Window of opportunity for women’s funds

Elizabeth Gillespie

The time is ripe to push for gender equality and social change. Women’s funds hold the key

When Melinda Gates made her groundbreaking pledge of $1 billion to address gender equality in the US last year, she noted ‘a window of opportunity’ to grow women’s ‘power and influence’. She rightly credited this opportunity to the efforts of millions of women and the rise of women-driven social movements. Empowered women running for office and advocating for the rights of the marginalised are crucial to advancing gender equality. Gates also pointed out a simple truth – this opportunity has a shelf life and now is the time to seize it. Such fleeting opportunities to create significant social change come along once every few generations. So, how do we capitalise on it?

The challenge facing women’s funds now is to drive change as a funding movement while maintaining the ability to empower women in their local communities.

Up to now, the picture has not been encouraging. The Women & Girls Index, released by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2019, found that organisations dedicated to women and girls received only 1.6 per cent of all charitable giving in 2016. Though women’s funds do much to fill the gap in giving to women and engage in activities beyond grantmaking to amplify impact, overlooking and underestimating women has been a failure of philanthropy for decades.

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