Women Donors


About the Creators of this Toolkit

The Australian Women Donors Network is an education-focused, purpose driven not-for-profit organisation that promotes and supports best practice Gender-wise philanthropy.

Our mission is that by 2020, 50% of philanthropic and social investment will benefit women and girls.

Our aims are to:

  • Direct attention to the benefits to be gained from addressing the existing economic and social disadvantage of women and girls, both in Australia and globally.
  • Highlight the crucial role that women and girls play in building stronger economies, families and communities.
  • Integrate a practice of gender inquiry into philanthropy so that it addresses the unique circumstances and specific needs of women and girls.
  • Encourage the funding of projects that invest specifically in women and girls.

We do this by informing, inspiring and enabling donors to invest in women and girls. We identify potential projects, partners and programs to fund, and assist donors and decision makers to apply a gender lens to giving.

What is a gender lens?

The word ‘gender’ refers to the socially constructed roles, identities and expectations that are assigned to men and women. Whereas ‘sex’ refers to biological and physiological differences between females, males and intersex people, gender is socially determined through learned behaviour that begins from the moment of birth. While concepts of gender will differ within and between cultures and change over time in response to cultural, religious, educational, historical and economic factors, men typically have greater access to, and control over, wealth, resources and decision-making opportunities than do women.

The concept of gender equity recognises that men and women have different life experiences, different opportunities, different needs, different levels of power and access to decision-making levels in our society, as well as differing expectations by others.  To apply a ‘gender lens’ is to highlight these differences and to recognise that women and girls may require specific resources and services to rectify their unequal position. It is not about providing the same services or resources to women and men; it is about recognising diversity and disadvantage, and directing resources and services where they are needed, to ensure equal outcomes for all.

A gender lens can be used effectively to ensure that women and men are not disadvantaged by a policy, program or project, to enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of activities, or to identify priority areas for action to promote equality between women and men. Applying a gender lens is important for anyone involved in policy, program development and service delivery and should be applied across all levels of an organisation.

To learn more about the gender-wise approach, head to our ‘Food for Thought’ page.

Think lens, think glasses. Glasses correct limitations of vision and enable clearer sight. And so it is with a gender lens, which helps us to see more clearly the role gender plays in shaping our male and female lives, our work, experience and choices.


Despite considerable advances made in recent decades, Australian women and girls still experience significant disadvantage in many spheres - including the outcomes of philanthropic programs. Because programs affect women and men differently, even those that seem gender-neutral often actually exclude or under-serve some people simply because of their gender, and perpetuate existing inequities. For example:

e.g. A program that offered extra-curricular activities (before and after school) aimed to increase the number of Indigenous students in remote Australia who completed Year 12.


By developing gender-wise principles and tools, you can make sure that the programs, projects and organisations that you support (hereafter referred to as ‘projects’) address the particular needs and circumstances of women and girls, as well as those of men and boys. In essence, you will be asking applicants and yourself to ‘apply a gender lens’ by considering:

By supporting programs that deliberately address gender differences in their design, implementation and outcomes, you’ll be making sure that women and girls benefit from philanthropy. As investment in this kind of social change benefits everyone – women, children, men and communities – you’ll be contributing to a stronger and more equitable Australia.

It’s good for everyone


The Australian Women Donors Network focuses on making sure that policies and programs advance women and girls because they are often overlooked due to a lack of power, visibility, or opportunity to voice their needs and opinions.

So while our focus is on women and girls, we promote gender-wise grant-making that supports programs that address the specific needs and circumstances of everyone in the target beneficiary groups, including men and boys.

Being gender-wise and applying a gender lens requires us to identify our (conscious and unconscious) gender assumptions and biases, and then address any resulting barriers to participation.

Other attributes such as ethnicity, wealth, age, disability, and sexual orientation intersect with gender to influence how people are treated, and how they experience life, sometimes resulting in layered disadvantage. For example:

  • Aboriginal women frequently experience the disadvantage that comes with being a woman, as well as the disadvantage that comes with being an Indigenous person.
  • Disability employment agencies in Australia assist twice as many men as women.

To test your own unconscious gender bias, click here. To learn how to manage unconscious bias, click here.

e.g. The Australian Men's Shed Association