Riki WilchinsGender Norms: A Key to Maximizing the Return on Charitable Investment

By: Riki Wilchins In: Children's Issues| Diversity and Inclusion| Philanthropy

5 Feb 2013

As foundations continue to assess where they can maximize the social return on their charitable investments, many are looking at issues of gender norms and equity.

While gender may impact every issue a funder addresses, often grantees and staff aren’t challenged to do innovative, intersectional work that connects race, class, and gender. For instance, differential treatment of men, women, and families is inextricably linked to many facets of civic engagement, from workplace fairness and immigration policy to welfare and prison reform.

Yet many civic engagement and civil rights grantees navigate largely by race and class, with little understanding of why a gender analysis is so important, or why having a gender lens is more than just “a women’s issue.” On the other hand, in areas like reproductive health, partner violence, school bullying, and education achievement, decades of research show that challenging harmful masculine and feminine norms is crucial to improving life outcomes for at-risk youth.

As Dr. Hortensia Amaro—an expert in at-risk youth—first observed in 1995, the United States still tends to pursue better outcomes in reproductive health and partner violence “in a gender vacuum.” Few programs, policies, or funding priorities integrate a strong, specific focus on challenging rigid gender norms and inequities.

But today all that is slowly starting to change. Prominent agencies like PEPFAR, USAID, UNAIDs, and WHO—and leading nonprofits like CARE, EngenderHealth, Futures Without Violence, ICRW, Men Can Stop Rape, Planned Parenthood, and Population Council—have begun implementing “gender transformative” initiatives that challenge rigid gender norms and inequities, and found them effective. And a core of dedicated program officers, often working on different issues in entirely separate “silos,”  are working quietly to do cutting-edge grantmaking that links gender with age, race, and class.

However, funders aren’t always gender experts themselves, and even those who want to do innovative grantmaking in this area may feel they lack the time, expertise, or proper tools to assist grantees. A new report, “Gender Transformative Philanthropy: A Key to Improving Program Outcome and Impact in At-Risk Communities,” is designed to help donors get a better understanding of the gender lens. Prepared with the input and guidance of more than a dozen program officers and donors, it covers basic language, concepts, and background, as well as the challenges ahead and specific suggestions for bringing gender to the center of grantmaking and funding priorities in the coming decade.

Riki Wilchins is executive director of TrueChild.

2 Responses to Gender Norms: A Key to Maximizing the Return on Charitable Investment

James Eadline a/k/a Jamie Lee

February 10th, 2013 at 8:47 am

First of all thank you for covering Gender issues. I am retired law enforcement, 30 years, I have worked for Homeland Security. I have been married for 40 years, my son is a Probation Officer, my daughter is a District Director for MH/MR issues. Now, since childhood I have been transsexual or twin spirited, After retiring I began transitioning to be who I was born to be with all it’s trials and tribulations. I am an advocate in GLBT issues especially Transgendered. my blog jamieleescrystalconnection.wordpress.com
speaks for it self. I will make this offer to you guys. If I can be of any assistance in your research, for advice etc. Please feel free, to contact me at my e-mail JEadline@aol.com, and we will set up any pertinent information you need. Thank you for your consideration! J

Gender Norms: A Key to Maximizing the Return on Charitable Investment | GuideStar Blog

March 27th, 2013 at 9:11 am

[...] [...]

Comment Form

Welcome to RE: Philanthropy! In this blog, guest and Council bloggers share ideas and insights on the most pressing issues in philanthropy. If you want to contribute, please contact webteam@cof.org.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Foundations.


Roslyn Tam
Sara Kruger
Terry Kaelber
Kim Embretson and Tom McSparron
India Pierce Lee
Albert Ruesga
Mukul Verma
Ruth Ann Norton
Rockhelle Johnson
Nancy Henry
Joshua Gibb
Kari Dunn Saratovsky
Hal McCabe
Jailan Adly
Denise Spencer
Deborah Hoover
Meredith Jones
Conaway B. Haskins III
Carrie Varoquiers
Marilyn Gelber
Eva Nico and Rebecca Graves
Marika Lynch
Ana Marie Argilagos
John F. Rohe
Sarita Venkat
Ruby Takanishi
Kendace Hall
Bryan Del Rosario
Terence Mulligan
Katherine Jacobs
Sarah Gilbert
Robert S. Collier
David Matthew
Nakisha Lewis
Julia Boyer and Danny Murphy
Elizabeth Ramirez
Dien S. Yuen
Dan Hymowitz and Heather Lord
John Harvey
Janet Brown
Tracy Viselli
Kevin R. Webb
Jenny Hodgson
Fred Dedrick
Margaret Gage
Ron Ancrum
Deborah Ellwood
Carolyn Torgersen
Shelton Roulhac