Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Bezos are partnering up to confront gender and racial inequality, starting with a $30 million grant. Here's how to qualify.
June 16 2020

Marguerite Ward 

Business Insider

The two are teaming up to launch a national competition that will award a total of $30 million to nonprofits with the best ideas on how to tackle what’s holding women back in their careers, at home, in tech, and beyond. There will be a special focus on how to elevate Black women and women of color.

Submissions for the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, open to any US nonprofit with an idea on how to advance women’s place in society, will be evaluated on four criteria: Is the idea transformative? Does it approach the issue from an equity lens that considers the experiences of women of all backgrounds, including women of color, women living in poverty, and LGBTQ women? Is it innovative? Is it feasible?

Winners, who will split the $30 million, will be selected by a team of judges, including Gates and Bezos. Gates’ investment and incubation firm, Pivotal Ventures, is spearheading the project.

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

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare massive inequality along gender and racial lines. In the absence of school or available childcare during the pandemic, business and political leaders (and many other men now forced to work at home) are becoming aware of the burdens women disproportionately take on. The issue of childcare is only likely to negatively impact women more in the coming years. As many as one third of all child care centers may not reopen due to lost revenue, and economists say women are more likely to drop out of the workforce to care for their kids than men are.

With businesses forced to shutter and unemployment spiking to record levels, racial divides became even clearer. A recent LeanIn survey of more than 2,600 people found that Black women were twice as likely as white men to say that they were laid off or furloughed during the pandemic. Black women were also much more likely than white men to say they were struggling to pay rent and pay for basic necessities.

Then, after the killings of Ahmaud Aubrey, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, nationwide protests against racial injustice swept the country, shining a light on centuries of racism, hate, and police brutality.

More people are educating themselves about the years of violence Black people, especially Black women, suffered. They’re also learning about the current obstacles Black women face: like the fact that Black women are disproportionately at risk of domestic violence, that the gender and racial wage gap impacts Black women and Latinas the worst, or the fact that Black women face systemic racism in the healthcare system.

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

“Now is an opportunity to think about new solutions, new leadership, new innovations to drive social progress, and in my opinion, to accelerate women’s power and influence, and in particular women of color’s power and influence in this country,” Ley told Business Insider. According to Haven Ley, Pivotal’s managing director of program strategy and investment, these times are filled with “incredible” fear and pain, but they’re also filled with possibility.

“We don’t want to miss a good opportunity to surface ideas and get a lot of capital, and I mean millions of dollars behind some of the best, new ideas,” she added.

Submissions are due September 22, 2020 and winners will be picked in early 2021. To apply, click here. While there may only be a handful of winners announced, several more runner-up submissions will be given public support from Gates and Bezos, which could lead to outside funding, Ley said.

Read the original article here.