Once again, we find ourselves facing an urgent challenge that calls for new investment and collaboration. Shrinking the number 208 is going to require many people across many sectors. But I believe progress is possible, and as a philanthropist, I’m particularly interested in the role that philanthropy can play in accelerating it.
While comprehensive data on U.S. philanthropy is hard to find, there’s evidence that gender equality in the U.S. has been chronically underfunded. Preliminary research suggests that for every $1 spent on gender equality by private donors, there are $9.27 spent on higher education, and $4.85 spent on the arts. What’s more, 90 percent of the money that is going toward women’s issues is going toward women’s reproductive health specifically. If we want to make gender equality a priority, we need to be spending more—and spreading those resources more broadly.
In addition to writing checks, philanthropists can play a critical role in driving progress by creating new platforms to bring people together. As we saw with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, it’s essential to have a mechanism for getting a diverse range of stakeholders around the same table.
When it comes to the fight for gender equality, one of the most important assets we have is the huge array of people who are already activated—from the thousands of organizations that have been working on these issues for years to the more than 4 million women who joined women’s marches across 600 cities. That’s why I think there’s a lot of potential in new efforts to channel existing energies and expertise more effectively into one broad-based assault on systemic inequality. My company, Pivotal Ventures
, recently invested in two of these efforts—Time’s Up
and The Collaborative Fund for Women’s Safety and Dignity
—both of which are creating new partnerships to tackle harassment, discrimination and inequality at scale.
The gender gaps in our country are real, and they aren’t going away on their own—at least, not any time in the next 200 years. If we want to see them close in our lifetimes, we will need to come together to insist in one voice that equality can’t wait. Two decades ago, a statistic in a newspaper called me to action. I hope the statistic WEF published this week does the same for others. If we commit to being part of the solution, the number 208 is ours to reject.