MacKenzie Scott and Melinda Gates Use Wealth to Boost Gender Equality
The Equality Can't Wait Challenge — backed by Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott, among others — announced $40 million investments will be divided amongst four bold ideas to advance gender equality.
Launched last year, the competition is the first contest centered on gender equality and aims to expand women's power and influence in the United States by 2030. After a multi-phase process, the four winning ideas were chosen from among 550 proposals to lift the voices of women who have been impacted by gender inequality, take action and tackle barriers that women currently face. Each one received a $10 million investment.
"The overwhelming response to the challenge proves there's no shortage of transformational ideas about how to accelerate progress for women and girls," Gates said in a statement. "The next step is to make sure those game-changing ideas get the support they need to become fully realized and improve people's lives. We can break the patterns of history and advance gender equality, but we must commit to lifting up organizations, like the ones receiving awards today, that are ready to lift up women and girls."
Pivotal Ventures — an investment and incubation company that Gates founded to improve people’s lives — hosted the challenge, with support from Scott and her husband Dan Jewett, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, while Lever for Change managed the contest. Gates, Scott, Jewett and Lynn Schusterman have all signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away the majority of their wealth to philanthropic efforts.
"The awardees are strong teams working on the front lines and from within communities to help women build power in their lives and careers," Scott said in a statement. "And best of all, they're not alone. This challenge received so many bold ideas to activate new levers, remove old barriers and push forward for gender equality. It's exciting to see all the ways people are making a difference."
All finalists will be featured on a new website called the Equality Can't Wait Challenge Idea Lab to increase the visibility of the top projects. That includes two additional finalists that had a track record of building women’s power and showed potential to impact women positively. Therefore, the challenge awarded each $4 million.
"If we are going to achieve gender equality in the U.S., we need a philanthropic system capable of supporting sustained transformative change on a historic scale," Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, said in a statement. "The Equality Can't Wait Challenge has provided a compelling model, not only by encouraging larger grants invested over longer periods of time, but also by nurturing more collaboration among funders and among problem solvers. As a result, the challenge has identified dozens of bold ideas that need funding, including these outstanding award recipients."
$10 Million Award Winners
Building Women's Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure: A cross-movement coalition of organizations aims to transform antiquated attitudes around caregiving as unpaid work to establish a publicly supported care infrastructure. A field heavily influenced by gender and racial biases will require a system that coalesces existing movements for child care, paid family and medical leave and long-term services and supports; and mobilizes public demand for high-quality, flexible care options. Participating organizations are The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the National Women's Law Center, The Arc, MomsRising Education Fund and Family Values @ Work.
Changing the Face of Tech: Women currently hold only 25% of U.S. computing jobs, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Ada Developers Academy plans to further develop pathways for thousands of women and gender-expansive people, particularly from underserved and disinvested communities, into impactful software development careers via a nationwide expansion of its immersive training and internship program expansion. The funding will allow it to reach 500 of the world’s leading technology companies with corporate social justice and management training, develop 6,000 new tech leaders via its coding program and prepare another 3,600 women for software development training, which, in turn, will increase their earning power and diversify the sector.
Project Accelerate: Via its 78-affiliate network with corporations and social impact organizations, Girls Inc. will lift 5,400 young, diverse women through college and career entry into corporate positions of power and influence, shifting the equity landscape for generations.
The Future Is Indigenous Womxn: Native women often do not have equitable access to capital, business development resources, financial capability or career opportunities. New Mexico Community Capital and Native Women Lead plans to scale impactful Native woman-owned businesses to increase power and influence within their families and unlock potential for wealth creation through community employment opportunities.
$4 Million Award Winners
A Call to Action: Holding Society Accountable for Intimate Partner Violence: In partnership with thousands of survivors of intimate partner violence across the country, FreeFrom will build an ecosystem of long-term support—including banks, employers, health insurance companies, religious organizations, and state and federal governments—to reframe the understanding of intimate partner violence as a systemic economic issue, hold society accountable, and help survivors to build collective power and influence.
Training Next Gen Women to Flex Their Political Power: IGNITE will scale its impact-driven programs to train hundreds of thousands of young women by 2026 to flex their political power as voters, activists, policymakers, commissioners, and candidates. IGNITE leads with issues young women care about, connects them to elected women making decisions around those issues, then trains them to run and lead.