The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.” —Warren Bennis.
Word of the week is TRANSFORM.
As in the women who transformed Rwanda.
As in women transforming lives and communities through philanthropy.
As is in a transformational confrontation with one’s power demons.
Ever have one of those weeks when you have to, as I used to hear people say when I was growing up in Texas, holler “calf rope?” Well, I just hollered, and that’s why “The Sum” is coming your way on Monday instead of last Friday.
No Excuses to coin a phrase, but I did have reasons, such as my sister’s challenges as she recovers from a kidney transplant and preparing for the launch of the 50 Women Can Change the World program for emerging women nonprofit leaders in Arizona.
Summer slid imperceptibly into a vertiginous array of fall events. Save the date of November 14—exciting details coming soon about the first ever Take The Lead Day—it will be epic and transformational and I imagine my team and I will all holler “calf rope” by the time it’s done.
Swanee Hunt sings the Mother Goose ditty, “The king was in the counting house counting out his money; the queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey,” to describe the gendered roles about money she learned at the knee of her Texas oil magnate father. Her sister, Helen LaKelly Hunt, talks about how her father brought her husband into his business because in the 1950’s it never occurred to him to hire his daughters.
How they went from that beginning to seed and lead the Women Moving Millions campaign which has thus far raised $176 million in $1 million+ gifts for women’s funds and organizations across the country reflects a journey often taken by women of wealth who want to use their money for worthy purposes. Indeed, while well-heeled men often go into politics or start businesses, women are more likely to start social movements or fund charities.
Moving Millions is a new twist on this common theme. “We’re not funding charity,” declares Chris Grumm, president of the Women’s Funding Network, the funding collaborative that has provided the structure through which the Women Moving Millions funds have been raised and distributed, “We’re funding change.” She says that networks and collaboration represent the ways women work, including how they feel most comfortable doing philanthropy.
Grumm points out that many of the organizations that receive these funds are advocacy organizations or do both service and advocacy.
Helen Hunt adds, “We see ourselves transforming gender roles as we’re transforming the amount of money going to women and girls. We’re funding women’s voice in society. Women are the strategic way to fund in the future.”
But empowering women through nonprofit organizations isn’t the only way women to day are leading strategically with their purses.
Philanthropy to Business Michelle Robson is one philanthropist and community leader who turned businesswoman to solve a systemic problem that affected her personally. Robson, who lives in Phoenix AZ, suffered in silence with a variety of severe health problems for over a year after a hysterectomy, yet found that despite her more than ample resources she couldn’t get the information and proper care that she needed. A big part of the problem was that she felt helpless within the medical system and had to learn for herself how to question medical professionals, find sources of accurate and complete information, evaluate alternatives for her unique circumstance, and advocate for her own needs. Her experience fueled a passion for making sure other women can get unbiased information about health; she put her purse where her principles are to the tune of investing $8 million to start up the women’ s health information website EmpowHer.com. She’s put together a team of leading medical experts along with media and technology experts to help her expand her vision of “improving women’s health one woman at a time.”
Nor has Robson been reluctant to take on the powerful to make sure women’s health isn’t subject to censorship. During National Women’s Health Week last week, she withdrew her funding and sponsorship from the Women’s Health Expo & Conference being organized by the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families after Governor Jan Brewer exclude the preventive health information provided by Planned Parenthood Arizona and condom information and distribution by a county health department HIV/AIDS program. “Women’s health shouldn’t be a political football,” she says.
Business to Philanthropy
Thanks to advances women have made in the last four decades, younger women like Jacki Zehner have made it in the formerly boys-only world of finance. She was the youngest woman, and first female trader, to be invited into the partnership of Goldman Sachs. After leaving the firm in 2002, she became a Founding Partner of Circle Financial Group, a private wealth management operation. Zehner is now a frequent media commentator on women’s leadership and success in the workplace, and their relationship to wealth, investing, and social change. She’s a venture capital investor in women-owned startup firms through the angel investor group Golden Seeds. Her Purse Pundit Blog shares her knowledge and her enthusiasm for both the business and philanthropic worlds and is a contributor the Women Moving Millions campaign.
All these women exemplify leadership through the power of their purses and why so many women feel the urgency of women’s economic power to achieving full equality not just for themselves but also to rebalance the economy and the culture as a whole.
As Helen Hunt observed at a Women Moving Millions briefing for media recently, “Something isn’t working in the world.” To which her sister responded in that sweet-tart Texas voice, “That’s because it wasn’t Lehmann Sisters. But a new form is arising.”