New Gender Equality Funding Initiative Aims To Empower BIPOC & WOC Entrepreneurs

From L to R: Liz Gamboa/Executive Director NM Community Capital, Vanessa Roanhorse/Co-founder Native Women Lead, Alicia Ortega/Co-Founder Native Women Lead, Kalika Davis/Co-Founder Native Women Lead, Jaime Gloshay/Co-Founder Native Women Lead

Announced during Women’s History Month and on March 8, International Women’s Day, the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge which will award $40 million to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030, announced 10 projects that will move on to the final stage of the competition. Native Women Lead (NWL) in partnership with New Mexico Community Capital (NMCC) are among ten finalists in a pool of over 550 national applicants. 

“In August 2020, NWL in collaboration with NMCC entered our bold solution, The Future Is Indigenous Womxn, the only Indigenous focused finalist in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. Our proposal is centered around investing and scaling high-performing Native-owned businesses to unlock potential for wealth creation, power, and influence. NWL and NMCC plan to create a waterway of investable womxn-owned companies that will be developed as well as new, non-harmful business financing mechanisms.” said Vanessa Roanhorse, NWL Co-Founder.  

Liz Gamboa, Executive Director of New Mexico Community Capital added, “We are proud to be a partner with Native Women Lead on this groundbreaking path forward. Our organizations go way back as a majority of the co-founders went through our Native Entrepreneur in Residence (NEIR) accelerator program. We’re so incredibly happy to see them thrive. To continue to plant seeds together is next level amazing, and we’re looking forward to contributing and creating this regenerative system wholly led by Indigenous womxn.”  

The impact of empowering Native Women-led businesses is clear, as outlined by NWL. Since 1997, women-owned businesses grew by 114%, while Native women-owned businesses grew by 201%. In 2020, Native Americans/Alaskan Natives owned 1.4% of all women-owned businesses (an estimated 161,500), employing 61,300 workers and generating $11 billion in revenues.

The Challenge, hosted by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company—with additional support from MacKenzie Scott and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and managed by Lever for Change—was launched in June 2020 to accelerate the pace of progress toward gender equality in America. 

In the summer of 2021, the Challenge will grant three $10 million awards, with an additional $10 million to be allocated among finalists, bringing the total to $40 million. The Challenge will provide funding for innovative, women-led solutions that enable more women, particularly Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, to be in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives in their homes, workplaces, and communities. 

Empowering women of color entrepreneurs is smart business all round. Before COVID hit, data showed that Black women were among the fastest growing entrepreneurs in the United States. Black women represent 42% of new women-owned businesses—three times their share of the female population—and 36% of all Black-owned employer businesses. However, Black and Latinx women combined received just 0.64% of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019, for a total of $3.1 billion; 0.27% went to Black women and 0.37% went to Latinas. Additionally, Latina-owned small businesses are the fastest-growing segment of the business community in the United States, playing a key role in fueling the nation’s economy.

It is also important to look at this impressive data and consider the continuing intersectional wage inequality that exists. American Indian and Alaska Native women working full-time, year-round were paid just 59.7 cents for every dollar paid to White men in 2019. Black women who work full time, year-round are typically paid just 62cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Latinas earn $0.55 for every dollar paid to White men, a pay gap that has barely moved in 30 years. Tackling the wage gap must happen alongside initiatives to empower BIPOC & WOC business owners.

“Gender inequality isn’t inevitable,” said Melinda Gates, founder of Pivotal Ventures. “Solutions exist, but scaling them requires investment. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge has proven there’s no shortage of actionable ideas to drive progress for women and that donors are willing to meet bold ideas with big resources…” 

“These organizations are finding new ways to build power and voice for women in their personal and professional communities,” added MacKenzie Scott. “The deep empathy and creative partnerships in the finalists’ approaches inspire hope for change.” 

Native Women Lead mission is to revolutionize systems and inspire innovation by investing in Native Women in business. We do this by co-creating with and convening our community to build coalition while honoring our culture, creativity, and connections. Our BEWE core values reflect our recognition of Native Women as the Backbone of our communities; Emerging as entrepreneurs and leaders; Weaving our ideas, resources, and community together to manifest change and Empower one another. 

New Mexico Community Capital mission is to help build and grow sustainable, healthy Native economies. We seek to give rise to a more equitable future by providing culturally appropriate tools for success to emerging Native American-owned businesses, Native families and tribal enterprises. Through our programming and services, which are delivered through an Indigenous lens, we focus on meeting communities where they are, and uplifting them in their business and financial journey.