Press Release
Competition Update


June 16, 2020


Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company, with additional support from MacKenzie Bezos, today announced the launch of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. This new Challenge, managed by Lever for Change, will award $30 million to the organizations or coalitions of organizations with the most compelling proposals to expand women’s power and influence in the U.S. by 2030.

Recent events have exposed deep inequalities in the United States. The injustices Black Americans face every day have forced a spotlight on systemic racism in our country. At the same time, COVID-19 has magnified the structural inequities that hold millions of U.S. women back, adding urgency to the phrase, “Equality can’t wait.”

In 2019, the World Economic Forum projected that it would take the U.S. 208 years to achieve gender equality and while there has been a groundswell of energy and activism, the pace of change has not moved fast enough. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is calling on organizations to submit creative solutions to expand power and influence for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, so they can be in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives.

“The entrenched inequalities that divide America—race, gender, class—will not go away without systems-wide change,” said Melinda Gates. “This Challenge is seeking bold ideas to dismantle the status quo and expand power and influence for women of all backgrounds.”

“Closing the gap on gender equality will benefit everyone. History keeps teaching us that when a diversity of voices is represented in decisions, the outcome is better for all,” said MacKenzie Bezos. “I’m excited that the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will focus energy and innovation on this vital catalyst for positive change.”

There is an urgent need to achieve gender equality and advance systemic change. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is seeking ideas that work in one or more key areas to expand women’s power and influence, including: dismantling the barriers that hold women back in their careers and at home, fast-tracking women in critical sectors by creating entry points and advancement opportunities, and calling society to action on gender equality.

Competitive proposals will offer solutions that are transformative, equitable, innovative, and feasible. Proposals should also demonstrate that they can have measurable and rapid improvement in one or more of the following metrics: wages and wealth gap, unpaid care, leadership roles held by women, content created by women, or public perceptions of women’s power and influence. More details can be found on the Challenge website.

"When I taught my first course on women in the U.S. economy back in 1985, a female full-time, year-round worker made 65 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In 2018, she earned 82 cents. That’s a raise of less than a penny a year,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change.  “With the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, we can accelerate progress towards gender equality."

To apply to the competition, eligible organizations must register online before Tuesday, September 1, 2020. Applications are due by Tuesday, September 22, 2020 and will be assessed by expert reviewers and in a peer-to-peer review process. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is open to U.S.-based non-profit organizations or coalitions of organizations. At least two grants of a minimum of $10 million will be awarded in the summer of 2021. An additional $10 million will be allocated among finalists and determined at the award decision stage.

The highest-ranked proposals from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will be featured in the newly-launched Bold Solutions Network along with top proposals from other competitions managed by Lever for Change, including:

Media contact: Jill Geiger, 312-307-9688 or


Pivotal Ventures is an investment and incubation company created by Melinda 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.

Lever for Change is a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation affiliate, whose mission is to unlock significant philanthropic capital and accelerate social change around the world’s most pressing challenges. Lever for Change helps philanthropists source vetted, high-impact opportunities in two ways: by designing and managing customized competitions and by matching them with the top vetted proposals from all of its competitions in the Bold Solutions Network, a searchable online database.

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