Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott donate $US40 million to gender equality initiatives

Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott have joined forces to donate $US40 million ($54 million) to four organisations that promote gender equality.

The billionaire philanthropists donated the money as part of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge hosted by Pivotal Ventures, the investment company of Melinda Gates. The initiative was supported by MacKenzie Scott, as well as Lynn Schusterman’s family foundation.

They gave $US10 million to the four winners of the challenge, organisations that work to advance the influence of women in the US. The recipients included a collaboration between New Mexico Community Capital and Native Women Lead; Girls Inc.; Ada Developers Academy; and the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations. These winners were chosen from a pool of 550 candidates.

The challenge was the first with a monetary award of such magnitude in the United States that has centred around gender equality. Historically, less than 2% of philanthropic giving has gone to organisations specifically focused on advancing women and girls.

“The overwhelming response to the challenge proves there’s no shortage of transformational ideas about how to accelerate progress for women and girls,” French Gates said.

“The next step is to make sure those game-changing ideas get the support they need to become fully realised and improve people’s lives. 

“We can break the patterns of history and advance gender equality, but we must commit to lifting up organisations, like the ones receiving awards today, that are ready to lift up women and girls.”

French Gates said the initiatives who have won the award centre on the voices of women who have been most affected by gender inequity, and they focus on action and leverage the power of women to tackle the barriers they face.

MacKenzie Scott said the awardees are “strong teams working on the front lines and from within communities” to help build the power of women.

“And best of all, they’re not alone,” Scott said. “This challenge received so many bold ideas to activate new levers, remove old barriers, and push forward for gender equality. It’s exciting to see all the ways people are making a difference.”

Philanthropist Stacey Schusterman said the challenge gave her hope that investing in women-led ideas can help deliver gender equality.

“The awardees, led by Native women, Black women and multi-racial coalitions of women, are driving work critical to ensuring that all people can have access to equal opportunities and realize their full potential,” said Schusterman.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the future of our families, communities and economy depend on it.”

The initiative comes as Melinda French Gates’ divorce from billionaire Bill Gates has been finalised. The couple filed for divorce on May 3 after 27 years of marriage. Their foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has become one of the most powerful agents in global public health.

In early 2020, MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, announced she would donate nearly $6 billion of her personal fortune to non profit organisations. Months later, she gave another $2.7 billion to 286 groups.

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