Investing With a Gender Lens

In philanthropy and the private sector, there is a growing movement to direct financial and human resources into supporting women and girls, expanding their leadership opportunities, and challenging the traditional roles and expectations of both women and men.

LEAP (Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership) offers girls-only robotics courses as part of its "Learning to Code" program. Photo credit: LEAP.

Investing in women and girls is not only a matter of social justice. It's good for the economy.

More than a half-century since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, men still earn more money than women for the same work. The largest disparities affect minority women.

The wage gap compounds over a lifetime, limiting resources a woman can spend on her family and in her community. It also contributes to the high number of households headed by single women struggling to meet basic cost of living expenses.

Both business and philanthropic organizations are increasingly recognizing that investing in women and girls, and working to eliminate the wage gap and other gender-specific barriers, creates a ripple effect that benefits families, neighborhoods, and surrounding communities.

The Numbers

The Pay Gap:

  • In New Haven women earn 88 cents for every dollar earned by men; in Connecticut, women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by men1,2.
  • African American women earn 60 cents for every dollar earned by men. Latinas earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by men3.
  • Over a lifetime, the wage gap amounts to a loss in wages for a woman of $700,000 for a high school graduate and $1.2 million for a college graduate4.

Economic Security:

  • In New Haven, households headed by single mothers have the lowest median annual income ($22,660) of all family household types5.
  • Nationally 32% of of households headed by single women live in poverty6.
  • In New Haven, 4 in 10 household headed by single women with children under 18 are under the poverty threshold7.


  • In 2011, girls in New Haven in the 3rd – 8th grade outperformed boys on nearly every section of the Connecticut Mastery Test8.
  • Women in New Haven who do not have a High School Diploma are 62 percent more likely than men without a High School diploma to be poor9.

Philanthropy Sharpens its Focus

Philanthropic commitment to gender-specific programming has grown in recent decades. These investments not only help women and girls overcome barriers that are specific to their gender, but also work to transform the larger economic, political, educational, and institutional systems that devalue women.

Between 1990 and 2006, U.S. foundation giving to benefit women and girls (including giving internationally) grew from $412 million to $2.1 billion, a five-fold increase that surpassed the rate of growth for all foundation giving10.

Women's funds in particular, such as The Community Fund for Women & Girls, have played a vital role in identifying and deploying innovative investment strategies that achieve significant returns. An analysis of $5.5 million in grants by the Women's Funding Network found that they leveraged $37.7 million in additional funding and had outcomes that had an impact on 200 million people11.

"Many low-income women are making the decisions for their families. They are the breadwinners. So when you lift women up, you lift up their families and the entire community," says Susan Garcia Nofi, past chair for the Community Fund for Women &Girls.

The Community Fund for Women &Girls and other women's funds invest in programs that remove interrelated barriers specific to gender, such as education in technology, career counseling, women-centered healthcare, child care, and other services that expand opportunities for women. And they empower women to be their own advocates in the larger effort to create lasting social change12.

New Haven-based All Our Kin is an example of an organization that addresses several interrelated barriers affecting women and families. It provides training and business consultation services to help women become licensed child-care providers, operate successful businesses, and raise their incomes. Through this work it is also addressing the shortage of affordable quality child care for very young children so mothers can enter or stay in the workforce while having their child cared for in a safe environment.

A UCONN study of All Our Kin's Tool Kit Licensing Program found that nearly 60% of participants reported earning at least $5,000 more the first year after becoming licensed. The same study also found that every $1 spent on the licensing program returned approximately $15 -$20 to society in gross regional product13.

The New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers Partnership, or MOMS, is another innovative example of gender-specific programming. In a pioneering partnership with Stop & Shop, MOMS makes mental health services more accessible to women by putting "hubs" in grocery stores. The "hubs" provide a confidential setting where women receive connections to mental health, basic needs, job skills, and other services aimed at reducing the causes of stress in women's lives.

Gender Equity is Good for Business

Just as philanthropy is seeing a multiplier effect - a net gain that is far in excess of the original investment -from investing in women and girls, companies that take gender equity seriously have been found to run better, be more responsive to the market, and increase profits.

Companies with three or more women on their boards have been found to have substantially higher financial returns than companies with no women board members. In addition, companies with high levels of gender inclusiveness have been found to have better organizational outcomes14.

An opportunity also exists for investors. The difference between the amount of credit needed by women entrepreneurs starting or expanding businesses and amount of credit available to them is estimated to be more than $300 billion. Closing this collective credit gap requires an examination of implicit bias and low numbers of women in banks, venture capital, and hedge funds15.

What the Community Foundation is Doing

The Community Fund for Women & Girls, a component fund of The Community Foundation, invests in gender specific programming that is designed to address the particular needs and challenges facing women.

Its grant making prioritizes programs that promote economic advancement and equity. Of particular interest are those organizations that include wrap-around services, either directly or in collaboration with organizations that address the unique needs/barriers due to gender that inhibit the potential for participants to succeed.

In 2015, the fund made a strategic decision to award a signature grant, a larger multi-year investment to deepen impact. All Our Kin was the first signature grant recipient.

Recent Grantees Include:

Architecture Resource Center – support for the Design Technology Camp (DTC), a four-week program that will offer architecture, design, STEM, and leadership activities to disadvantaged girls and young women

Believe in Me Empowerment Corp. - to support the implementation of a gender responsive expressive healing program for a minimum of 48 women in recovery which will serve as an outlet to express thoughts and feelings that result from past traumas

Boys & Girls Club of New Haven - to support ASCEND, a college readiness and career awareness project targeting up to 25 girl club members, ages 9-17, and to support Emerging Young Leaders, a mentorship program for girls

Bridges - To support effective case management and educational services for young, pregnant women and their partners through the delivery of information on the physical, biological, social, emotional, and financial impacts of pregnancy on young women. The program will include childbirth classes and education on the prevention of unplanned pregnancies.

Christian Community Action - support for the advocacy efforts of Mothers for Justice, a coalition of New Haven women, at the state and federal levels to change the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program so that more families are able to become self-sufficient.

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence -to support the Trafficking in Persons Council's replication study which seeks to develop sustainable anti-trafficking efforts with the input of those working on the ground.

Connecticut Women's Consortium - to support the training of 25 staff of community, behavioral health, and educational organizations to implement Girls Circles, a gender-specific, evidence-based, support group for girls ages 9-18 that fosters growth and development and is designed to build self-esteem, promote resiliency, empowerment, identity, and healthy relationships.

Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund - to support the continuation and enhancement of the Bilingual Community Advocacy project and Advocacy Fellowship program in the Greater New Haven area, particularly to 170-200 under-served Latina populations

Engineering Science University Magnet School - to support a STEM Saturdays program for 4th and 5th grade girls in New Haven public schools, led by ESUMS female students and designed to provide girls with the opportunity to discover science, technology, engineering, and math through interdisciplinary projects

Girl Scouts of Connecticut – to increase participation of low income girls by providing transportation and removing other barriers

Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, Inc - to support the HIGHER Women mentoring program's financial literacy programming for 15- 20 high school girls and their mothers

LEAP – to support the enhancement and deepening of the "Learning to Code" computer class and "Making a Splash" swim lessons programs as a means of increasing over 300 girls' self-confidence, self-esteem, and academic abilities within a supportive, girls-only environment

Literacy Center of Milford – to support the Adult Women's ESL program and Mother's Advanced Class, serving immigrant women

New Reach - to support the integration of Gender Responsive Trauma Informed Care (GRTIC) into New Reach's shelter programs so that its shelters and shelter services reflect an in depth understanding of the realities of the lives of the women (and their dependent children) under New Reach's care

New Haven Farms - to support the Women's Community Health Ambassador (CHA) program in training 6 women graduates of the New Haven Farms Farm-based Wellness Program, providing summer work positions, and cultivating a network of women in the Fair Haven community who are building a culture of advocacy around their health and wellness goals

Pequenas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven – to support athletic opportunities for girls

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England - support to address rates of teen pregnancy

St. Martin De Porres Academy - to support a newly established co-curricular program that centers on developing leadership skills and self-confidence in St. Martin de Porres' female students

Spanish Community of Wallingford - to support the hiring of 3 Hispanic teenage girls to assist in the planning and execution of two youth leadership and one STEM program with a total of 80 participants.

Women's Business Development Council- to support entrepreneurial training for women

Women and Family Life Center - to support the provision of small workshops and one-on-one financial consultations to approximately 80 low-to-moderate-income women to empower them with the tools to achieve financial stability/sustainability.

Young Parents Program of Milford – to support childbirth classes for 50 teenage girls and young adults

Works Cited

1. Hess, Cynthia et al. The Status of Women and Girls in New Haven Connecticut. Institute for Women's Policy Research. July, 2012: 13.
2. Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. Research Brief. 2014.
3. ibid.
4. ibid.
6. American Fact Finder, U.S. Census Bureau, 2014. Accessed November, 2, 2015.
7. Hess, Cynthia et al. The Status of Women and Girls in New Haven Connecticut: 29.
8. ibid: 41.
9. ibid: 50.
10. Atienza, Josefina et al. Accelerating Change for Women and Girls: The Role of Women's Funds. A report by the Foundation Center and the Women's Funding Network, 2009: 1.
11. The Power and Impact of Women's Funds: Women's Solutions + Innovation + Leverage = Social Change. A highlights paper from the Women's Funding Network, 2009: 1.
12. Nagle & Associates. Building Economic Security: The Power of Gender-Based Philanthropy. A Report by the Women's Economic Security Campaign, August, 2013: 7.
13. Hill, Shannon. The Economic Impact of the All Our Kin Family Child Care Tool Kit Licensing Program A Report on the Findings of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, 2011: 7.
14. Kaplan, Sarah and VanderBrug, Jackie. The Rise of Gender Capitalism. The Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2014: 6.
15. ibid: 4.

© The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven,
November 2015