Philanthropy needs a feminist consciousness

Charles Keidan

As someone who went to an all-boys, mostly white, and quite elite private school until 16, gender issues were not at the forefront of my consciousness. Despite seeing myself as liberalI was still a product of my school, family and religious environment. That environment was overwhelmingly patriarchal and failed to find the right role models when it came to gender issues. 

While much has changed in the intervening period, it was still with trepidation when, over 25 years later, I began working on this issue with our guest editors Ise Bosch and Ndana Bofu-Tawamba.  

One thing was clear from our initial conversations: more funding for ‘women and girls’ is welcome but hardly sufficient. What philanthropy really needs is a feminist consciousness – a vision which places women’s rights front and centre, challenges political norms and economic orders, shifts power to the most marginalised and interrogates the social construction of gender. This revolutionary spirit runs through the contributions which inform this issue.

These contributions also raise important questions for our own field given that men of wealth and power dominate the most senior board and management positions in the global philanthropy sector. According to a recent survey, 84 per cent of Alliance readers believe there to be a gender pay gap in our sector‘Though getting better, philanthropy has been a male culture, and changes slowly, one respondent noted. 

The avoidance of and resistance to change is reflected in funding too. Only 0.6 per cent of funding currently supports womens rights, according to latest figures from Candid. While 5 per cent ($4.3 billion) goes to women and girls, this too seems wholly inadequate to the task of creating gender equality. 

Perhaps mindful of the challenges, Ise and Ndana have brought together contributions from around the world which highlight and celebrate practical ways that feminist philanthropy has created a more equal world. Women’funds‘gender wise’ funding toolkits, impact investing with a gender lens and united action by green and gender activists are just a few examples featured on these pages.  

On a personal note, I hope this issue provides encouragement to male colleagues to engage in these questions with humility and depth. Such engagement could be liberating.

This issue is a milestone for Alliance with our chair and guiding spirit, John R Healy, ending his term of service in early 2020. I would like to thank John for his exceptional support, stewardship and service, as well as his wider contribution to philanthropy over many years. Thank you John. 

Charles Keidan
Editor, Alliance

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