Finalists Announced for $40 Million ‘Equality Can’t Wait’ Challenge

The company Pivotal Ventures, which is funded through donations from Melinda Gates, MacKenzie Scott, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and others, has announced the finalists for its ”Equality Can’t Wait Challenge” — a project aimed at awarding $40 million to organizations that are helping to expand women’s power and influence throughout the United States to accelerate “the pace of progress toward gender equality in America.”

According to Maggie May of Philanthropy Women, “In the summer of 2021, the Challenge will grant three $10 million awards, with an additional $10 million to be allocated among finalists, bringing the total to $40 million. The Challenge will provide funding for innovative, women-led solutions that enable more women, particularly Black, Indigenous and other women of color, to be in positions to make decisions, control resources and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces and communities.”

“Gender inequality isn’t inevitable,” said Pivotal Ventures founder Melinda Gates. “Solutions exist, but scaling them requires investment. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge has proven there’s no shortage of actionable ideas to drive progress for women and that donors are willing to meet bold ideas with big resources. Our hope is that this Challenge serves as a source of connection between innovators and funders, so promising ideas can get the support they need to create change.”

More than 550 different groups from all 50 states in the country submitted proposals for consideration in the challenge. 

“Proposals were evaluated by peers and an expert panel of 130 leaders from sectors including philanthropy, media, entrepreneurship, finance and academia,” May reported.

The finalists for the Challenge, listed in alphabetical order, are:

A Call to Action: Created by the nonprofit Freeform, this initiative is designed to transform “how society addresses intimate partner violence – reframing it as a systemic economic issue, holding society accountable and helping survivors to build collective power and influence.”

Building Power Among Grassroots Social Justice Feminist Leaders: Lead by the group Family Values @ Work, this proposal hopes to help “scale up women’s leadership development programs, helping women step into power while deepening their knowledge of social justice, feminist analysis and practice.”

Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure: This proposal, from The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the National Women’s Law Center, The Arc, MomsRising Education Fund, and Family Values @ Work is based around the idea of accelerating “women’s equality by infusing the idea of care as a shared responsibility and coordinating solutions to transform caregiving for all.”

Changing the Face of Tech: With their initiative, Ada Developers Academy hopes to help “support women and gender-diverse adults, particularly those who are underrepresented minorities, in their efforts to become software developers.” 

Equality Starts Here: Advancing Black Women’s Rights in the South: Created by a coalition including Oxfam America, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, and A Better Balance, this proposal focuses on increasing the “power and influence of Black women in the South using advocacy, rights awareness training, policy reform and research.”

Last Mile Education Fund: With a focus on helping low-income women attain degrees in technology and engineering, this nominated project hopes to help increase “both women’s earning power and contributions to technology innovation,” bringing up to 9,400 women into the tech field over the next five years.

Project Accelerate: Increasing Young Women’s Power and Influence: Developed by Girls Inc., Project Accelerate “proposes to accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry, leveraging partnerships with corporations to ensure their preparation and access to positions of influence.”

The Future is Indigenous Womxn: A proposal created by New Mexico Community Capital, Native Women Lead and Nusenda Credit Union, its goal is to help “Indigenous womxn reclaim and define their sovereignty in business and finance, on a pathway towards economic liberation, leadership positions, transformative power shifts and dignity.”

The 19th*: News That Represents: Hoping to transform the news landscape by amplifying the voices of marginalized women and LGBTQ+ individuals, The 19th* hopes to “double the team’s reporting capacity, investing in sophisticated distribution technology and introducing a groundbreaking fellowship program to train and place the next generation of women journalists from underrepresented communities in jobs.”

Training Next Gen Women to Flex their Political Power: IGNITE ambitious program aims “to train 100,000 young women a year to flex their political power as voters, activists, policymakers and candidates.”

Reflecting on the broad range of proposals, topic areas and individuals selected as nominees for the challenge, MacKenzie Scott said “These organizations are finding new ways to build power and voice for women in their personal and professional communities. The deep empathy and creative partnerships in the finalists’ approaches inspire hope for change.”

Stacy Schusterman, Chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, added to that sentiment, saying “I believe gender equality will strengthen both the economic and social fabric of the United States. Only when all women are able to realize their full potential, including Black, Indigenous and other women of color, will our country thrive. The barriers to gender equality will only be removed when women are in the driver’s seat to design solutions that address the most pressing issues they face. The finalists in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge have already shown us what women can achieve when their voices are heard and their talent is unleashed.”

According to a statement from Levers for Change, the foundation who is managing the challenge, “The 10 finalists will receive $100,000 planning grants and will work with an all-women team of advisors, led by Mt. Auburn Associates, to strengthen, revise and re-submit their proposed solutions in May 2021, to ensure projects are strategic, measurable and ready for implementation. After additional consideration of the re-submitted proposals, the selection committee, comprised of representatives from the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge hosts, will make a final decision on the awardees.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.



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