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Are women part of your corporate philanthropy?

7 October 2021 at 8:24 am
Maggie Coggan
New research shows corporate giving could become a powerful lever for accelerating gender equality 

Maggie Coggan | 7 October 2021 at 8:24 am


Are women part of your corporate philanthropy?
7 October 2021 at 8:24 am

New research shows corporate giving could become a powerful lever for accelerating gender equality 

Despite many corporations taking steps to prioritise gender equality within their own businesses, a new report has found this support for women doesn’t translate to their corporate giving strategies. 

The analysis, released by Australians Investing in Women (AIIW) and the Champions of Change Coalition (COCC), follows 12 months of working with charities such as OzHarvest, STREAT and the Foundation for Young Australians, to identify opportunities for corporate giving programs to accelerate gender equality.

The research found that a disproportionately low percentage of corporate and philanthropic funding went towards programs that supported women and girls compared to programs that supported men and boys. 

Instead, a lot of the funding went towards programs developed in physical locations that women and girls couldn’t access, or a program with no child care services available. 

The report said the businesses were not intentionally excluding women and girls, but they had failed to undertake a gender analysis of their project designs.

“Funding of gender-neutral programs – particularly those that do not consider gender differences and gender-specific needs – generally underserves women,” the report said.

“The key is to be intentional and not leave equitable giving to chance.”

Sam Mostyn AO, the chair of AIIW, said that because philanthropic dollars were limited, every lever available must be pulled to achieve gender equality. 

“Being more intentional about bringing women and girls into focus brings the greatest opportunity for social change,” Mostyn said. 

The report used the example of homelessness, to show the impact being intentional could have. Women face a raft of unique challenges including the heightened risk of physical and sexual violence, being accompanied by children, and the fact that older women are the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homeless in Australia today. 

The report said that organisations needed to look at programs that provided safe and supportive environments specifically for women and children, programs that provided safe access to food, hygiene and dignity kits for women, and financial independence literacy initiatives.

Diversity is an internal game 

Professor Doug Hilton AO, a member of the COCC National 2015 Group and the director of medical research group WEHI, said that one of the key reasons corporations were not considering gender in their funding decisions was because inclusion diversity policies were internally focused. 

“A company might be thinking about how they retain a diverse workforce, how they make sure women and other minority groups are promoted within the company,” Hilton told Pro Bono News. 

But he said there was an opportunity for corporations to make the most of their giving strategy. 

“Having really detailed diversity and inclusion policies is an important part of the culture of most large companies these days,” he said.

“So [funding programs that support women and girls] is just a great opportunity to have an impact that is consistent with your corporate culture.”

He said that corporations could make this change by investigating exactly how the funds were going to be used when they were given away. 

“Ask the recipient of the funding as part of that application process to demonstrate how the work they are going to do is going to be inclusive,” he said. 

Ronni Kahn AO, the CEO of OzHarvest, said that even though the charity had hundreds of corporate partners, gender equality had never featured in the questions from funders about who their giving benefited. 

“I see there is a huge opportunity to collaborate and be more intentional about giving as a lever for gender equality,” Kahn said. 

Funding recipients must put in the work too 

Hilton added that it was also up to the organisations receiving funding to ensure their programs were actively supporting the entire community. 

“It’s important to consider how your program, whether it’s a community program, or research or an environmental program, is empowering and inclusive for everyone,” he said. 

“In our experience as a beneficiary of funding, where giving is done with a gender lens, we’ve been challenged to think more boldly, not just about the way we ensure female scientists flourish, but also to ensure the research we do doesn’t have any unintended consequences in perpetuating gender inequity in the workplace.”

See a full copy of the report here.   

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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