Olivarius’ commitment to women and girls drives her philanthropic practice as well as her legal career. She has supported the emerging movement of gender-based philanthropy through Women Moving Millions, of which she has been a member since 2012. Gender-lens philanthropy is based on the radical but simple insight that investing in women is not just the right thing to do, it gets powerful practical results.
Women Moving Millions (WMM) is an organization of women and men who have each committed $1 million or more to charities that advance women and girls. Its goal is to direct substantial levels of money to programs focused on improving opportunities for women and girls. According to research done by WMM, women currently control around $13.2 trillion in wealth in North America alone; if just 1.5% of this wealth was given away every year, it would exceed $200 billion.
“Gender Based Investing is about more than where we put our money. A lens allows us to see the world differently. Looking through a gender lens helps investors gain new perspectives, highlight poorly understood inequalities, uncover new opportunities, identify blockages in the system, and find value where none was found before.” -- Dr. Ann Olivarius
Olivarius is the Founder and Chair of the Rhodes Project, a British public charity that has led pathbreaking research on high-achieving women since 2004. The Rhodes Project chronicles Rhodes Scholars’ life paths and successes, sharing their stories through an in-depth profile series and amplifying their voices through an online platform.
Olivarius assisted President Nelson Mandela in his efforts to set up The Elders, an organization committed to good global governance composed of elder statesmen and women who had retired from elected office. Olivarius also advised Mandela on ways to abolish honor killings, child marriage, female genital cutting, human trafficking, and female illiteracy. In 2003, he introduced Olivarius to a meeting of Rhodes Scholars in Cape Town describing her as, “a lawyer who has advised me well and who has courageously advanced the cause of justice, and improved life opportunities, for hundreds of millions of women, blacks and disadvantaged, worldwide.” Olivarius also advised Mandela after the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda prosecuted Jean-Paul Akayesu, a mayor in Rwanda, for human rights crimes he committed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, which contributed to Mandela’s adding his voice to the idea that rape is a war crime.
In 2000, she successfully lobbied the Secretary of the Navy to change its enlistment rules, permitting non-US citizens to serve in the Navy so long as they are fluent in English and received education in the US. The “Mills Policy” – which allowed many hundreds of immigrants to serve in the US military and thereby gain American citizenship – was named after Olivarius’ client.
From 2008-2013, Olivarius was Trustee of Autistica, the UK’s leading autism research charity. While on the board, Olivarius was responsible for negotiating the establishment of a brain bank at Oxford, which became a crucial international research asset after Harvard’s brain bank was struck by power failures that caused the loss of more than half of its specimens. She has been a Trustee of GenerationNext!, a UK charity which seeks to utilize the energy and resources of young people to help alleviate the most common consequences of enduring poverty, and has made a significant contribution to the Kay Mason Foundation in South Africa. Olivarius was also on the board of openDemocracy UK and openDemocracy US, an international digital commons.