Two philanthropy powerhouses, Melinda Gates and Mackenzie Bezos have joined together to host the Equality Can’t Wait for Challenge. With 30 million dollars committed to the winners of the competition, there is a grander prize in the host’s minds – greater steps towards gender equality by 2030.

In early June of 2020, Gates and Bezos announced the competition through Pivotal Ventures, Gates’ investment, and incubation company. This $30 million competition will encourage creative solutions for challenges women face, including sexual harassment, caregiving, and racial discrimination. The goal is to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030.

The challenge will look for ideas that help dismantle barriers that hold women back; fast-track female participation in sectors like technology, government, and entrepreneurship; and change outdated systems and beliefs around gender.

Relevance in the current political climate

The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge has arrived at a very elevated period of political unrest in the United States. In the past few months, a spotlight has been cast on systemic racism, class divide, and structural inequalities that affect women and minorities in the U.S.

In 2019, the World Economic Forum projected that it will take the U.S. 208 years to reach gender equality. Gates and Bezos initiative intends to face track this estimation so that women of all backgrounds, especially women of colour, can have an equal chance to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in the U.S.

Melinda Gates advocation for gender equality

Melinda Gates has been a prominent advocate for women’s health and gender equality for many years. One of her main areas of advocation has surrounded advancing women in tech.

In recent years, Gates founded, Pivotal Ventures, a Seattle-based philanthropic group. In January, it announced a $50 million project designed to transform tech hubs into more inclusive places for women. The Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities initiative will focus on increasing the number of women working in tech in three cities over the next five years.

Last October, Gates committed $1 billion over ten years to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is just another step in Gates’ dedication to advancing women in power.

Successful proposals

According to the Challenge’s website, successful proposals should create measurable change for women in at least one of the following areas: wages and wealth, unpaid care, share of leadership roles, content creation, and public perception.

  • Wages and wealth: narrowing the gap between earnings and wealth for women in comparison to men
  • Unpaid care: improving the division of caregiving and other household responsibilities done by women in comparison to men
  • Share of leadership roles: increasing the percentage of women in senior roles across the public, private, and social sectors
  • Content creation: increasing the percentage of intellectual and cultural content created by women
  • Public perceptions: increasing the percentage of the public who feel women should have more power and influence

Throughout the multi-stage Challenge, proposals will be evaluated on the ideas that are most 1) transformative, 2) equitable, 3) innovative, and 4) feasible.

Awarded grants

Through Gates’ company Pivotal Ventures, the “Equality Can’t Wait Challenge” will award at least two grants of $10 million or more to “the most compelling proposals” in 2021. The challenge will divide up an additional $10 million among finalists.

The challenge will be managed by Lever For Change, a MacArthur Foundation affiliate.

Up to 10 participants will be named as finalists. Finalists are eligible to receive a one-time award of $100,000 and can revise and resubmit their proposal. Once resubmitted, at least two grants of a minimum of $10 million will be awarded to the top proposals, to be paid out over five years. An additional $10 million will be allocated among finalists and determined at the award decision stage.

How to participate  

To participate in the Challenge, organizations must register online by September 1, 2020; fuller applications are due by September 22. Finalists will be announced in early 2021, and winners will be chosen next summer. The $30 million in prize money will be divided among the two most compelling ideas (each will receive a minimum of $10 million) and the remaining finalists.