The Rise of Women (in Philanthropy)

By Samantha Beinhacker, Managing Director, Arabella Advisors

Last March, in celebration of Women’s History Month, Arabella hosted a webinar panel on “Women and Philanthropy” to dig into the ways that women are making a difference as they increasingly control wealth in America and around the world. This topic has been very much on my mind with the launch of Hanna Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, which argues that at this moment in history, by many measures, women have significantly pulled ahead of men in virtually every arena of life, work and play. Key to this trend, suggests Rosin, is women’s ability to adapt, be collaborative and flexible—to be “plastic rather than cardboard.

Indeed, as our panel discussed, women take a more relational approach to philanthropy than their male counterparts, preferring to learn from one another and network within the community. Women are also becoming bolder and more strategic in their giving in large part due to the emergence of these opportunities to connect with and learn from their peers.

I’ve also observed this through my involvement in the Committee on Funders of Women and Girls at Philanthropy New York, the regional association of grantmakers in the Tri-State area. Over a working lunch in June, the committee explored ways that funders committed to women and girls could mobilize a network of learning and community. Last week, I followed up with the committee’s co-chair, Jacqueline Ebanks, Vice President of Programs at the New York Women’s Foundation. She unveiled the committee’s upcoming initiatives, including the development of a listserv which will allow donors to exchange information on what funders are supporting. This tool can identify opportunities for funders to co-invest in and/or support strong grantees that are cycling off other funders’ dockets. The committee members are ready for action, and I can imagine that some funders involved in the network may choose to partner with others on advocacy work and other activities.

Whether at Philanthropy New York or in the philanthropy world at large, we continue to see women operating in concentric circles, learning from one another and in community. I liked David Brooks’s op-ed commenting on Rosin’s book, and especially his conclusion: “If [Rosin’s] right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land.”

I can see women in philanthropy leading the way on this sojourn, and I’m enjoying being part of the journey.

This post originally appeared on Greater Good, the Arabella Advisors blog, on September 18, 2012 and is reprinted with permission.


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