Inside the Growing Funder Push to Accelerate Social Change for Young Women of Color

In the spring of 2015, a group of community activists in New York City approached the City Council with an ambitious goal: They wanted to drill down on the issues faced by young women and girls of color, and quicken the pace of social change, advancing equality and opportunity for this population. The group spoke to Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council, and the first Latina woman to hold citywide office, who responded positively to the idea. In May 2015, the City Council announced the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI), a historic effort to tackle the health, safety, education, and economic disadvantages that confront young women of color.

Initial funding for the Young Women’s Initiative came in February of 2016, with a grant of $10 million from the New York City Council. That same month, the Philanthropic Table for Girls and Young Women of Color matched the City Council’s $10 million with another $10 million and set a new high for public women’s foundations dedicating funds specifically to young women and trans/gender fluid youth of color. Big donors to the Philanthropic Table include the New York Women’s Foundation and the Novo Foundation.

This is a striking public-private partnership, and New York City is a fitting focus. With close to a half-million Black and Latina girls in the city ages 12 to 24 (411,339 in 2013) representing just over 20 percent of the city’s population, New York has a huge stake in providing advancement opportunities for young women and girls of color. Right now, rates of poverty are significantly higher in the city among women and girls of color, and so is unemployment: Eighteen percent of women and girls of color are out of work or out of school, compared to 12 percent of white women and girls.

But New York is definitely not alone in addressing the particular difficulties faced by women and girls of color. As announced at the Obama Administration’s United State of Women Summit, the Young Women’s Initiative is expanding further. Seven women’s funds have committed to carrying out the multifaceted agenda of YWI in their own communities. The newly added foundations announced at the June 2016 Summit, which span several regions of the country, are the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the California Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, the Dallas Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis, and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.

Read the full story in Inside Philanthropy.