On September 30th 2020 Women Moving Millions, a community of nearly 350 women philanthropists committed to mobilizing millions for gender equity, hosted their 9th summit, The Power of Us. Virtually bringing their community together from across the globe, they engaged dynamic speakers such as Jamia Wilson, Laverne Cox, and Vicki Saunders to discuss the need for mobilizing catalytic resources to gender justice during this incredibly difficult time for women and girls around the world. Citing recent data that showcases the impact of the current pandemic, members learned of the realities of women and girls at this present moment in time and were invited to #GiveBold and #GetEqual by stepping into Women Moving Millions’ new $100 million campaign for gender equity.
With 750 million girls out of school, rising domestic and sexual violence as well as large numbers of women leaving the workforce, it would seem that now, more than ever, donors needs to seriously consider the role they play in ensuring the safety, health, and opportunity for women around the world, especially women of color and trans women. Given this information and continuing to build on their legacy as a leading entity for women of wealth who seek to achieve gender parity within their lifetime, this new $100 million campaign brings urgency and awareness to ensure progress can continue.
I sat down for a virtual conversation with Women Moving Millions Executive Director, Sarah Haacke Byrd, to learn more details about this campaign and its timely and necessary role in the current philanthropic landscape.
Alyssa Wright: This is such an exciting time for Women Moving Millions (WMM). Tell me about the decision to launch this campaign. Why now? And why $100M?
Sarah Haacke Byrd: Right now there is so much at stake for women and girls, around the world. Th coronavirus has exposed the gaping inequalities that exist for women and girls and it threatens to reverse the safety, heath, and opportunities for women we have been fighting for and funding for decades. Despite the urgency of the moment, there is a persistent lack of capital flowing to support organizations and leaders fighting for gender equality, with only 1.6% of philanthropic dollars going to organizations that support women and girls and, only 0.5% of foundation dollars going to women and girls of color. .. So, our commitment in this moment was to call upon our community to #GiveBold so we can #GetEqual and ensure the leaders in this work have the capital they need to push the agenda for gender equality forward..With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on my mind, I have been reflecting on how important it is to carry her legacy forward and to invest in the next generation of movement leaders who can pick up the baton. That if funded correctly, they can carry to fight forward and fight for equal rights, equal pay, and equal power in this country.
Alyssa: That’s incredible. And so true! It’s about investing in the leaders behind this work as much as it is about funding programs and responding to direct needs. So, I’m curious. How much have you raised to date? Are you surprised by your success?
Sarah: To date, for this campaign, we have raised over $70 million and, this is a great story, we actually had $45 million committed as we entered the summit in September! Once we shared the campaign with our members, they were so inspired and motivated to do all they could for women and girls right now, they were typing in commitments through the chat box the day before the summit at our member gathering. It was stunning to witness. And no, I’m not surprised by our success, because our community always shows up to do what is necessary for women and girls, but I am encouraged by it. As someone who has spent years on the frontlines working to raise funds , I know what an incredible gift it is to feel fully resourced and to have the space to dream..
Alyssa: Of course! Kimberly Bryant from Black Girls Code mentioned the same feeling when recently receiving a gift from Mackenzie Scott (Bezos). So, $100M is a lot of resources out in the world to help women’s organizations dream, design, and do. How will you track the impact of such dollars and what are you hoping to see when you receive that information back?
Sarah: Great question. We have launched an impact study to understand both where the money is going and the impact that the dollars are having, but to be clear, members choose their own partners and grantees. What’s exciting is that we are already learning key insights about our members. From a recent survey, we learned that 75% of our members plan to increase their giving over the next 5 years. Our community recognizes the historic moment we are in, what’s on the line for women and girls globally.
Alyssa: So, why stop at $100 million?
Sarah: Exactly! We are hoping that the $100M is a floor and not a ceiling. Anytime you do these campaigns you test the marketplace a bit first with the concept. We are finding that there are a lot of people out there who want to step up for women and girls right now and are actively looking for something to be part of something collectively.
Alyssa: Can any donor join the campaign? Do you need to be a WMM member? And also, how do we all make the case for women and girls right now? If someone has traditionally not funded this work, what can advocates and influencers say to drive resources to gender equality?
Sarah: Our goal is to extend beyond our membership community and bring new philanthropists into the fold. I want to be clear that you do not have to be a member to participate in this campaign. In terms of making the case, why gender equality and why now, we know there is still work to do to make gender equality a priority funding area for mainstream philanthropy. The lack of funding is indicative of a structural injustice in the sector and everyone, foundations and corporations included, need to get off the sideline and commit to giving boldly. Women make up 50% of society and the funding needs to reflect that.
Alyssa: And based on that, what would you say is the reason we mobilize women during this time?
Sarah: Women have so much power to bring to this work.. In the last decade women have gained tremendous wealth, roughly $72 trillion – we have the opportunity to direct this collective power towards broader social change. Women are answering the call by investing their resources as well as practicing smart philanthropy. In my role at WMM, I watch how women work differently in this space. Women are more collaborative and open to learning. They embrace their power with a level of humility that I think is missing in this national moment. Our community is particularly attuned to the regressive impact that COVID-19 is having on women and girls. Due to the pandemic, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men. Since February of 2020, 926,000 men ages 25-54 dropped out of the labor force while 1.7 million women in the same age group have exited. The progress that we have made in the fight for gender equality is at risk
Alyssa: Any last thoughts as readers seek to learn more and get involved, whether donors, movement builders, or everyday citizens?
Sarah: With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, what has really stood out to me is how structurally fragile women’s rights are – that we were depending on this one extraordinary woman to hold the line for us. Then, I reflect back on our summit this year and the extraordinary leaders who stepped onto our virtual stage and what you saw was a whole new generation of leaders who have the experience, ambition, and vision to drive change forward.. Since 2016, the women’s movement has been re-ignited and fighting together, stronger. Even in light of this pandemic, we are ready, we are prepared, we just need to resource the vision of these movement’s leaders. That’s why this campaign is so important right now.
Alyssa: How are you preparing the next generation of women donors to sustain the work? What are they asking you for as you embrace this $100 million campaign moment but think longer term?
Sarah: That’s a great question. I’d love to share more about our new platform to support next generation women. Chat again soon?
Alyssa: Sounds great! Thanks for your time and leadership, Sarah. Thank you for ensuring a bright future into the coming years for as many women and girls as possible.
You can learn more about the campaign and Women Moving Millions on their website. Stay tuned for another interview with Sarah Haacke Byrd next month, as we discuss a new platform for Millennial and Gen Z women that is growing within Women Moving Millions.