Today, we’re proud to share the results of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. After a months-long review of over 550 ambitious ideas to expand women’s power and influence in the U.S., the Challenge selected four awardees who will receive $10 million each.
Last year, when we launched the Challenge—with support from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever For Change—we called for bold yet achievable proposals to create a more equal America for women of all backgrounds.
Even though bold ideas were the goal, the incredible vision and potential impact of the proposals blew us away. We received entries from almost every state in the U.S, from girls in high school to women at the heights of their careers, and from innovators in sectors including finance, education, technology, climate, and more.
Taken together, the proposals serve as a kind of atlas to the diverse, dynamic universe of breakthrough solutions for gender equality.
These four projects will receive $10 million awards.
The Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure is an advocacy coalition bringing together a community to demand caregiving solutions that meet the needs of today’s families.
Tech is a high-impact, high-paying sector, but women held only 25% of professional computing jobs in the U.S. in 2020 (and Black women held only 3%). Through the Changing the Face of Tech project, Ada Developers Academy will expand its tuition-free coding bootcamp for women and gender-diverse adults, which has more than doubled attendees’ starting salaries.
Project Accelerate, led by Girls Inc., aims to change the face of corporate leadership by expanding its programming to help girls make successful transitions from high school to college and into their career.
Native women entrepreneurs have traditionally been denied access to a critical resource: the capital they need to start businesses and unlock prosperity for their families. The Future is Indigenous Womxn will offer entrepreneurs funding and training grounded in Indigenous matriarchal cultures.
At Pivotal Ventures, we believe the world will be better for everyone when women, especially women of color, are in position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces, and communities. However, despite the importance of advancing gender equality, only about 2% of philanthropic funding goes to the issue.
We helped create the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge because we wanted to showcase the quality of the solutions available and set an example by putting significant resources behind a few of them.
As our founder, Melinda French Gates, said, “The overwhelming response to the Challenge proves there’s no shortage of transformational ideas about how to accelerate progress for women and girls. 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."
Having received so many ingenious ideas, more than the Challenge was designed to fund, we realized doing nothing with the remaining, yet outstanding, proposals would be a disservice to the applicants and to the field.
So, two additional finalists will also receive funding. One is FreeFrom’s A Call to Action: Holding Society Accountable for Intimate Violence, a project to economically empower survivors of intimate partner violence. The other is IGNITE’s Training Next Gen Women to Flex Their Political Power, which will help young women express their political power as voters, activists, policymakers, and candidates.
And to shine a spotlight on dozens of other proposals, we’ll be launching a new website called the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge Idea Lab, where people can find and support outstanding projects that are already vetted.
Over the years, as progress towards gender equality has continued to come only gradually, excuses have abounded. “Gender is too complex.” “There aren’t enough good ideas.” “I don’t know the right people to work with.”
The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that droves of inspiring leaders are working toward transformational solutions that address inequality with stunning sophistication. What’s been missing is not the leadership or the ideas; it’s the support.
Now there are no more excuses. Equality can’t wait.