Today, on International Women's Day, we're excited to share that the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which will award $40 million to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030, announced 10 projects that will move on to the final stage of the competition.
The Challenge, hosted by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda French Gates’ investment and incubation company—with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever for Change—was launched in June 2020 to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender equality in America.
We designed this Challenge to 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. 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.
“Gender inequality isn’t inevitable,” said Melinda French Gates, founder of Pivotal Ventures. “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.”
There was an enthusiastic response to the Challenge, with a total of more than 550 proposals for expanding women’s power and influence from nearly every state in the country. Proposals were evaluated by peers and an expert panel of 130 leaders from sectors including philanthropy, media, entrepreneurship, finance, and academia.
“These organizations are finding new ways to build power and voice for women in their personal and professional communities,” added MacKenzie Scott. “The deep empathy and creative partnerships in the finalists’ approaches inspire hope for change.”
The finalist projects that emerged from the Challenge cover a broad range of topic areas, organization sizes, geographies, and populations.
“I believe gender equality will strengthen both the economic and social fabric of the United States,” said Stacy Schusterman, Chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. “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.”
“Progress toward gender equality was slow even before COVID-19,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “Since the pandemic began, the barriers facing women— especially Black, Indigenous, and other women of color—have become higher and harder to overcome. Equality Can’t Wait is rising to the challenge, bringing together innovators and leaders who inspire us with their bold solutions. Collectively, these finalist organizations will bring about lasting change in women’s lives for generations to come.”
Congratulations to the 10 finalists. Please learn about their stories and see their bold solutions (listed below in alphabetical order):
Lever for Change is featuring the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge finalists in its Bold Solutions Network. This Network seeks to match outstanding nonprofits and social enterprises from Lever for Change competitions with additional donors and funding to ensure that they secure the resources they need to carry out their vital work. Donors interested in supporting Equality Can’t Wait Challenge projects may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy at Lever for Change.
Additionally, the hosts of the Challenge are exploring ways to spotlight other top competition proposals, with the goal of encouraging additional support for these bold ideas.
For more on the Challenge, visit www.equalitycantwaitchallenge.org.
Any competition questions should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.