On Gender Norms and Young Black Girls

October 6, 2015

prepost1A guest post from Riki Wilchins of TrueChild. Join the discussion about gender norms on October 26 by attending a screening of “The Mask You Live In”, hosted by the George Family Foundation.

Decades of research has found that challenging harmful gender norms are a key to improving life outcomes for young people in at-risk communities.

For instance, young women who internalize rigid feminine ideals that prioritize the “three D’s” of being deferential, desirable, and depending are likely to have lower life outcomes in a cluster or related areas that include reproductive health, economic security, and education.

The same is true for young men who buy into harsh codes of manhood as defined by strength, aggression, sexual prowess, and emotional toughness. Such men are more likely to avoid condom use, to engage in risk-taking behaviors with sex or substances, to abuse girlfriends or LGBT people, and to drop out (or be kicked out) of school early.

This is one reason that major international donor institutions like CARE, UNAIDs, UNFPA, and WHO have implemented initiatives that challenge and try to change rigid gender norms, and found them effective. USAID won’t fund new programs that lack an analysis of gender norms and inequities; and PEPFAR has made changing masculine norms the centerpiece of its work in dozens of countries.

Even the staid World Bank has undertaken a very deep and highly-public effort to move gender norms to the center of its work around the globe.

As one Bank manager explained, “We’re not doing this because it’s politically correct – we’re data-driven economists  – we’re doing it because the data shows it works better.”

Yet although gender impacts nearly every issue funders address, donors and grantees in the US are seldom challenged to do innovative work around gender norms.

As a senior program officer put it, “My staff and grantees get race and class, but where’s the gender analysis? What I want to know is—what happened to gender?”

Part of the answer to her question may lie in new project on young Black girls we worked on for the Heinz Endowments.

We found that Black adolescent girls and young women face specific barriers related to both race and gender which have immense effects on their health and achievement. And this was especially true for low-income Black girls, who also have challenges associated with poverty.

First, Black girls’ unique race and gendered experiences of discrimination results in multiple stresses that – over time – impair their immune systems.

Also, they must navigate social hostilities based on race as well as pressures to conform to traditional feminine ideals and those specific to Black communities.

Finally, feminine norms in the Black community often prioritize caretaking and self-sacrifice. Black girls may be silently encouraged to focus on others’ health while ignoring signals of pain and illness until their own bodies are in crisis.

The additive impact of these stresses can produce a “weathering effect,” in which Black women’s bodies become physically and biologically vulnerable, resulting in high rates of chronic disorders, reproductive health problems, infant mortality and obesity.

Lately we’ve been testing a new curriculum that helps teach young Black girls to think critically about rigid feminine norms, along with an accompanying. Trauma Informed Facilitation Guide.

We are still a couple months from having data in hand, but we have high hopes for this project. With SUNY Stony Brook’s Tech Prep, we recently tested a similar curriculum that helps girls of color to think critically about feminine norms that can hold them back from STEM interest and achievement (science, technology, engineering, and math).

The results are now in , and – as the graph above shows – girls’ improvement across the outcome metrics were so robust that – even with a very small n – the evaluators already found them “statistically significant.”

That’s how strong the impact of gender norms can be. It’s not that norms are the only variable – they’re not. After all, these are complex, intersectional problems.

It’s that gender norms are one of the last big variables that’s not being addressed. Because learning to be and be seen as a feminine young woman or a masculine young man is a primary rite of passage – perhaps the primary rite of passage – for every adolescent.

So it makes sense that if you talk with boys and girls about rigid gender norms, you get better program outcomes than if you ignore them. It’s simple:

Isn’t it time US donors started reconnecting race, class and gender in our philanthropy?

What’s With All the Buzz About Gender Norms?

September 29, 2015

maskA member post from Gayle Ober, president of the George Family Foundation.

As a woman, I am very aware of all the benefits and challenges of my gender. What hadn’t occurred to me until a year ago is that the reality of gender norms in our society has had a profound impact on my life. Not just how I was raised, but how I present myself, think about myself and interact with others.

In fall 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a conference session presented by Riki Wilchins, the founder and executive director of True Child, a nonprofit think tank that gathers and communicates information about gender norms and how they influence how we raise and educate our children. After so many “ah-ha” moments that I couldn’t take notes fast enough, I realized that I wanted to learn more. I also wanted to find a way to share True Child’s message with the George Family Foundation’s (GFF) grantees and with our philanthropic colleagues in Minnesota and beyond.

So what are gender norms?

According to True Child, gender norms are “socially constructed ideals, scripts, and expectations for how we are expected to look, act, and think as boys and girls and women and men.” And we begin learn these rules from the time we are born from everyone and everything with which we interact.

To get started, GFF and The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota invited Riki to speak to a group of our grantees in November. Building on the positive reaction of our grantees to Riki’s presentation, in April 2015, GFF invited other institutional grantmakers who support programs and organizations in the education and youth development fields, to hear Riki speak. The discussions that took place at those two convenings led us to believe that there was significant local interest in learning more about gender norms.

GFF is a modest family foundation with a small staff. Our “plates” are full and there is more to do than hours in the day. So why then are we hosting meetings, conversations and events about gender norms? What difference will it make to the organizations we support and the community in which we work and live?

According to a concept paper commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, “two decades of basic research have found that when girls and boys buy into really narrow ideals for femininity and masculinity, they have measurably lower life outcomes in a cluster of related areas that include sexual and reproductive health, intimate relationships, economic empowerment and educational achievement.”

So if a foundation like GFF is trying to support organizations that will guide and nurture a generation of young people who are healthier in mind, body and spirit, we must look at the ways that society negatively impacts how they think about themselves. If we want young women to assume their full leadership potential, we need to recognize and build awareness of the rigid gender norms that promote “dependence, deference and desirability”. And, if we want young men to grow up to become fathers and spouses that can be emotionally connected and engaged deeply with their families, we need to work against the gender norms that encourage them to hide their feelings and never show the “softer” side of their being.

The Mask You Live In

On October 26, the George Family Foundation is co-hosting a screening of the new documentary “The Mask You Live In”. Produced and directed by Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, award-winning producer and director, “The Mask You Live In”, had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and explores how America’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming boys, men, and society at large. Following the screening, Siebel-Newson will join Ramsey County Attorney, John Choi; Ashanti Branch, Executive Director, The Ever Forward Club; and Joe Ehrman, Founder, Coach for America (both featured in the film) in a panel discussion moderated by MPR’s Brian Newhouse. Learn more about the event and purchase tickets.

GFF’s hope in offering these learning opportunities, is that we can build a philanthropic and non-profit sector that has greater understanding of gender norms and pays attention as to how they affect the success (or lack thereof) of our most valuable community asset, our children.

To learn more about the George Family Foundation, visit our website at www.georgefamilyfoundation.org.

Annual Grantmaker Rankings Released

March 24, 2015

numbersMCF today released its annual rankings of the top grantmakers in Minnesota based on cash grants paid in 2013.

The top five Minnesota grantmakers by grants paid in 2013 were:

  • Target Foundation and Corporation ($148.6 million);
  • General Mills Foundation and Corporation ($105.7 million);
  • The McKnight Foundation ($86.4 million);
  • The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation ($65.6 million); and
  • Cargill and The Cargill Foundation ($59.6 million).

This is the third consecutive year that these five organizations are Minnesota’s top grantmakers.

Of the 50 top grantmakers by grants paid in 2013, 47 also appeared on the 2012 list. Cash giving by the top 50 grantmakers totaled more than $1.2 billion.

Grant Dollars Distributed Beyond Minnesota
Almost 60 percent of the cash giving by the top 50 grantmakers was designated to organizations based outside of Minnesota.

Corporations Give More than Cash
In order to ensure that grantmakers are compared consistently, in-kind and other noncash contributions are not included in the rankings, but MCF invites large corporate grantmakers to self-report information about noncash contributions.

MCF’s 2013 annual rankings are based on the amount of cash grants paid by funders during fiscal years ending June 1, 2013, through May 31, 2014.

The annual rankings lists include:

The complete Minnesota Annual Grantmaker Rankings and the methodology used to complete them can be found at www.mcf.org/research/rankings.

More Charitable Giving Research Online
Late last year, MCF released its Giving in Minnesota, 2014 Edition research, which is a comprehensive analysis of annual giving trends by Minnesota foundations and corporations between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. See www.mcf.org/research/giving for information about grantmaking to specific subject areas, geographies, beneficiaries and more.

– Susan Stehling, communications associate

Photo cc onegoodbumblebee

Graves Family Foundation Announces Inaugural Grants and Grant Cycles

December 9, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.36.39 AMThe John and Denise Graves Foundation, serving the greater Minneapolis area, recently announced its inaugural grants. The foundation chose 14 grant recipients who share the foundation’s education equity goals of:

  • increasing high quality K-12 seats serving disadvantaged youth,
  • researching, advocating, and organizing for high quality schools and school leaders and
  • identifying and addressing systemic issues contributing to educational inequity.

The Graves Family Foundation will be accepting Letters of Inquiry for its education equity grant cycle from February 1st through Feb 27th, 2015. Its second grant cycle, which will focus on foster youth and youth experiencing homelessness, will begin in the summer of 2015. For more information, visit the foundation’s website.

High Quality K-12 Seats

The foundation awarded general operating grants to high performing charter schools and networks in the greater Minneapolis area who are actively working to increase the number of students they are capable of serving or are working to replicate their school’s model:

Policy, Advocacy, and Community Building

It also has awarded general operating grants to organizations that provide policy, advocacy, and community organizing support for high quality schools and school leaders.

System-wide Leadership

And in its other priority for its inaugural grants, the foundation has awarded general operating grants to organizations that identify system-wide issues contributing to educational inequity and work to correct them.

Visit the foundation’s Past Grants page for a full list of recipients.


Charitable Giving is Up in Minnesota

December 4, 2014

Screen_Shot_2014-12-03_at_4.16.17_PMToday, MCF released our new Giving in Minnesota research, the most comprehensive analysis of charitable giving in the state. It shows that individuals, foundations and corporations gave $5.7 billion in 2012, a 2-percent increase in total giving over 2011.

Individual giving went up to $4.1 billion in 2012, while grantmaking by foundations and corporations in Minnesota declined by 6 percent to $1.6 billion. Other highlights include:
Education Receives the Most Grant Money
Screen_Shot_2014-12-03_at_4.15.16_PMAs has been true historically in Minnesota, education received the largest share of grant dollars (29 percent) of eight subject areas tracked. Education was followed by human services (23 percent); public affairs/society benefit (16 percent); arts, culture and humanities (13 percent); and health (10 percent).

Half of Grant Dollars Stay in State

In 2012, 48 percent of Minnesota grant dollars went to organizations and programs serving the state. Forty-seven percent was distributed to groups serving other parts of the U.S., and 6 percent supported international causes. Corporations tend to distribute grants more widely than other types of grantmakers.

Check out the full report on our website, and see today’s featured stories on our research in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

The McKnight Foundation Seeks Your Input

September 26, 2014

Kate Wolford of The McKnight Foundation

MCF member The McKnight Foundation is getting ready to revisit and refresh its Strategic Framework for 2015-2017, and is asking for outside perspectives as it charts its course.

In a blog post on its website, McKnight president Kate Wolford outlines the key foundation-wide strategies the foundation used to guide its work in 2012-2014:

  • Bring the foundation’s vantage point as a regional or place-based funder into national networks.
  • Strengthen McKnight’s influence with a knowledge management system.
  • Leveraging converging interests to create multiple bottom-line benefits.
  • Deepen impact and influence through program supportive approaches such as mission-related investing.

She shares that the internal consensus at The McKnight Foundation is not to start from scratch, but to identify trends relevant to McKnight’s that it can incorporate over the coming three years.

Do you have thoughts on what key trends McKnight should consider? Or on what issues the foundation will be particularly well suited to help advance?

Head over to The McKnight Foundation’s website to read more on Kate Wolford’s description of how its current Framework came to be, and to leave the foundation feedback in a comment or by email.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,969 other followers