Empowering Women from All Generations 

By Aviva Dove-Viebahn Ph.D.   |   May 20, 2024
Chairman, President, and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation Wallis Annenberg with Debbie Allen and Shonda Rhimes at the grand opening of the Shonda Rhimes Performing Arts Center, which includes the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Wallis Annenberg proudly supports the Dance Academy, which seeks to enrich disenfranchised Black and Latino communities through dance, theater, and the performing arts.

One of the largest and most impactful private foundations in the United States, the Annenberg Foundation, has led the charge for forward-thinking, expansive, and conscientious giving since its founding in 1989. A family foundation helmed by Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO Wallis Annenberg since 2009, the Foundation is committed to addressing the critical issues of our time including access to the arts and healthcare, food insecurity, education, animal welfare, diversity and inclusion, aging and longevity, and affordable housing. And they focus on all of these areas with an equity lens.

The Foundation also works to empower leaders, especially women, as a particular focus of its giving and community partnerships. “I was a woman in the working world long before the women’s movement really took hold,” says Annenberg, “so the gender gaps and discrimination we still see all around us – not to mention the true subjugation of women around the world – are very personal to me.”

The Annenberg Foundation foregrounds community development through direct charitable activities – providing funding to tackle pressing social challenges, sometimes through bricks and mortar and often through strengthening partnerships between organizations.

“Wallis Annenberg is a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable among us and sadly, women and girls are frequently at the top of that list,” says Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation. “Time and time again, Wallis has created possibilities for people who don’t have the access or the resources to pursue their dreams or even feed their families.”

Investing in Communities for Women, Girls, and All of Us

In the last 15 years alone, the Foundation has supported over 2,700 organizations, and offering only a handful of examples illuminates the tremendous impact and impressive scope of the Foundation’s giving centered on women and girls.

The Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles is the only organization in the city dedicated exclusively to women experiencing homelessness, helping them with housing, food, and medical care. In 2007, the Foundation donated the necessary funds to renovate an historic building so the Center could have a new home; the Foundation’s $6.3 million in support has allowed the Center to continue helping thousands of women get the care and assistance they need. The Foundation also contributes to advancements in women’s healthcare through millions of dollars in donations to the Women’s Lung Cancer Initiative, the Gynecologic Oncology specialty, and the Women’s Guild Simulation Center for Advanced Clinical Skills at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. And, through Volunteers of America Los Angeles, the Foundation helps sustain Blue Butterfly Village, a veterans’ housing complex for women in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles.

As a one-time journalist, Annenberg understands the abiding necessity for women’s voices at the table and in the field, helping determine who tells the stories, how they are told, and whose stories are reported in the first place. Honoring the importance of inclusive journalism, the Foundation supports the International Women’s Media Foundation, the only global organization to serve women and nonbinary journalists in holistic and multifaceted ways – through awards, reporting opportunities, fellowships, grants, safety training, and emergency aid.

The Annenberg Foundation also believes strongly in the power of the arts. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts brings world-class performances to the community. And over $10.9 million in grants given to the Debbie Allen Dance Academy has expanded the reach of dance and theater for youth. Wallis funded the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative led by Dr. Stacy Smith – the leading think tank devoted to studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment and offering simple actions to facilitate change. The Initiative has conducted groundbreaking research pointing to the lack of female leadership roles and financial support in TV, Film and Music.

Championing Innovative Female Leadership

Direct grants are only one way Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation supports women and girls. It turns out that one of the best means of enacting change is to empower inspirational people – through resources, support, funding, advocacy, and employment. The Annenberg Foundation’s partnership with Grameen America, a microfinance nonprofit organization, serves thousands of inspirational women entrepreneurs.

“We invest in innovators, rule-breakers, people who are creating brand new models for change,” says Annenberg. “That way, their example can be copied and leveraged, creating change on a scale that no philanthropist could ever afford.”

Through its revolutionary AnnenbergTech and PledgeLA programs, the Foundation supports women in venture capital through grants, training, and job placement. PledgeLA’s goal is that “50% of all LA venture capital dollars will go to companies led by women, Black, and Latinx founders by 2028.” And the Annenberg Alchemy program trains and provides grants to women who lead Los Angeles-based nonprofits, many of which, in turn, champion the needs of women and girls.

“It starts with a deep connection to the cause. I have to give from my heart, first and foremost,” says Annenberg. “Which is why I’ve been focused on issues like women’s empowerment, engaging people in the visual and performing arts, strengthening the human-animal bond. Things that really matter to me.”

A passion for advocacy, a drive to inspire, and a vision to partner with leaders and innovators have paved the way for the Annenberg Foundation’s philanthropic giving and its matchless dedication to empowering women and girls. 


The Annenberg Foundation

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(310) 209-4560
Executive Director: Cinny Kennard


The Annenberg Foundation is a philanthropic foundation dedicated to addressing the critical issues of our time through innovation, community, compassion, and communication since 1989.

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