Last week I attended the Women’s Philanthropy Institute conference in Chicago – sponsored and nurtured over the years by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. It is generally understood that women have long played an inordinate role in directing philanthropic decision making in their families. But it’s only in recent years – the last generation or so – that women not just direct or influence the giving; now they lead it! It’s not that men have stepped aside but rather that couples work as couples, equally and passionately. But even more important women now head up family foundations; and last week I was thrilled to see how several examples of mothers and daughters working together to advance their philanthropic interests.
Often times husbands and fathers are involved too. What caught me was that the many strong women I met at the conference had no need to keep men out, nor were they doing this work because the men didn’t care to. They’re doing it because they are passionate about philanthropy and the difference it makes in a hard world. Much is written about the economic inequality women still face: the 77 cents they earn against the dollar a man makes. Such disparity – by the way – is rife in the nonprofit world. So there is a job of work to do; no doubt about it. But it was bracing and inspiring to be a part of this meeting and the example they provided: all several hundred of them and the five or ten of us!