Programs to Enhance the Rights and Opportunities of Women: Ford Foundation, 1972

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



In 1973, Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy’s inter-divisional task force on women's rights and opportunities recommended to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees the creation of a new program to enhance the opportunities and protect the rights afforded to women around the world. This recommendation was accepted, and the Foundation’s National Affairs and Education and Research Divisions quickly set aside $1 million each for grants on behalf of women’s causes. Ford’s International Division moved more cautiously into this new field. Members of the International staff were concerned that a focus on the problems of women alone might obscure the Foundation’s broader development goals in the many third world countries, and that a foundation-sponsored attempt to impose gender equity would be seen abroad as a neo-colonial imposition of Western values. Nonetheless, the International Division soon adopted this new focus, and began funding programs to enhance the lot of women in a wide range of countries.
Between 1972 and 1979, grant-making to enhance women’s rights and opportunities accounted for 5.4 percent of Ford’s total program budget. In 1980, the Foundation’s trustees approved a special appropriation to double this amount, to over 10 percent of Ford’s program expenditures. By 1986, the Foundation had spent over $70 million on programs in support of women. Two-thirds of this was used in the United States, while about $23 million was given to international grantees.



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