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Birmingham’s Adrienne Starks on Panel to Award $40M for Women Empowerment

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By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Dr. Adrienne Starks, Birmingham biological scientist, will serve on a committee that will award $40 million to help expand women’s power and influence in the United States by 2030.

The grant is dubbed the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge and opened on June 16.

Starks is founder of STREAM Innovations Inc, a nonprofit committed to helping students to develop and explore a passion for science, technology, reading, engineering arts and mathematics.

As a member of the evaluating committee, Starks will play an important role on who will be awarded the money.

“We [the committee] will be looking at all of the different proposals and the winner will be announced in 2021,” Starks said. “The top 10 will be selected and there will be a minimum of $10 million given to those proposals and then a final winner will be selected in the summer of 2021 with at least two grants of a minimum of $10 million,” she said.

Starks is in good company on the committee. Others are Stacey Abrams, former Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia; Erika Alexander, actress and Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Color Farm Media; Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE; and Kimberle Crenshaw, author and co-founder and Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum and a Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

Starks said she is honored to serve with women who believe that Equality Can’t Wait.

“I am equally honored to be able to review some of the amazing proposals people will be submitting and I’ll have an opportunity to peek into the work that is being proposed from across the country and read some of these big ideas,” she said. “I know this will change me for the better because it will help me to see some of the hope other people have around the country around being able to empower women.”

The grant is presented by Pivotal Ventures – an entity created by Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott and opened up on June 16.

“The purpose of it is to have women from across the country . . . provide proposals for solutions that are transformative, equitable, innovative and feasible,” Starks said. “The proposals have to demonstrate they have a measurable and rapid improvement in . . .  wages and wealth gap, unpaid care, leadership roles held by women or public perceptions of women’s power and influence.”

Starks’s work with STREAM Innovations in Birmingham has been nationally recognized.

“Someone reached out to me because of the work that we do . . . and also because I am a part of a larger network of women and that platform has allowed the work that I do . . . to be shared with a lot of different companies and campaigns across the country,” she said.

The challenge is important because it allows significant resources to be put behind women’s issues for empowerment that are often overlooked and underfunded, she said.

“Recently, the injustices with African Americans has been put into the spotlight based upon systemic racism and you couple that with COVID-19 and it really magnified structural inequities that hold back millions of women across the U.S.,” she said. “This allows there to be an additional sense of urgency for why equality can’t wait.”

The application deadline is September 22. For more information visit, www.equalitycantwaitchallenge.org.