This Women’s History Month, We Need More Funding – and More Optimism

Dear Colleagues,

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s wrong and damaging decision in June to end affirmative action at universities, our field has been bracing for the financial impact to organizations that support and empower minorities, especially women, girls, and nonbinary and transgender people of color, who live at the intersection of gender and racial discrimination. This is incredibly frustrating and discouraging, especially as we close out Women’s History Month, when we want to feel celebratory about how far we’ve come and hopeful about the future.

In actuality, the Supreme Court ruling on race in college admissions doesn’t restrict grantmaking related to race or gender — grantmaking in this way remains perfectly legal. And the elimination of prejudice and discrimination remains a valid charitable purpose under section 501(c)(3). Yet the backlash against DEI efforts and fears about legality have had a chilling effect on race- and gender-conscious giving. This is what experts call “repressive legalism,” in which the public’s interpretation of legal decisions can be more restrictive than necessary because it can lead to fear of the threat of litigation. That’s exactly what we’re seeing happen in philanthropy, and it’s no accident. Instead, fear-mongering and exclusion is the goal of those who benefit from the existing unfair power structures and want to stand in the way of gender and racial justice.

Despite all of this, I am hopeful for the progress of women, girls and nonbinary people of color.

Why? Because of you. Your organizations are doing vital work for all genders – from infancy to elderhood – covering a range of needs: prenatal care, education, reproductive justice, access to youth sports, safe and affordable housing, gender-based violence, healthcare, breast cancer research, and so many other critical areas.

Around the globe, your incredible yet underfunded organizations are doing critical work, stretching every dollar to best support women, girls and nonbinary people of color. I’m optimistic because I believe where and how foundations invest reflects our values and our vision for the future. There’s still time to create the world we want to leave for future generations.


Elizabeth Barajas-Román
Women’s Funding Network 
President & CEO

Letters from Elizabeth