March 8, 2023

Centering Health, Education and Equity for Women’s History Month—and Year-Round

Author Ali Gathers, Senior Associate for Philanthropic Solutions

March is Women’s History Month in the United States and International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th. While a single month is hardly sufficient to fully acknowledge all that women and girls do to contribute to thriving households, communities and countries, it is an opportunity to uplift voices and achievements that may otherwise go unnoticed. It also brings into focus the areas where women and girls still face challenges and offers an opportunity to support advancing gender equity. In fact, there are opportunities every day to address persistent inequities.

Women have long faced a host of social inequities, including stark differences in wages, disparities in health care, gender-based violence, the burdens of care work and a lack of balance in leadership positions on every level—from C-suites to public office. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these already existing issues. Many nonprofit organizations have stepped up to fill the growing equity gaps affecting women and girls, yet in the U.S., just 1.9% of overall charitable giving goes to organizations focused on women and girls, according to a study from Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy.

Donors who want to support advances in gender equity can direct their giving to nonprofit organizations helping to drive change and close the gender gap in a variety of ways. One thing you can do this month (or anytime throughout the year) is review your grantmaking and integrate women’s and girls’ causes into your philanthropic portfolio. Below we’ve gathered a non-exhaustive list of organizations supporting women in philanthropy across several issue areas: health, education, representation in government, and economic mobility.

Across the U.S.

As of January 2023, women made up 28% of the 118th U.S. Congress, a new record but still far from representative of the nation as a whole. Female legislators are more likely to introduce, discuss and advocate for policies that disproportionately affect women and girls, such as paid family leave, pay equity and policies to minimize gender-based violence.

  • RepresentWomen breaks down barriers for women to create gender-balanced representation in elected and appointed positions.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, women left the labor force at higher rates than men due to the systems of gender inequality that have resulted in an overrepresentation of women in low-wage work and care giving roles both in the workforce and in the home, with women of color affected at even greater numbers. One analysis found that this disparity amounted to approximately $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.

  • Single Mom Strong empowers single mothers through career enrichment and educational programs and makes preschool and childcare programs more accessible.
  • In 2023, the National Partnership for Women & Families will celebrate 30 years of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as they continue to push for national maternity and parental leave for all.

Health care issues that primarily affect women, including maternal and reproductive health, have long been underfunded. In addition, access to care is often inequitable for marginalized groups resulting in negative health outcomes, especially for Indigenous women and women of color. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world with a rising maternal mortality rate, with particularly dangerous outcomes for Black women. Immigrant and refugee women face unique health-related challenges, including economic barriers, child and family separation and obstacles to obtaining healthcare and legal representation.

Around the World

For donors who are interested in exploring ways to support women’s and girls’ organizations internationally, there are many options.

Access to quality education for girls can reduce gender barriers and create pathways for future economic opportunity, yet millions of young girls have had to stop their education due to COVID-19, civil unrest or other safety concerns.

  • The Malala Fund supports the work of girls and educators around the world to find solutions to obstacles they face in their communities.
  • Girl Rising creates content to inspire girls to persist in their education, with work translated into 30 languages.

Access to quality health care, particularly maternal health care, is persistently challenging in many low-income countries. As a result, women and girls may not have consistent care or may choose not to receive care due to stigmatization or lack of support from skilled providers. In addition, women and girls are much more likely to suffer from hunger and malnourishment as food is prioritized for men and children. In turn, malnutrition can weaken one’s ability to survive childbirth, fight infection and can cause other life-threatening health conditions including anemia.

  • Every Mother Counts addresses maternal health around the world by supporting effective interventions and growing access to maternal healthcare. It works primarily in low-income countries, but also in the U.S.
  • The Hunger Project puts women at the center of its approach to chronic hunger and poverty across Africa, South Asia and Latin America by engaging them as the primary agents of community-led development.

As crises in Ukraine, Syria and multiple other countries force people from their homes, women and girls make up more than half of those displaced—and those who are unaccompanied, pregnant, heads of households, disabled or elderly are especially vulnerable.

  • The Women’s Refugee Commission protects women and children displaced by conflict and crisis, including those in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Gender inequity is not just a women’s issue; many nonprofit organizations are starting to engage men and boys in dialogues and actions to address behavior and biases that perpetuate gendered roles and systems.

  • Originally focusing on anti-violence efforts, Equimundo has expanded its work to promote childcare equity, men’s socialization and new developments in the study of gender and masculinity.
  • The MenEngage Alliance is an alliance of organizations and individuals sharing practices to examine and transform masculinity in support of gender justice and women’s rights.

These are just a few examples of organizations that are taking on a small fraction of the issues facing women and girls today. Working through a donor-advised fund (DAF), donors can support the efforts of gender equity in the home, workplace and community, as well as globally. Donors can choose to align their values with their investments by requesting that their DAF assets be invested in NPT’s impact investing gender lens portfolio.

NPT can help donors develop their philanthropic strategy and consider how to apply a gender equity lens to grantmaking through customized consulting services. Contact our Philanthropic Solutions Group at (888) 878-7900 or to learn more.