A new report shows that for corporate giving to truly make a difference to gender equality, it must be intentional in its approach – and nonprofits must respond by showing how their work benefits women and girls.

In a world where the impact of COVID-19 has been disproportionately felt by women and girls, there couldn’t be a more important time to consider whether charitable giving is effectively reaching them.  

As a result of the pandemic, more women and girls have experienced unemployment and poorer employment prospects, higher numbers have left education, more have endured an increased rate of domestic and family violence, and women have constituted the majority of the frontline jobs directly exposed to the risks of catching COVID-19, whilst under intensified pressure in their work environment, such as nurses, checkout staff, aged care workers, cleaners and laundry workers. This Australians Investing in Women and Equity Economics ‘A springboard for Australia’s recovery’ report tells the story in more detail.  

Gender equality has gone backwards as a result of the pandemic and, in fact, as it stands today, we have 135.6 years to wait until gender equality is achieved, according to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report 

“We need to pull every lever to achieve gender equality. Philanthropic dollars are limited – being more intentional about bringing women and girls into focus brings the greatest opportunity for social change,” says Sam Mostyn AO, Chair, Australians Investing In Women (AIIW) who, in partnership with the Champions of Change Coalition, have released a new report that identifies potential opportunities for giving – specifically corporate giving – to accelerate gender equality. 

“We have 135.6 years to wait for gender equality.” 

The research 

Working closely with not-for-profits including OzHarvest, STREAT, Foundation for Young Australians, Foundation for Regional & Rural Renewal, Stars Foundation, Community Council for Australia and large corporate foundations, the Champions of Change Coalition and AIIW considered:  

  • How organisations currently position gender in their giving strategies
  • How processes (such as corporate funding opportunities and evaluations) build in an intentional focus on women and girls 
  • How the use of data supports measurement of outcomes and impact for women and girls  

Corporate giving practices and processes were reviewed to understand the extent corporate giving is benefiting women and girls compared to men and boys, and to also determine if well-meaning ‘gender neutral’ giving programs were underserving women and girls unintentionally. 

The findings  

The research surprised them. It was easy to identify the programs that specifically supported women and girls. But when it came to causes like bushfire relief, homelessness, climate change, youth and the arts, many corporates were less sure how the unique needs of women and girls were considered or whether they were equally benefiting from their giving. 

This was exemplified in statements such as these, which emerged during the research:  

“We know the causes we give to, but not who benefits”.  

“Our organisations’ giving strategies are not aligned to our employee diversity and inclusion strategies”.  

“We don’t ask ourselves the gender question”.  

“We don’t ask our not-for-profit partners the gender question”.  

“Reported gender-disaggregated data for giving is ad hoc”.  

“We undervalue impact assessment”.  

That’s not to say corporate giving is not well-intentioned or making a difference, but what the report aims to do is provide the corporate sector with ideas and a framework that helps them grow their impact for women and girls.  

Before they can do this, it helps to understand the current landscape.  

Corporate giving – the current lay of the land  

The value of the corporate sector giving in Australia is estimated to range between $4.5 billion to $17.5 billion per year. This vast range can be attributed to the fact that there is no agreed standard framework or agency for reporting corporate giving in Australia. So, not a great start to understanding the corporate giving story, but what the research did establish was certain trends in the way corporates give with the intent of helping women and girls.  

First off, when organisations specifically wish to support women and girls as part of their broader program of giving, they typically seek out charities and programs that focus solely on women and girls such as girls’ education and mentoring, employment opportunities for women, and supporting people experiencing domestic and family violence. 

Whilst this generosity is no doubt well-meaning and impactful, this narrow view of women and girls as a stand-alone cause can also mean the giving process neglects to consider how gender applies to other important social causes. 

This can then lead to a corporate giving approach right at the opposite end of the spectrum; the most common avenue organisations take with their giving is to invest in universal programs in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. 

However, without an intentional approach, funding of gender-neutral programs – particularly those that do not consider gender differences and gender-specific needs – generally underserves women. 

While detailed conclusions from corporate giving data are difficult to draw, data shows that funding for specific women’s and girls’ programs is consistently a low portion of overall giving. The Women & Girls Index, an index that measures charitable giving to women’s and girls’ causes in the United States, reports that the share of funding for women’s and girls’ organisations in 2020 was just 1.6% of all philanthropic giving. 

Over on the nonprofit side, many organisations believe that a gender analysis of their project participants is enough. But actually, that doesn’t go far enough. The report tells us that the real goal of gender analysis is to understand how interventions affect women and girls differently from boys and men, and then use this information to influence program design. A 2020 study from Perpetual showed that 73.7% of NFP grant applicants had not undertaken a gender analysis for their project design. The key is to be intentional and not leave equitable giving to chance. 

The report provides examples that help highlight the specific challenges for women and girls in a range of causes and offer ideas for corporate giving that supports gender equality 

For example, in animal welfare, corporates should look for:  

  • Programs that care for the animals of people leaving domestic violence
  • Evacuation of family pets and livestock during natural disasters
  • Programs that support girls’ careers as vets, rangers and wildlife officers  
  • Development of female anti-poaching officers
  • Supporting women-led research and projects

In the area of disaster and emergency, they should look for:  

  • Programs that support women’s preparedness for future events
  • Opportunities to support both victims of and people who perpetrate domestic and family violence 
  • Programs that support access to maternal and child health services
  • Access to safe, designated evacuation spaces for women and children
  • Recovery and rebuild that is inclusive of diverse women

In the area of environment, they should look for:  

  • Opportunities to support the work of female scientists and female-led projects
  • Education on projects like regenerative food systems, urban farms and renewable energy  
  • Programs that support education and reproductive healthcare of girls in developing countries
  • Projects in developing countries that empower women’s leadership of alternative energy, safe water, sanitation and food sustainability 

 A recommended framework  

The report shares a detailed breakdown of how corporates can sharpen their focus on gender equality through their charitable giving. It is summarised in this diagram:  

A success case study 

The report points to cosmetics retailer, MECCA, as an example of corporate giving to champion gender equality done right.  

Through the MECCA corporate giving initiative, MECCA M-Power, the company is partnering with leading organisations – the Skyline Foundation locally, the Stars Foundation nationally and CAMFED internationally – to support 10,000 girls to complete their secondary school education. MECCA also invests in emerging female leaders in under-represented industries such as the arts, academia and STEM as part of their commitment to take immediate action to accelerate gender equality. 

So ‘be like MECCA’ they say. Here’s how the report suggests corporates get there… 

Summary of actions: a staged approach 

The report makes over 30 helpful recommendations about how corporates can put their gender-focused charitable giving into action. Here are some of the key ones:  

  1. Become intentional about advancing gender equality in your corporate giving 
  • Understand your organisation’s philanthropic intent, the causes your organisation supports and who benefits  
  • Understand how your organisation currently measures giving to women and girls 
  1. Sharpen the focus on gender equality in corporate giving 
  • Ensure giving strategies are not ‘gender neutral’ or unintentionally excluding women and girls
  • Seek to align the goals of your internal gender equality strategy and your giving strategy 
  • Request grant and partnership applications that show targeted beneficiaries by gender and the expected impact of the giving 
  1. Keep gender equality in the frame 
  • Seek a gender analysis of the causes your organisation supports 
  • Examine your employee and matched giving programs and platforms for opportunities to highlight gender analysis and prioritise relevant causes  
  • Build gender impact questions into grant administration software 

So, there is the advice for corporate givers. Your role as a nonprofit needs to be to, one, implement considered gender analysis into your project design and, two, ensure you demonstrate how you address gender equality in your applications for funding to increasingly-aware corporate givers and trusts and foundations.  

“The closest thing we have to a magic bullet in development is the education of girls. From every angle – economic, cultural, political and in governance – an educated woman leverages extraordinary social benefit. We know the dire consequences of denying the potential skills and leadership of half the population, namely, women,” says Tim Costello AO Chair, Community Council for Australia.  

Now let’s get to work.  


To read the full ‘Sharpening our focus on corporate giving: Keeping gender equality in the frame’ reportclick here 

To read the ‘Gender-wise investing: A springboard for Australia’s recovery’ reportclick here 


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