Examine Organizational Blind Spots With This New Gender Lens Tool
By Stephanie Chrispin, Public Policy Fellow at Philanthropy New York
Why would a funder focused on education, health, or criminal justice reform consider gender equity when crafting their grantmaking strategy? Because it’s easy to miss the needs of queer youth, girls, and women if you’re not looking for them.
Applying a gender lens to your grantmaking highlights the gaps and trends that would otherwise be invisible if you didn’t employ it. With a gender analysis, grantmakers can avoid supporting “gender blind” policies or programs that unintentionally discriminate based on gender roles. Without this lens, funders can fail to recognize the disproportionate affect that a range of issues have on women and gender nonconforming people – especially those from communities of color. Instead of reinforcing gender inequality by failing to account for women, girls, and LGBTQ people’s lack of access or opportunity, funders can extend the impact of their grantmaking by using a gender lens framework to see how gender interacts with and compounds their issues – and shift funding strategies to address them.
One of my most satisfying projects as a Public Policy Fellow here at PNY has been helping produce a new tool for funders: Starting the Conversation: Using a Gender Lens in Your Grantmaking. It is a graphical representation of how to get a deeper conversation on gender started in any foundation. (Click here to view a large printable version).
It is an initiative of PNY’s Funders for Gender Equity steering committee. The tool is aimed at grantmakers who don’t consider themselves “gender funders,” ones that aren’t already working in the women, girls, and LGBTQ space.
One example of how a gender lens can transform awareness of an issue can be seen in the environmental justice movement. Women disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change and pollution because gender dynamics play a major role in determining their proximity, exposure, and ability to respond to environmental changes. In New York City, low-income urban women of color have asked for years why their children have such high rates of asthma. Black and Latina mothers often lead environmental organizing and advocacy efforts because they see the direct relationship between their children’s asthma and how close their communities are to polluting facilities like sewage plants and incinerators.[i] Their leadership, like that of most women’s leadership, has been made invisible or overshadowed by male voices in the environmental justice movement and the nonprofit sector at-large.
Asthma is only one of the health disparities that environmental justice communities experience in a gendered dimension. Recent studies have confirmed links between prenatal exposure to various urban air pollutants, particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and fetal growth and neurobehavioral development. Results from the comprehensive Mothers and Newborns Study examined a cohort of pregnant Black and Latino women from Northern Manhattan and the South Bronx along with their children, and found that high prenatal exposures to PAHs were significantly associated with low birth weight and head circumference, delayed cognitive development, lower child IQ, ADHD, and even childhood obesity.[ii] By intentionally looking at the connections between environmental health and gender, the public health researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health were able to uncover a definitive link between hazardous environmental exposures and adverse health outcomes experienced most acutely by poor Black and Latina women and children.
Today marks the end of International Women’s Month. Don’t let this be the end of your foundation’s thinking about gender.
The Funders for Gender Equity steering committee invites any funder who wants to deepen their organization’s conversations about gender to reach out to them. They would love to work with funders and help them use the gender lens tool to examine their work. If you are interested in using this tool and would like help getting started, please reach out to us.