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: Awarded

Equality Can't Wait Challenge

On July 29, 2021, 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: Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure, Ada Developers Academy’s Changing the Face of Tech, Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate, and The Future is Indigenous Women.

About the Equality Can't Wait Challenge

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, launched on June 16, 2020, was hosted by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ investment and incubation company ─ with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, 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. The Challenge 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.

The Awardees

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’s Changing the Face of Tech, which 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 Women, a project to support and scale impactful businesses owned by Native women.

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 women. 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 Finalists

The Challenge received over 550 proposals ─ more than seven times the number anticipated by Lever for Change at the outset ─ from nearly every state in the country, an indicator of the excitement generated by this Challenge.

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. All submissions had to be equitable, meaning the solution had to benefit different types of women equitably – particularly Black women and women of color, women in poverty, LGBTQ+ women, and other marginalized and/or vulnerable women.

In March 2021, the ten top proposals were named finalists and, for three months preceding the final evaluation, they each received $100,000 in planning grants and worked closely with a dynamic group of technical experts to strengthen, revise, and re-submit their proposed solutions.

Lever for Change will include this cohort of Equality Can’t Wait Challenge finalist teams in our Bold Solutions Network ─ which matches donors with solutions to significant social challenges that were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of our competitions. We are calling on additional philanthropists to join efforts to fully fund all of the finalists.

Given the large number of outstanding solutions that emerged from the process, we are also hosting the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge Idea Lab to increase the visibility of top projects.

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

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