Buffett foundation to focus on helping young girls of color

Nati Harnik
Musician Peter Buffett is seen in Omaha, Neb. A foundation run by the youngest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett plans to spend $90 million to improve the lives of young women of color. (Associated Press)

A foundation run by the youngest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett plans to spend $90 million to improve the lives of young women of color.

The NoVo Foundation, created in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, the youngest son of Warren Buffett, plans to announce the multimillion investment on Wednesday. The foundation says this will be the largest single investment dedicated solely to addressing inequities faced by young female minorities in the United States.

The foundation will canvas the nation, talking to girls and their advocates to solicit ideas from them on how best to invest the money. The official funding process won’t begin until early 2017, the Buffetts said.

“Our goal is to create the conditions for change by advancing the work of the real experts in this movement: girls and young women of color and the advocates working with them,” Peter Buffett said.

The investment is the latest public acknowledgment that adolescent female minorities need as much assistance as boys. One of President Barack Obama’s signature achievements is the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, a public-private effort started by the White House to help younger generations of blacks and other minorities stay on the right path.

But many have noted that girls need just as much help. The White House acknowledged the gap in resources in 2014 with its creation of a new working group as an offshoot of the White House Council on Women and Girls chaired by a senior adviser to Obama, Valerie Jarrett.

Girls and young women of color “need mentorships, they need summer job opportunities, they need somebody to believe in them because a lot of them grew up with nobody to believe in them,” Jarrett told the Black Women’s Roundtable last week.

Even before the White House got involved, other groups around the country were working specifically on improving the lives of girls of color, including through programs like Black Girls Rock! Inc. and The Latina A.R.M.Y., Inc.

“The brilliant leadership of women of color activists all over this country has created a national movement to address these disparities, and philanthropy can and must do its part to respond and to support this movement,” said Pamela Shifman, executive director of the NoVo Foundation. “This is a breakthrough moment for girls and women of color, and we want to help ensure that it translates into lasting and meaningful change.”

Advocates for black women and girls have been using the term “Black Girl Magic” and the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic as a way of celebrating the achievements of black women and girls in American society, and to help bring attention to the needs of young women and girls of color.

NoVo staff will hold meetings in the South, Southeast and Midwest with young women, advocates and activists, as well as in New York City, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and other cities where it already has ongoing partnership before deciding where to put its money.

Among the issues affecting young female minorities in particular are education, poverty and pregnancy. The teen pregnancy rate for Hispanic and black girls is more than twice as high, and American Indian/Alaska native girls is nearly twice as high as that for white girls, despite double-digit drops in pregnancy rates since 1990.

Also, black girls are 14.6 percent less likely to graduate from high school than white girls, while Hispanic girls are 12.8 percent less likely and American Indian/Alaska native girls are 16 percent less likely.

About 40 percent of Native American girls, 39 percent of black girls and 30 percent of Hispanic girls live in poverty, compared with 20 percent of all girls.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email