The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated deep gender inequities that have long existed in the United States—and the barriers facing Black women, Indigenous women and women of color are even higher and harder to overcome.
Nationwide, women make up the majority of caregivers and essential workers, serving their communities in fields like healthcare, retail and education. Yet, even as women carry our economy while risking their own health, compensation rarely reflects their contributions. Disproportionate numbers of women continue to live below the poverty line, without health insurance, sick leave, or paid family leave. For years, women have challenged these injustices by building and advancing solutions that seek to expand their political and economic opportunities.
Through our Gender and Reproductive Equity portfolio, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies works to support these efforts, investing in solutions that ensure women have access to greater political and economic power and leadership. We launched this portfolio with the belief that gender equity can only be achieved by a movement steered by and centered on the lived experiences of women.
Despite a groundswell of activism and energy to accelerate change on gender equity, progress is not moving quickly enough. There is no shortage of leaders driving this work—but there is a shortage of resources to support and magnify their efforts.
That is why, in August 2020, I joined the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, a collaboration with Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ investment and incubation company, and philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. Together, we committed $40 million to support bold solutions to accelerate the progress of women in the United States over the next ten years. The response to the competition far exceeded our expectations; we received more than 550 applications with ideas to expand women’s power and influence by 2030.
Now, after months of expert review, four awardees have been selected from among the 10 finalists. The awardees, led by Native women, Black women and multi-racial coalitions of women, will each receive $10 million to support their critical work ensuring that all people can have access to truly equal opportunities and can realize their full potential. They 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.
- Changing the Face of Tech: A project from Ada Developers Academy to expand their immersive training and internship program creating pathways for thousands of women and gender expansive people into impactful software development careers.
- Project Accelerate: A project from Girls Inc. to 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.
- The Future is Indigenous Womxn: A project from New Mexico Community Capital and Native Women Lead to catalyze the investability and economic liberation of Indigenous womxn by scaling impactful businesses owned by Native womxn.
The Equality Can't Wait Challenge awardees receiving the good news.
The Challenge is also providing $8 million in supplemental funding for two additional finalists. These projects are 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 and candidates.
Given the unprecedented number of bold solutions that emerged from the process, the Challenge is establishing an Idea Lab to increase the visibility of top projects, as determined by peers and experts. These exceptional projects are uniquely positioned to tackle the most pressing barriers facing women today, and they welcome opportunities to scale their efforts. I invite you to visit the Ideas Lab to learn about each of these initiatives and help them continue to grow their impact.
It has been an honor to participate in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge and partner directly with those on the frontlines of women’s equality. 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 equity. The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the future of our families, communities and economy depend on it.
Stacy Schusterman is Chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.