable future for all. We have been heartened by their progress of the awardees so far and asked them to share updates about both challenges and opportunities in their own words. Here’s what they had to say:
Native Women Lead
Native Women Lead, through its Indigenous Women’s Fund, loaned $420,000 in the past year through the Matriarch Creative Fund and the Matriarch Restorative Fund, which accumulated $550,000 to date, lent to 62 entrepreneurs with a 99% repayment rate.
“All partner organizations have seen an increase in visibility and growth in their respective organizations. As the opportunities to engage in this ecosystem increase, we've been able to witness amazing Native women entrepreneurs benefit from this body of work through growth, confidence, skill building, and networking. We all benefit from giving and receiving this support and assistance.”Elizabeth Gamboa, Executive Director, New Mexico Community Capital (NMCC)
The vision for Project Accelerate is to connect companies that offer best practices for elevating women, especially women of color, into positions of leadership with Project Accelerate participants equipped with the skills to lead. This combination of workplaces dedicated to gender equity and young women prepared to lead and open doors for those who follow them will transform the workforce.
“Girls Inc. successfully launched Project Accelerate, an initiative to speed the entry of young women, especially women of color, into positions of influence and leadership, particularly in sectors where pay equity and gender disparities are far too prevalent. In its first two years, Project Accelerate has already engaged 2,250 young women through 13 Girls Inc. affiliates across the US and convened a group of influential women in a Leadership Council that will advocate for best practices to advance women’s leadership in corporations.”Lindsay Pankok, Director of Institutional Giving, Girls Inc.
Ada Developers Academy
Equality Can’t Wait allowed Ada Developers Academy to serve more students in existing Seattle and Digital campuses (the team tripled enrollment in just two years); launch operations in Atlanta – virtually for the first 18 months, followed by the opening of an in-person Atlanta campus; and expand marketing, outreach, and recruitment efforts to the greater DC area. However, Ada was hit hard by the massive economic downturn in tech in the second year of the team’s growth plan. Demand for software developer interns among corporate partners collapsed by early 2023. As a result, Ada had to pause their growth and downsize programming while waiting for the industry to rebound. In the meantime, the team is still supporting current students to ensure they can complete their training, and enhancing their curriculum with new AI components to give future Ada graduates a leg up in the job market as AI-enabled junior developers.
"We are witnessing a truly pivotal moment in the tech ecosystem with dramatic contraction in demand for new software developers due to large scale layoffs simultaneous with the explosive growth of AI-enabled software engineering tools. An industry that was achieving marginal improvements in representation through talent acquisition is now frozen in time at 25% female, 5% women of color. As adoption of AI tools increases, this imbalance in who develops the tech that impacts our lives every day – and who builds wealth in the sector – will only be exacerbated through increased productivity of the current majority. Ada’s call to action for women philanthropists is to invest in AI-enabled tech career pathways targeting women, especially women of color – now. This is our chance to drive gender and racial equity in a rapidly evolving tech landscape, and ensure that women have an equal place in the future of AI."Lauren Kastanas, Philanthropic Initiatives Director, Ada Developers Academy
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations continue to advocate for a stronger care infrastructure at the federal and local level. In April, the movement celebrated President Biden’s signature of an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers.
“While coalition efforts like ours have already radically reimagined childcare, paid leave, elder and disability care, and labor rights as one united issue, funding streams remain largely siloed, pitting movement-building organizations against one another in their search for resources. We therefore urge women philanthropists to promote cross-sector collaboration amongst organizations and stakeholders from various movements, which will not only enable other organizations within the gender equality space to embrace holistic, collaborative work, but also encourage funders to view their support as an investment in systemic change, rather than temporary solutions, thus fostering a more sustainable and impactful philanthropic landscape.”Connor Sullivan, Foundation Engagement Manager, Caring Across Generations
Continuing to Advance Women’s Power and Influence Together
These are just some of the examples that make us hopeful for the future. The work these organizations have been able to accomplish with their Equality Can’t Wait Challenge grants showcases the power of community and collaboration in trying to advance gender equality. However, we need more partners to fund outstanding people with big ideas. As a part of our mission to continue advancing women’s power and influence, we have identified dozens of projects and teams that need funding in our Bold Solutions Network, including these outstanding award recipients.
The opportunity for donors, founders, and policymakers to come together is now. If you believe equality can’t wait, join us.