Internal Deadline
Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 4/18/2022

Equality Can't Wait Challenge

Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company, with additional support from MacKenzie Bezos, today announced the launch of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. This new Challenge, managed by Lever for Change, will award $30 million to the organizations or coalitions of organizations with the most compelling proposals to expand women’s power and influence in the U.S. by 2030.

Recent events have exposed deep inequalities in the United States. The injustices Black Americans face every day have forced a spotlight on systemic racism in our country. At the same time, COVID-19 has magnified the structural inequities that hold millions of U.S. women back, adding urgency to the phrase, “Equality can’t wait.”

In 2019, the World Economic Forum projected that it would take the U.S. 208 years to achieve gender equality and while there has been a groundswell of energy and activism, the pace of change has not moved fast enough. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is calling on organizations to submit creative solutions to expand power and influence for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, so they can be in positions to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives.

There is an urgent need to achieve gender equality and advance systemic change. The Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is seeking ideas that work in one or more key areas to expand women’s power and influence, including: dismantling the barriers that hold women back in their careers and at home, fast-tracking women in critical sectors by creating entry points and advancement opportunities, and calling society to action on gender equality.

Competitive proposals will offer solutions that are transformative, equitable, innovative, and feasible. Proposals should also demonstrate that they can have measurable and rapid improvement in one or more of the following metrics: wages and wealth gap, unpaid care, leadership roles held by women, content created by women, or public perceptions of women’s power and influence. We strongly recommend that you complete the Lever for Change Readiness Tool and Scoring Rubric to determine whether your project is aligned with the opportunity.

  • Duke Internal Deadline: July 20, 2020
  • Sponsor Registration Deadline: September 1, 2020
  • Sponsor Proposal Deadline: September 22, 2020

Please see eligibility and internal deadline information below. Owing to the sponsor’s restrictions (only one applicant per university department/unit and no overlapping projects or team members), Duke’s Office of Foundation Relations is coordinating a review to prevent any potential conflicts. PIs must submit an internal project overview as described below. Please contact Carol Vorhaus ( and Alexandra de Havilland ( with any questions.

Eligibility Requirements

We are looking for innovative ideas from organizations or coalitions of organizations.

Duke University may serve as a lead applicant, based on the stated eligibility:

  • An entity under section 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) or (2) of the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") that has received a tax determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS").
  • A private foundation under section 501(c)(3) of the IRC that has received a tax determination letter from the IRS.
  • A tribal government or tribal-owned enterprise.
  • A public university, junior college, or college.

Eligible organizations are welcome to partner with for-profit companies, foundations, schools, colleges and universities, government agencies, individuals, and other entities in order to implement the initiative.

An applicant organization may submit more than one application as long as the proposed solutions are different and separate, and the applications originate from different departments/schools/nonprofits within or based in a college/university. There should be no overlap in team members. The intent of the policy is to ensure that any team is concentrating their best effort into a single application. Overlapping membership of advisory boards is permitted. All this said, we encourage teams to select a single project that best represents your organization's ability to deliver a solution that is transformative, scalable, feasible, and evidence-based.

The principal organization identified on the proposal must be responsible for receiving and taking accountability for any grant funds, as well as providing the direction, control, and supervision for the project.

Amount Description

Up to 10 participants will be named as finalists. Finalists are eligible to receive a one-time award of $100,000 and have the opportunity to revise and resubmit their proposal. Once resubmitted, at least two grants of a minimum of $10 million will be awarded to the top proposals, to be paid out over five years. An additional $10 million will be allocated among finalists and determined at the award decision stage.

Internal Nomination

Application Process

By July 20, 2020, interested faculty should submit a 500 word project overview that addresses the following through the Office of Research Support.

  1. Project Overview —This should include:
    1. Title
    2. Abstract:  1-2 paragraph project description
    3. Duke PI Name
    4. Duke PI Contact Information
    5. Duke PI Affiliations: List departmental, center, or other unit affiliations
    6. Duke Project Team Members:  List team member names
    7. Partners: List organizations or team members outside of Duke


Review Process


Duke’s Office of Foundation Relations will review all internal submissions to insure compliance with Lever for Change eligibility requirements and will respond to all PIs by July 27, 2020.

Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal (Code ILN):

Instructions for both creating an account (if you don't already have one) and submitting your materials can be found here:

Funding Type