Founded by Melinda French Gates, Pivotal Ventures accelerates social progress by removing barriers that hold people back.

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5 Ideas, Opportunities, and Mind Shifts Driving Gender Equity in 2023

By Haven Ley, Chief Strategy Officer, Pivotal Ventures
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Like many people who believe in the power of a good story well-told, I have tremendous admiration for Ava DuVernay. She’s an award-winning filmmaker who has made her name using her talents to shine a light on issues that often go unexplored. What’s more, through her company Array, she’s expanding opportunities for other women and people of color across the industry. As Ava once put it, "I'm not going to knock on closed doors—I'm going to make my own door.” And she’s incredibly thoughtful about holding those doors open for the people coming after her.

At Pivotal Ventures, we partner with a wide range of organizations that are similarly committed to getting more women of all backgrounds into spaces where they have historically been excluded, from Congress to the C-suite. We also strive to ensure that women are entering these spaces on their own terms—and that they have equal power to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives once they get there.

As we look ahead to 2023, I asked some of my colleagues to reflect on the opportunities they see to open new doors for women in the new year. Check out their answers below:

What big wins did you see last year that created momentum for 2023?

Women in politics made important gains at the state level in 2022. Not only were more women elected to state legislatures, but there are now more women serving as governor than ever before, including the country’s first two openly lesbian governors. And Colorado made history by electing a woman-majority legislature—only the second state in the U.S. to do so.

These big wins have huge implications. For one, they deepen the bench of women who may eventually rise to govern at the highest levels of power. And in the near-term, they create opportunities for new kinds of legislation at the state-level. As research from our partners at the Center for American Women and Politics demonstrates, women often bring different perspectives to the table. I hope this means we see more elected leaders prioritizing issues like paid family and medical leave or policies to make childcare more affordable.

We still have a long way to go to reach gender parity at all levels of government, but the state-level strides that women made last year are foundational for future progress. Our partners at organizations like Vote Run Lead, New American Leaders, and Higher Heights helped make these victories possible, and now they’re turning their energies toward building on them.

- Nicole Sawran, Senior Director, Program Strategy, Advocacy & Public Affairs

Quote card from Erin Harkless Moore on investing in Women and People of Color

Artwork by Hailey Coral

Name a major pivot point you think we’ll see in 2023.

Over the past few years, investors have started to deploy more capital to women and people of color, driven in part by the #MeToo movement and the response to George Floyd’s murder. I expect this progress to continue in the year ahead, with more investors doubling down on diversity. The difference is that instead of investing in women and people of color because it’s good for optics, now they’re doing it because they’ve seen it’s good for business.

We know, for example, that female-founded companies beat out the broader market by exiting faster, with higher values for investors. Women founders are also more efficient with their capital, and funds led by women and people of color have proven to be resilient, often doing more with less capital and fewer resources—an important asset in the face of economic downturn.

This continued focus on diversity is also great for innovation. As a broader range of funders start backing a broader range of founders and ideas, we’re going to see whole new categories of businesses take off.

- Erin Harkless Moore, Managing Director, Investments

If you had $10 to drive impact on gender equity, how would you spend it?

I’d rather have $100, so I’d tag 10 family members, friends, or colleagues and ask them to join me. I might even ask my employer or a local charity to match us and make it $200!

I’d pick partners who share my values but have lived different lives, so we’d each bring something unique to the conversation about our giving. We’d sit down and talk about what matters most to us and agree on an organization or organizations to support. We’d give our $100 or $200, ask if there are other ways we can help by volunteering our time or our skills, follow along to see the impact, and learn as we go.

This is essentially what my team at Pivotal and I do by partnering with different funders to share ideas and pool resources. We recently launched a matching program with three donor networks: the National Center for Family Philanthropy, The Philanthropy Workshop, and Women Moving Millions. When any of the donors in those networks put money behind an organization working to advance women’s power and influence, we match their contribution with our own to help their funds go further.

Taking on an issue like gender equity can feel a lot bigger than any one person. It’s more meaningful, more fun, and more impactful to go on the journey together.

- Dr. Nicole Bates, Senior Director, Program Strategy, Strategic Partnerships & Initiatives

Quote card from Ada Williams Prince on philanthropy investing in Women of Color

Artwork by Hailey Coral

How can philanthropy drive more progress for women and girls in the year ahead?

Women of color make up 20 percent of the U.S population. But only 0.5 percent of philanthropic funding goes specifically to women and girls of color. One way philanthropy can drive more progress for women and girls everywhere is by including the people we’ve been leaving out.

Women of color have unique insights into what their communities need. When philanthropy puts money directly in their hands and trusts them to spend it without tying them up in red tape intended to control their work, we will be opening the door to more radical change. Sometimes, to maximize impact, philanthropists need to relax their grip on power and look to the communities they’re trying to serve to lead the way.

- Ada Williams Prince, former Director, Program Strategy

What’s one audacious idea that will advance women’s power in 2023?

If men could see themselves as caregivers—and everybody else looked at them that way—the game would change for everyone. When women are no longer automatically expected to handle everything from getting dinner on the table to managing medical appointments, they will have more freedom to develop their power in the workplace and everywhere else in society.

This idea is already starting to come to life. Recent research from our partner The Holding Co. finds that men are increasingly involved in care purchases and decisions, and the current male care consumer market is $280 billion in annual revenue. This is new data, and it’s great news.

Men stepping into more caregiving roles doesn’t just contribute to gender equality. It also helps men find more fulfillment in their lives by deepening their connections to their loved ones and giving them access to a fuller range of the human experience. There’s a lot in it for them, too.

- Dr. Renee Wittemyer, Vice President, Program Strategy

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