United States
Subject Area:
Gender Equality
Donor Partners:
Pivotal Ventures
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG):
  • GOAL 5: Gender Equality
Competition status: Registration Closed; Finalists Selected

Equality Can't Wait Challenge

Launched on June 16, 2020, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will award $40 million to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030.


On March 8, 2021, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, awarding $40 million to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030, announced 10 projects that will move on to the final stage of the competition.

Selected from a pool of 550 applications from nearly every state in the country, these finalists proposed a variety of bold solutions—from advocating for caregiving infrastructure, to increasing pathways for the next generation of women to advance in key sectors like technology, public office, and media, to supporting the rights of Black women in the South, to advancing economic empowerment for Indigenous women and survivors of intimate violence.

The finalists are now featured in our Bold Solutions Network, where we match donors with nonprofits and social enterprises whose solutions to significant social challenges were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of our competitions.

The 10 finalists projects are listed below in alphabetical order (follow links to their profile pages for more information):

  • A Call to Action: Holding Society Accountable for Intimate Violence: In partnership with thousands of survivors of intimate partner violence across the country, FreeFrom will build an ecosystem of long-term support—including survivors’ banks, credit card companies, health providers, and employers—to reframe our understanding of the problem as a systemic economic issue, hold society accountable, and help survivors to build collective power and influence.
  • Building Power Among Grassroots Social Justice Feminist Leaders: Family Values @ Work will scale up their leadership development programs that help women step into power while deepening their social justice feminist analysis and practice (meaning an intersectional, holistic feminist movement-building approach).
  • Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure: The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the National Women’s Law Center, The Arc, MomsRising Education Fund, and Family Values @ Work, propose to accelerate women’s equality by infusing the idea of care as a shared responsibility and coordinating solutions to transform caregiving for all.
  • Changing the Face of Tech: Ada Developers Academy supports women and gender-diverse adults, particularly underrepresented minorities, in becoming software developers. Through this proposed project, Ada will expand nationally by providing corporate social justice and management training to 420 of the world's leading technology companies and expand its immersive coding program to train and place 12,000 additional women and gender-diverse folks in technology jobs, increasing their incomes and earning power, and diversifying this critical sector.
  • Equality Starts Here: Advancing Black Women’s Rights in the South: This coalition comprising Oxfam America, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, and A Better Balance, proposes to increase the power and influence of Black women in the South using advocacy, rights awareness training, policy reform, and research.
  • Last Mile Education Fund: Last Mile facilitates degree attainment for low-income women in the 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 9,400 women technologists over the next five years, diversifying the sector and expanding women’s leadership and influence in these vital fields.
  • Project Accelerate: Increasing Young Women’s Power and Influence: Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate proposes to accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry, leveraging partnerships with corporations to ensure their preparation and access to positions of influence.
  • The Future is Indigenous Womxn: Through this bold solution proposed by New Mexico Community Capital, Native Women Lead, and Nusenda Credit Union, Indigenous womxn will reclaim and define their sovereignty in business and finance, on a pathway towards economic liberation, leadership positions, transformative power shifts, and dignity.
  • 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 double the team’s reporting capacity, investing in sophisticated distribution technology and introducing a groundbreaking fellowship program to train and place the next generation of women journalists from underrepresented communities in jobs.
  • Training Next Gen Women to Flex their Political Power: IGNITE will scale its impact-driven programs to train 100,000 young women a year to flex their political power as voters, activists, policymakers, and candidates.
About the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, hosted by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ investment and incubation company—with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever for Change—was created to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender equality in America. At least three grants of a minimum of $10 million will be awarded, with an additional $10 million to be allocated among finalists and determined at the award decision stage.

The goal of the Challenge is to provide funding for innovative solutions that enable more women, particularly Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, to be in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces, and communities.

Proposals were evaluated during a three-month process that included peer reviews, as well as a review by an expert panel of 130 leaders from sectors including philanthropy, media, entrepreneurship, finance, and academia. The evaluations were based on four criteria: whether the proposals were transformative, innovative, equitable, and feasible. The finalist projects that emerged from the Challenge process more than met these criteria, covering a broad range of topic areas, organization sizes, geographies, and populations.

The finalists of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge reflect the groundswell of energy and activism of the women’s equality movement. These finalist projects are focused on action and leveraging the inherent strengths and power of women, which makes them uniquely positioned to tackle the barriers women face today.

In the next three months, finalists will receive $100,000 each in planning grants and strategic and evaluative support from an all-women team of advisors, led by Mt. Auburn Associates.

Donors interested in supporting Equality Can’t Wait Challenge finalists’ projects may contact Dana Rice, our Vice President of Philanthropy.

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