Wealthy Women Engage in 'Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves' Philanthropy to Support Women, Girls

Over the past decade, wealthy women from around the globe have not only become more involved in philanthropy, they have also boosted their support of causes run by and for women, the New York Times reports.

For example, Annie Lennox, lead singer for the 1980s group the Eurythmics, has been active in the nonprofit space for years, and five years ago helped launch the Circle, a network of sixteen influential women interested in global causes; today, the group has a hundred and fifty women members who together have raised more than $1.72 million in support of women worldwide. A spokeswoman for international human rights organization Oxfam since 2007, Lennox told the Times that it was during a 2003 trip to South Africa to meet then-president Nelson Mandela that she decided to begin using her star power to bring about social change. "I don't come from a wealthy background. We were working-class," said Lennox, who grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. "But seeing chronic generational poverty in Africa is something else. Your reference points shift."

While the network has been criticized by some as trendy or, worse, opportunistic, Lennox said it actually has helped to create an ambitious kind of "roll-up-your-sleeves feminism."

Indeed, despite being outranked by men on Forbes's list of the world's biggest givers, a 2010 report from Indiana University's Women's Philanthropy Institute found that women are more likely to give — and give more — than men. At the same time, the number of women-run campaigns and foundations supporting women-related issues and causes has grown from thirty-two in 1985 to nearly one hundred and seventy in twenty-seven countries today, according to Women Moving Millions, a community of women donors who have pledged at least $1 million in support of efforts aimed at improving the lives of women and girls around the globe.

"[G]ender equality has moved from the margin to the center of the political debate — it's no longer considered strange to invest in women and girls," said the organization's chief executive, Jacki Zehner. "It's considered smart and actually kind of cool."

Katrin Bennhold. "Wealthy Women Blurring the Line Between Donors and Activists." New York Times 06/28/2012.