Why aren't proportionately more foundation dollars going to women and
Picture the 1975 Council on foundations meeting. Everywhere there were
men on panels and in plenaries. Women were in the audience, yet not one
plenary or session was dedicated to women's issues. It should have been
no surprise, that when our founder, Eleanor Peterson, posted a notice
"Lunch: For Women Only," it created a furor. Over 100 women frustrated
and angry, ignored and disregarded, turned out. Women were
philanthropy's "invisible members." Change was everywhere and
the philanthropic community would not be immune to the larger
demographic and environmental shifts.
A great deal has changed in philanthropy, since then, yet the inadequate
funding for women and girls continues, and so too the paucity of people
of color within the field.
Early in Women & Philanthropy's history, we recognized that the future
success of bringing, a gender lens to the table of philanthropy, would
depend heavily on changing the face of philanthropy at its highest
According to a survey of Council on Foundations members in 1997, women
constituted 33.6% of foundation board members. Although this figure
reflects a dramatic increase in the number of women occupying
decision-making seats in recent years, there remains clear gender
disparity at the board level. Furthermore, women of color
represent less than 5% of all foundation board members.
Ibid. Although women fill 49.9% of CEO positions in their foundations,
only 3.6% of CEOs are women of color Council on Foundations, Grantmaker
Salary Report, 1998.. There is ample room for improved leadership
opportunities for women in boardrooms and executive offices alike.
We acknowledge that gender disparity exists in other sectors or fields;
however, the lack of women leaders in philanthropy
may be due, in part, to the issues of control over money and family
governance endemic to the philanthropic community. Furthermore, the
overall lack of funding for programs that specifically address
women's and girls' issues impedes efforts to improve the lives of
women and girls in need. Offering education, training and skills
development for women is a necessary and innovative step toward
equitable leadership in philanthropy.
Ultimately, women leaders will be better prepared to make the case for
funding women and girls. Equitable funding for women and girls is a
critical factor in accomplishing the social change that philanthropy
seeks to influence.
Attention must be given to women's management skills, maximize
their personal and positional powers and develop qualified leaders.
We recognize the need, based on feedback from women in philanthropy,
to offer leadership development opportunities for women in the field.
Women are eager to lead but need strategies to advance a change agenda.
Women and Philanthropy
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