No Money for Boys and Men: 

The Truth about Giving

May 2, 2020

When Melinda and Bill Gates made a billion-dollar pledge to support women’s and girls’ issues, social media and news outlets lit up.  Reports on the under-funding of women’s issue appeared nearly instantly.  MarketWatch reporter Leslie Albrecht wrote; “in the world of charitable giving, devoting money to women’s and girls’ causes is a rarity,” supplying a graph from the Women’s Philanthropic Institute as evidence.

While women and girls organizations are at the bottom of this misleading list, men are so low that they don’t even appear on it.  And many of the categories above overwhelmingly support females more than males.  Educational funding in the U.S. for instance funds women to a significantly larger degree, as women have dominated the college landscape for decades.  Nerdwallet found there are 4x more female only scholarships than men and suggested “the fact that females have more scholarships available to them may still reflect the historical social barriers they had to face to attend college in the past.”  This premise reinforces an outdated narrative, and the consequences have lead to a lack of response to the higher education needs of our sons over the past several decades.  Men are far behind women in college attendance and graduation rates, something Nerdwallet does mention.  Large amounts of funding continue to contribute to the more than 2 million more women in undergraduate programs every year since 2003 and over 1 million more women every year since 1988, according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics.   

The Systematic Bundling of Women

Gender equality in the U.S. has been chronically underfunded” says Melinda Gates after giving 1-Billion to promote gender equality.  The funding, however, seems to only support causes for women and girls and not equality.  Gates goes on to offer up “data from Candid’s Foundation Directory Online [to] suggest that private donors give $9.27 to higher education and $4.85 to the arts for every $1 they give to women’s issues.” What do Gates and Albrecht fail to admit?  Women are the primary beneficiaries of higher education when it comes to scholarships, grants, and loans.  Women and girls are more likely to be beneficiaries of human services, foundations, health, public society benefits, and other charities.  Not having the word woman or girl in the title does not mean the majority of the funding does not support them.

A review of charities listed in GuideStar reveals men’s and boys’ charities fall behind women and girls by significant margins.  A sampling of five known women and girls’ charities reveals how far behind our boys and men are when it comes to support.

The only boys' charity that is really off the charts in term of financing is the Boy Scouts of America, which now accepts girls, changed its name to Scouts BSA to be more inclusive, and may go bankrupt after allegations that thousands of boys have been sexually abused by hundreds of pedophiles for decades.

It’s not uncommon though for boys’ and men’s related organizations to welcome girls and women into the fold, but the same reciprocity is not often visited upon our sons. This is particularly true in youth sports; with Little League International, Pop Warner, and AAU basketball.

When Bill and Melinda Gates appeared in a CNBC piece, they suggested that “No matter where you are born, your life will be harder if you are born a girl.  And if you are born in a poor country or district, it will be even harder.”  This rhetoric largely impacts the way we think about giving, and it serves as a rallying cry of sorts by attempting to communalize the plight of women and girls worldwide as common: as if women and girls in the U.S. in some way experience similar equality challenges as women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Truthfully, the overwhelming majority of girls and boys in the U.S. will never face the challenges of boys and girls in places like Afghanistan.  

Is Equality Possible for Boys and Men?

Men and women in the U.S. have started taking notice but not quite with their bank accounts.  It’s the reason the Global Initiative for Boys and Men was formed in late 2019 and will begin a formal campaign to seek the type of gross receipts that allow it to influence academics, media, and government and provide the essential resource information needed to transform the way equality for boys and men moves forward with girls and women. 

One of the GIBM initiatives aims to create a video in the next year educating men of their Title IX rights and provide a national list of lawyers specializing in civil rights issues directly impacting men and boys, as universities are now receiving legal challenges to Title IX violations that impact the equality of men.  (This issue needs to take place in our K-12 system as well.)

“Across the country, male students are suing, and filing Title IX complaints against universities for anti-male discrimination,” according to an article in USA Today by Glenn Harlan Reynolds.

Cornell University has just been hit by a Title IX complaint filed with the Department of Education. The complaint notes that Cornell has immense resources dedicated to female students, ranging from a Women’s Health Center (but nothing for men), a Women’s Resource Center (but no Men’s Center) and a total of 390 scholarships available only to women, with no scholarships dedicated to men.”  This suit, unlike Albrecht’s charitable giving chart, reveals the way money in broad camps such as health and education disproportionately support women under the guise of a category that does use the word women.  But titles do mean a lot when politically expedient and often connote social meaning and eventual funding.

Think of the Violence against Women Act as an example of the way title influences political thought, cohesion, and funding while ignoring nearly half the population.  The Understudied Female Sexual Predator by Conor Friedersdorf reminds us of the systematic way we ignore male victims and female perpetrators.  

This notion that certain members of society, mainly women, are not perpetrators enabled the atrocities committed by nuns in the Catholic Church to go unchecked and courts to ignore the data that mothers maltreat their children more than fathers, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration.  And as a friend who worked in the field of domestic violence once told me, there are a number of women’s groups that mention supporting men but ultimately resist because of its appearance and the eventual consequences of defunding.

Gates, Money, and Symbolism

There is a lot to admire about the Gates family.  Bill and Melinda have been married for 25 years and have three children, two daughters and a son, who seem to be doing well and for the most part kept out of the spotlight and allowed to live their lives.

In a Time article, "How I Raised A Feminist Son," Melinda shares that she and Bill “decided over time that, for the sake of our son as well as our daughters, we were going to be a family that readily talks about gender equality at the dinner table.”  I often wonder if those conversations discuss the plight of boys and men: a hard look at the data with an open eye to true equality; encouraging their daughters and their son to look at the aspects of the human condition that place boys and men in harm’s way and the contributions they can make to lift them up [1].

[1] Photo of child by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Ways to donate to the Global Initiative for Boys and Men