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SDG 5 and Why It Matters: What If Women…

Filed in SDG5: Gender Equality — August 6, 2018

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By Natalie Rekstad, Founder & CEO of Black Fox Philanthropy

I was invited to speak on a panel last month at Renaissance Weekend in Beaver Creek, Colorado on the topic of “What if Women …” (Meaning, how would everything in the world be different if the female half of humanity had not been more-or-less locked out of its design?)

For the past decade I’ve been active in women’s movements to accelerate change, cultivate a new generation of warriors for gender equity, and have put a financial stake in the ground through my personal philanthropy focusing upon women & girls.

Why?  Because our deepest passions often spring from our deepest wounds.

Beyond the thousands of negative messages I had received around being a girl growing up in my family and in my culture by the time I was a teen, a seminal experience for me was beginning my corporate career in Washington, D.C. during the era of Charlie Wilson’s War (on why he hired beautiful women on Capital Hill:  “You can teach them to type but you can’t teach them to grow tits.”) and the demonization of Anita Hill by both men and women (to say sexual harassment was rampant is an understatement).

I also have the lived experience of what it means to be a woman in our culture as the beneficiary of the second wave of feminism:  Rising in the corporate world to become an executive of the largest woman owned company in Colorado, to founding and running a successful nonprofit for a decade, and founding and running a respected fundraising strategy firm in the NGO space.

My core belief is that the future hinges upon a more just and gender balanced world, so when asked “What if women…” — my short answer is that if women throughout history were free to live fully expressed lives as equals, then humanity would be more in balance, and peace and shared prosperity would be the natural order of things.

Think about the past:  a world designed, defined, and led by men. The result has been unfortunate for humanity – but it is important to acknowledge we needed masculine energy to build infrastructure, cities, and more so it also deserves an honoring to some extent.

But more than “what if …”  I’m interested in the conversation around the future:  A world designed defined and led by men & women.

The present:  The Transition.  Everyone reading a blog post like this is likely on the Transition Team to a more just and gender balanced world.  I say Brava and Bravo!!  We need you here, and are grateful for your role on the Team.  My strategist brain outperforms my wallet, so my role on the Transition Team is to not only invest well in advancing opportunities for women and girls (and therefore, everyone), but to help mobilize far greater resources through my strategic work with nonprofits via Black Fox Philanthropy.

One of the big international drivers for equality are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also called the Global Goals.  The Goals were adopted in September 2015 by all 193 member states of the UN, and lay out a roadmap through to the deadline of 2030 that aims to “leave no one behind.”

Naturally my favorite is SDG5: Gender Equality.  Many posit that without SDG5, the rest of the SDGs cannot be achieved by 2030 (one example here).

At Black Fox Philanthropy, we think of SDG 5 in a global context, but to highlight progress in achieving SDG 5 equality in the US:

The good news:  We are in the sweet spot of living in a country and time (thanks in part to the current administration), after thousands of years of human history, where women are more fiercely coming into their passion and voice to be fully expressed and fully empowered.  And we have the economic chops to get things over the finish line.

For example:

  • By 2025, 60% of billionaires are expected to be women.
  • Women will inherit 70% of the $41 trillion in inter-generational wealth transfer expected over the next 40 years.
  • Women own 40% of businesses in the US and that growing at a rate of 2x faster than businesses as a whole with an annual economic impact of nearly $3 trillion.
  • Women now control over half of the private wealth in the U.S. RIGHT NOW.

The not-so-great news:  Women are not owning our economic power in ways that move the needle in any significant way. Many of us do so in our giving, but too few of us don’t use our power in our spending or in our investing with a gender lens.  In fact, in light of the data listed above, we as women need to own our part in the fact that only 7% of US philanthropic investments focus upon the opportunities surrounding women, and less than 5% of venture capital funding invests in women entrepreneurs.

Why, when half of the world’s population is female… when we know that gender inequality weakens families, societies, nations, and the world as a whole, are women relegated to this funding ghetto?  Why, when we know that true change cannot take hold unless mindsets and funding shifts to be more inclusive of gender?  And why, when the research overwhelmingly points to equality being good for everyone, are we even still in this conversation?

So many of us are fighting the good fight alongside countless good men who know that it’s not only just, but our future depends upon equality.  In fact, I’ve noticed that fathers of daughters are particularly fierce warriors for equity, and we say Welcome!  You are holding up the other half of the sky, and we need you at the table.

In short, we can all play our part on the Transition Team and usher in a new era of possibility for peace, co-creation, and shared prosperity.  I encourage you to explore SDG 5, which is the goal that will make all others more possible, and join us on the Transition Team ushering in a more just and gender-balanced world.