Good Ideas For the Taking (GIFT)

December 3rd, 2019 (Giving Tuesday)

 

This Giving Tuesday, we are feeling inspired by Melinda Gates’ recent $1 billion pledge “to expand women’s power and influence in the United States.” She rightly points out that gender equality is a vastly underfunded issue area.

 

Setting women up to succeed in life and in leadership starts with supporting healthy, happy communities and raising strong, confident girls.

 

However, many of our institutions are failing to accomplish this. According to a KPMG Women’s Leadership Study, by adulthood, less than half of women personally identify with feeling confident despite recognizing confidence as a key leadership trait. We need to reverse this confidence deficit to reach gender parity in leadership.

 

So, how can funders make a greater impact in advancing gender equality? We have compiled our “good ideas for the taking” below.

 

 

Female Participation in Sports

 

Sports are a natural catalyst for leadership development. In fact, a joint study by EY and espnW found that 94% of women in executive level leadership played a sport while growing up. However, girls’ participation in sports is on the decline. The Aspen Institute’s Project Play finds that girls are two to three times more likely than boys to drop out of sports between 8th and 12th grades due to lack of access, prioritization of academics, and high costs of participation.

 

Funders can support female athletic programs by:

 

  • Investing in female coaches.
  • Subsidizing uniform, equipment, and transportation costs.
  • Creating dedicated play spaces for females.
  • Sponsoring tickets for young athletes to attend professional women’s sports games.
  • Providing academic support for female athletes.
  • Supporting organizations that promote gender equality in sports like Play Like a Girl, Girls in the Game, Girls on the Run, and SheJumps.

 

 

Female Representation in Male-Dominated Fields

 

We have established that there is a women’s leadership gap. Worse, women are drastically outnumbered in several of the economy’s most dominant fields. Females are underrepresented in these fields in part because our society unconsciously trains girls to associate certain activities with boys at an extremely early age. In a University of Washington study, the six-year-old girls surveyed held stereotypes that boys are superior at programming and robotics. However, when given the opportunity to try these types of activities, the same girls exhibited similar levels of interest and self-efficacy for programming and robotics as boys. Regardless of the associated gender stereotypes, girls should be exposed to a variety of activities when they are young and encouraged to continue pursuing their interests.

 

Funders can reduce gender stereotypes and expand female representation in male-dominated fields by:

 

  • Hosting workshops that teach parents how to model gender equality at home.
  • Awarding “Equality Grants” to help teachers promote gender equality in their classrooms and sponsoring reading materials, games and lesson plans that reflect gender equality.
  • Offering test preparation, college guidance and career exploration resources to high school girls.
  • Supporting organizations that promote gender equality in STEM (Girls Who Code, Built by Girls, DIY Girls) and other activities (WriteGirl, Girls Rock Camp Alliance, Girl Be Heard).

 

 

Female Mentorship Opportunities

 

Quality mentorship is critical to women’s success and ascent to power. However, many mentoring programs are targeted toward women in the workforce. While these programs are beneficial, girls and young women often need support earlier on to help them enter the workforce. A study by Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health finds that girls who participate in formalized mentoring programs are more academically motivated, exhibit fewer behavioral problems and gain expanded professional networks.

 

Funders can facilitate effective mentorship programs in-person and online by:

 

  • Recruiting mentors from underrepresented fields and backgrounds.
  • Facilitating trainings on successful mentoring techniques.
  • Offering structured mentoring sessions that include guided conversations and shared experiences.
  • Hosting professional development workshops for girls from local high schools and offering paid volunteer opportunities to female employees.
  • Supporting organizations that promote mentorship like Girls Inc.,  Step Up, and Career Girls.

 

Melinda Gates is right – gender equality can’t wait. Let’s get to work.

September 24th, 2019

 

With the 2020 elections quickly approaching, everyone needs to be ready to participate. We are all better off with a healthy democracy, and businesses play an essential role in promoting civic engagement in their employees, customers and communities.

 

In 2014, 35% of nonvoters cited conflicts with work or school as the main reason for their lack of participation in the election. Fortunately, making voting as convenient as possible for your employees does not need to be difficult. Employers can directly increase voter participation by setting voter-friendly policies and doing their part to remind their employees of upcoming elections and options.

 

It is important to remember that the right to vote is a civil right, and in many states, employers are required to provide employees with time to vote. (You can check your state’s specific laws here.) For those here in California, employers are required to post a “time off to vote” notice informing employees of their right to paid time off to vote, if they cannot otherwise vote during non-work hours.

 

Other than these official requirements by state law, why should employers encourage their employees to vote? Take it from Wharton, or Inc.com: employees who vote also feel more empowered in their workplaces, become better informed about the world and develop more empathy for their communities.

 

Businesses are already recognizing that they have a moral obligation to encourage civic engagement. Time to Vote is a growing, national coalition of companies such as Walmart, Patagonia and Tyson, committed to implementing programs that increase voter participation.

 

The time to get involved in nonpartisan efforts to strengthen our democracy is now, regardless of how large your company is. To get started, we have outlined some “good ideas for the taking” below:

 

Minimal Effort

 

  • Send out a company-wide email with information about voter registration, absentee ballots, early voting periods, polling places and election dates. Make sure all communications go out in the languages spoken by your employees and community.
  • Offer paid time off and/or subsidize transportation for employees to go vote.
  • Post on social media to remind customers and other stakeholders to vote.

 

Some Effort

 

  • Institute a partial- or full-day company holiday to allow employees to vote. (Look to Electionday.org for ideas.)
  • Institute annual civic time off (like paid time off to volunteer) that employees can use to volunteer in civic activities, like as election poll workers.
  • Hold a company-wide event on the importance of voting.
  • Host an election night viewing party, or another incentive that’s tied to the company culture.
  • Participate in the Turbo Vote Challenge

 

Significant Effort

 

  • Utilize your company’s expertise to build a specific strategy (without violating any laws!) Check out The Good Brief to get started.
  • Contribute to a nonprofit, nonpartisan voting rights organization.

 

Here’s a list to get started:

 

September 13th, 2019

 

With back to school season upon us, school preparedness should be at the top of our minds.

 

The early years of a child’s life are incredibly important for their lifetime brain development. According to First Things First Arizona, a baby’s brain grows to 80% of adult size by age 3. “The amount and quality of care, stimulation and interaction [babies] receive in their early years makes all the difference” in developing these brain connections.

 

Unfortunately, traditional models of early childhood education are expensive and not guaranteed to be of high-quality. The Center for American Progress finds that families that opt for center-based care can spend about 30% of the median U.S. household income, comparable to the average in-state college tuition, even though only 10% of all childcare programs are considered high-quality.

 

Home-based parenting practices fill some gaps. Research by Penn State finds that parent-child reading and learning activities are critical for a child’s development during preschool. Fostering a positive learning environment at home is essential for babies to be healthy and successful later in life, yet many do not receive the support they need to maximize these opportunities for early brain development. Therefore, it is crucial that families and caretakers are fully equipped to help children learn in their earliest years.

 

Thankfully, the philanthropic community can help. Check out our first edition of, “Good Ideas for the Taking” to get started!

 

Minimal Effort: Increase Awareness

 

  • Before taking action in the community, start from the inside. Ensure that your company or foundation offers benefits, support groups, lunch-and-learns and mentorship opportunities for employee-parents.
  • Next, find out who is working in early education in your backyard using this handy tool and consider starting your conversation with these questions:
    • What populations do you mainly serve? (demographics and geography)
    • What programs and services do you currently provide? Which ones are needed most by your customers/clients?
    • What is the first item on your wish list?
    • How can people get involved?
  • If your community is well-resourced but people don’t know about it, use your platform to spread awareness (social media, website, physical space).
    • Elevate free resources like Vroom, an easy-to-use app with a library of over 1,000 brain-building activities for babies.
  • Get involved with the Think Babiesnational campaign to make babies a national priority. Engage with your employees, customers and community through awareness and social media campaigns.

 

Some Effort: Build Community

 

  • “Adopt” a local early education center and make sure each child has the resources they need to succeed, like books, toys and sensory kits.
    • Promote literacy by creating a free subscription service that sends educational books to children in their most critical years, or fund an existing program like Imagination Library and PJ Library in your area.
  • Partner with a local hospital to make sure every newborn goes home with a free toolkit that helps parents start early education at home.
  • Promote employee volunteerism in local early education programs by offering paid-volunteer hours as a benefit.

 

Significant Effort: Create an Ecosystem

 

  • Empower caregivers! Find out who cares for children in your community. Are they grandparents? Older siblings? Sponsor parenting classes that support caregivers with tools and resources (offering daycare and snacks of course!). Reach more people by hosting at informal community gathering spaces like religious centers, restaurants and grocery stores.
  • Become a private partner to help develop a new early education center in your community.
    • Look for evidence-based models like Educare.
  • Become a champion of early education and encourage other foundations and businesses to get involved. Host a roundtable with public and private partners and lead efforts to improve access to early childhood education in your community.