Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Bezos unveil $30M gender equality initiative - GeekWire
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MacKenzie Bezos, left, and Melinda Gates (Photos via Bystander Revolution and Gates Foundation)

Two of the world’s wealthiest women are teaming up to roll out a $30 million initiative that will provide grants to organizations with “transformational” ideas for improving gender equality.

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge will award grants to organizations with ideas to expand women’s power and influence in the U.S. by 2030. It is part of a broader $1 billion equality initiative from Pivotal Ventures, the nonprofit launched by Gates in 2015.

It’s one of the first philanthropic initiatives Bezos has launched since splitting from her husband, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, last year. The divorce made Bezos one of the richest women in the world and she promptly signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away the majority of her fortune to charity. Bill and Melinda Gates formed The Giving Pledge with Warren Buffett in 2010.

“Closing the gap on gender equality will benefit everyone,” Bezos said in a statement. “History keeps teaching us that when a diversity of voices is represented in decisions, the outcome is better for all.”

Grants will be awarded to organizations addressing one more of these challenges, according to Pivotal Ventures:

  • Barriers to opportunity like sexual harassment, lack of caregiving options, and bias.
  • Underrepresentation of women in key sectors, like technology government, and entrepreneurship.
  • Lack of resources and data on gender equality.

Proposals with an equity focus that consider the experience of women of color, LGBTQ women, and low-income women will be prioritized.

“The entrenched inequalities that divide America — race, gender, class — will not go away without systems-wide change,” Gates said in a statement. “This Challenge is seeking bold ideas to dismantle the status quo and expand power and influence for women of all backgrounds.”

The initiative will be administered by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the MacArthur Foundation. Lever for Change will be accepting applications for grants through September. Winners will be announced in the summer of 2021.

The initiative will award at least two grants of a minimum of $10 million to the top proposals. Allocation of the remaining $10 million is still to be determined but Pivotal Ventures says it will go toward the goals of the initiative.

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