Women making history
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On wealth, equality and
By Donna P. Hall, MPH, MBA
[March 28, 2007]
It hasn't even been a century since American
women won the right to vote, so we are still working toward full
equality in many fields, including sports, employment, salaries and,
yes, personal wealth. In fact, it's been only a few decades since
the American woman was permitted a credit line of her own. As late
as 1973, a married woman in Texas could not acquire a credit card
without her husband's signature.
Despite the challenges women continue to face with regard to earning
power (women still earn 25 percent less than men), it is women who
control the household purse strings, decide most major purchases and
hold the most consumer debt. And with education, experience and
centuries of feminist prodding behind us, more women than ever
before have control of significant assets.
The late 20th century
saw a blizzard of new business startups, with women in 1990 starting
companies at three times the rate as men. At the same time, the
numbers of women entering college began to outpace male enrollments.
As women assume greater roles in the business economy, their role in
philanthropic enterprises has increased as well.
Of the 3.3 million Americans with annual incomes greater than
$550,000, women comprise 41.2 percent of the total, according to
Learning to Give.
In the coming years, women's new-found pull in the world of
charitable and philanthropic giving promises to shape the mission of
nonprofits in ways that male philanthropists never tried. As we
celebrate Women's History Month, more women than ever see
philanthropy as the means for making history today -- to leverage
the work of today's groundbreaking women as they stand with the
suffragists, abolitionists and liberationists of the past.
In a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service,
women were found to be more likely to donate their time to nonprofit
organizations than are men. That fact is similar to the findings by
University of Pittsburgh's Lise Vesterlund that women appear to be
more personally invested than their male counterparts in the work
done by the organizations to which they give.
Today I am privileged to be part of a philanthropic landscape
that includes a group of more than 160 wealthy women, all determined
to make social and environmental change, who are leveraging our
giving by pooling our resources, collectively making grants and
gifts to nonprofits whose goals comport with ours. As members (some
anonymous) of the Women Donors Network, my colleagues and I
contributed, collectively and individually, more than $120 million
last year in pursuit of a social agenda for America that is very
different from the one most of us grew up with.
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We're seeking out creative ideas to help make the U.S. a better
place for all people. Women donors are supporting ways to reduce
unintended pregnancy, promote healthy families, provide quality
education and preserve our natural resources. We care about
sustainable agriculture and food policy; we worry about the rise of
regressive social and political forces and seek to bring women's
voices to the fore in our national debates.
The women donors I know wrestle with difficult questions and look
for new ways to create social change: What does the Middle East
conundrum mean to a woman funder who is committed to peace? How can
we help change the way disaster relief should work after what we
learned about Hurricane Katrina?
For each of these questions, philanthropists, through the Women
Donors Network, have funded initiatives designed to offer answers.
As women philanthropists increasingly take their concerns and
resources into the marketplace of ideas, they make their mark on the
Women who give are putting our money where our rhetoric is. We
have an agenda. We have a vision of meaningful social change for
America, and we're working to make it real.
[Text from file received from the
Hall is the president and chief executive officer of the
Women Donors Network,
based in Menlo Park, Calif.
Copyright 2007 by the
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