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Home Women Business News Melinda Gates Announces Finalists In $40 Million Challenge To Advance Gender Equality

Melinda Gates Announces Finalists In $40 Million Challenge To Advance Gender Equality

Today, on International Women’s Day, Melinda Gates has announced the ten finalists in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which will award $40 million in grants to fund the most transformative ideas that help expand women’s power and influence in the U.S. by 2030. This is the first competition putting meaningful resources of this scale toward the often overlooked area of gender equality.

Through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, Gates teamed up in June 2020 with MacKenzie Scott, billionaire philanthropist and former spouse of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Stacy Schusterman, philanthropist and chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, to launch this initiative. Its mission: to accelerate social progress and foster the systemic change needed to make gender equity a reality.

 As women remain severely underrepresented across all corridors of power, the Challenge builds on Gates’ previous $1 billion investment in gender equity and on her longstanding commitment to leveling the playing field for women. Gates’ belief is that once more women ascend to decision-making positions that control resources, set policy and shape the industries that wield outsize influence, all of society will benefit.

With the pandemic threatening to reverse decades of progress because of its disproportionate impact on women, the need to activate ideas that lift women, particularly women of color, into positions of power has been urgently underscored. “Gender inequality isn’t inevitable. Solutions exist, but scaling them requires investment,” said Gates. With the competition eliciting more than 550 submissions—a number far exceeding expectations, “The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge has proven there’s no shortage of actionable ideas to drive progress for women.” Added MacKenzie Scott, “These organizations are finding new ways to build power and voices for women in their personal and professional communities.” 

Collectively, the Challenge finalists offer ambitious solutions for dismantling barriers that hold women back, addressing the most pressing issues they face, from dealing with racial inequities and eradicating damaging stereotypes to fast-tracking women’s representation in key industries to solving our nation’s caregiving crisis, these concepts offer new models for change at scale. 

One of the ten finalists, FreeFrom, aims to build a long-term support ecosystem around intimate-partner violence, an area founder and CEO Sonya Passi says society has only addressed with “Band-Aids.” For Passi, the Challenge “gives us the freedom and ability to be bold and visionary and the funding to invest in structural change so that every pillar of our society is actively working to support survivors and their long-term safety.”

Later this summer the Challenge will award $40 million through three $10 million grants, with additional investments being made in select finalists’ projects. “The real challenge is in helping changemakers find the support they need to see their ideas come to life so that, together, we can see a far greater impact,” said Dr. Nicole Bates, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Initiatives at Pivotal Ventures. At a time when expanding women’s influence in the U.S. is more critical than ever, the Challenge underscores the power that can be unlocked when bold, ambitious ideas are matched with the resources to activate them.

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