Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation Ana Oliveira. This interview was completed in late 2020.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
From the time I began my journey at the New York Women’s Foundation to now, I’ve learned the challenges you can face in philanthropy when being most responsive to transformation and justice. I came to The Foundation because it is an inclusive place with a commitment to equity and justice, with an emphasis on centering the needs of our grantee partners and the communities they serve. Those elements have allowed me to fundamentally understand how to carry out our philanthropy with transparency, respect and partnership.
“We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does,” said Beyoncé in her pre-recorded acceptance speech for the 2020 BET Awards. The performer and philanthropist is 2020’s recipient of the Humanitarian Award, bestowed for her work through the BeyGOOD Initiative and other campaigns.
“Thank you so much for this beautiful honor,” she said. “I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there inspiring me, marching and fighting for change. Your voices are being heard and you’re proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain.”
The Tory Burch Foundation, a nonprofit organization empowering women, is bringing together leaders, activists, and performers for an event billed as The Summit: Challenging Stereotypes and Creating New Norms. The Embrace Ambition Summit (#EmbraceAmbition) will be held on March 5 in New York at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.
Speakers will include:
Tory Burch – Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Tory Burch LLC, an American lifestyle brand, and Founder of the Tory Burch Foundation;
Yola – Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and musician from Bristol, England;
Ashley Judd – Author, actor, leader of the #MeToo movement and founding member of Time’s Up;
Tina Tchen – President & CEO of Time’s Up, and formerly executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls;
Sylvia Earle – Founder of the marine environmental organization Mission Blue;
Claudette Colvin – One of two survivors of the Browder v. Gayle U.S. Supreme Court Case that ended bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama;
Diane von Furstenberg – Fashion designer, philanthropist and Founder and Chair of her eponymous company;
Mellody Hobson – Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments;
Deja Foxx – Founder of @GenZGirlGang, an online community of womxn; and
Anne Finucane – Vice-Chair at Bank of America, and Board Chair of B of A’s European Bank.
The Tory Burch Foundation-convened Summit will include stories and conversations featuring female leaders from Hollywood, business, science, entrepreneurship and youth movements who will tackle “challenging stereotypes and creating new norms.” The all-day summit will include performances, including short stories, spoken word, and music.
Attendees will be able to connect with women-owned businesses at the entrepreneur marketplace, visit the Tory Burch Foundation pop-up shop, and network with other attendees. Applications to attend have closed, but anyone can sign up for the free live stream of the event.
The global reproductive rights community is reeling with the tragic and untimely murder of Jennifer Schlecht on November 6, 2019. A devoted and dedicated friend to women and girls everywhere, Schlecht had spent her entire career fostering family planning efforts for women across the globe. In recent years, she directed special attention to the need to provide family planning services for women drawn into humanitarian crises.
In April of 2018, Jennifer Schlecht took a new position as Senior Advisor on Emergency Preparedness and Response at Family Planning 2020. For Family Planning 2020, housed under the umbrella of United Nations Foundation’s activities, Schlecht collaborated with CARE on these issues as well as the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis.
A recent announcement of a gift from Dalio
Philanthropies to Connecticut’s public schools brings Barbara Dalio’s work in
education into the spotlight. She’s a hands-on philanthropist and the wife of
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the most successful hedge
funds in the U.S. The wealth of these Giving Pledge signatories is estimated at
more than $18 billion.
As part of a public-private partnership to
support disengaged youth in public schools, the Dalios and the state government
of Connecticut will each give $100 million toward a new $300 million project.
They call on other philanthropists and business leaders to contribute the
remaining third during the next five years. The Dalio’s gift is the largest
known philanthropic donation to benefit the state of Connecticut to date.
Giving circles bring people together to
practice collective philanthropy. In the same spirit, representatives of giving
circles and giving circle networks across the U.S. are now convening to build
power. In April 2019, 82 members of dozens of giving circles in the U.S. met
for two days in Seattle, Washington, to share stories, hopes and plans for
building a stronger giving circle movement. Women are playing a leading role in
Giving Circles Grow and Set Goals
Giving circles allow friends, neighbors, families and people with
religious, civil, cultural and other connections to learn about issues of
shared concern and decide where to donate their money. They are usually
created by women and/or members of ethnic minority, LGBTQ or other marginalized groups — those who
typically hold a lesser share of power and money in the U.S. — though many
open their doors to anyone with common values. Women make up most of their
Starting with a joke about who would be the word hog between the couple, Stephen Colbert recently interviewed Bill and Melinda Gates. The couple talked about their philanthropy in the context of larger political issues such as growing inequality, and shared some of their “surprises” — the theme of their annual letter this year.
Colbert remarked that Bill Gates used to be the richest man in the world, but has now fallen into the number two spot for the world’s most wealthy person. “Well, we’re trying to give it away faster,” said Bill.
“There’s a lot of talk that billionaires shouldn’t exist,” said Colbert, suggesting that too much money accumulating at the top is a failure of capitalism.
“We might be biased,” said Bill with a chuckle. “I think you can make the tax system take a much higher proportion from people with wealth.”
“70%?” asked Colbert.
Bill Gates talked about how tax rates on the rich should be higher, but, “I think that if you go so far as to say that there is a total upper limit,” that could be problematic for the economy. Colbert then asked what the Gateses have observed as they travel the world and visit other countries with higher tax rates on the wealthy. “How is that going for them?” asked Colbert.
“Not necessarily that well,” said Melinda Gates. “There’ll be many times we’re in France, and you’ll hear, ‘Gosh, we wish we could have a Bill Gates. We wish we could have such a vibrant tech sector,'” but Melinda Gates cautioned that some tax systems dampen growth. In France, Melinda Gates said, “the tax system has been done there in such a way that it doesn’t actually stimulate good growth. So we believe in a tax system that does tax the wealthy more than low income people, for sure,” said Melinda.
“More than presently is being taxed?” asked Colbert.
“Yes,” Melinda said.
“We’ve been lobbying in favor of increasing the estate tax,” Bill broke in, and then went on about how the estate tax used to be higher and could be made higher again to garner more taxes from the rich.
“We do believe that to whom much is given, much is expected,” added Melinda Gates.
Here, Melinda Gates began connecting the narrative to women, and how women’s control of money can be catalytic to global change. Melinda Gates sees philanthropy’s support of women’s empowerment as just the beginning, saying “Philanthropy can never make up for taxes, but it is that catalytic edge,” where experimenting and model-testing can be done before government gets involved to bring health or education initiatives to full scale.
Melinda Gates then talked about one of her big surprises for 2019:
“That cell phone has so much power in the hands of a poor woman. […] When she has a digital bank account — they’re not welcomed at the bank, they don’t have the money to get on the bus to get there, and if they do, they might get robbed — but when she can save one or two dollars a day on her cell phone, she spends it on behalf of her family, on the health and education of her kids, and she also starts to see herself differently, she sees herself as a working woman, and she’ll tell you, her husband sees her differently, if she’s in India, her mother-in-law sees her differently. Her older son sees her differently when she buys him a bike. So it’s not the only tool, but it’s one of the tools that will help empower women.”
There is a lot packed into that short message, but it helps elucidate how Melinda Gates sees the role of women in the global economy, and where she is focusing for hope — on financial empowerment, and on women using technology to come out of isolation and into community, so they are no longer controlled by repressive gender norms.
On the question of whether billionaires like Howard Schultz should run for President, Bill Gates spoke for the couple and said that, “We work with politicians but neither of us will choose to run for office.” Colbert then presented the couple with honorary t-shirts saying: GATES 2020: Not an Option.
All of this mainstream media discussion of women’s empowerment is good news for feminist philanthropy. As more progressive women donors get in front of the cameras, they are feeding a healthy trend of growing awareness about the value of women’s leadership.
Wow, what a read. I had to keep stopping at points to walk around the block and get my core energetics realigned. Jacki Zehner literally pours her heart out in this stunning blog post where she shares about her experiences rising to the C-Suite at Goldman Sachs, as well as her intense love for gender equality philanthropy, which has been expressed in over a decade of devotion to growing one of the most important organizations in gender equality philanthropy, Women Moving Millions.
Zehner starts by letting readers know that this writing is more or less automatic — that is, she is going for a Jacki Unfiltered here. What we learn by reading this piece is that Zehner is a complex leader with significant life experiences that inform her activism for women’s rights.
Ever-considerate of others, Jacki warns us that 14 pages have emerged from this attempt to shine a spotlight on her thinking and feeling life. She then goes on to enter into some of the most exciting (and sometimes painful) thoughts and memories. As just an example, check this out:
If there was such a thing as a ‘finance professional Olympics’, becoming a partner at Goldman, especially as a young woman, would represent a gold medal. Of course, I know that there may be someone who reads this and posts in the comments section something along the lines of “die you wall street whore” as they have in the past when I blog freely about Goldman, but so be it. To that potential person I say in advance, “I hope that has helped you feel better about yourself.” […]
Beyond unflinching glimpses like these into Zehner’s mind, the post also delves into many significant life events, including some serious traumas. Her writing is the kind of material that future (or present) movie-makers will want to read in order to gather key scene details for the inevitable biopic of Zehner’s life. For example, here is just one in a bulleted list breaking down the timeline of Zehner’s progression:
Finding Women Moving Millions – 2002 to 2009. As the years from 2002 onward moved forward, I was spending more and more time with philanthropic groups focused on girls and women, and in particular women’s funds. My interest in supporting women’s leadership poured in to my work with various non-profits, and one of the main reasons I loved Women’s Funds so much. I had joined the board of the Women’s Funding Network, and it was there that I got to the know the incredible Chris Grumm. She became, and still is, a role model for me for courageous leadership. She is the one who invited me to consider joining the Women Moving Millions Campaign, as she was a co-founder of it. WMM at the time was a campaign to encourage women to make million dollar commitments to women’s funds. Again, holy shit, I could go on and on and on right here, but I won’t. The need to know piece for the rest of this story is that this moment was transformational for me. Why? Because the act of making that commitment, the moment of stepping onto a stage at the Brooklyn Museum to have a group photo taken by Annie Leibowitz to mark that moment in history where for the first time women of means came together to fund women at the million dollar level, helped me to see clearly what the next stage of my life would be about: helping to unlock the resources of high-net worth women to support other women, and more broadly, gender equality. […]
It’s quite wonderful that Zehner has the clarity to speak about these experiences and mark how these transformations happened for her. By doing so, she is increasing the chances manyfold that other women will get up their courage to do the same.
One other sentence toward the end really popped out at me for how it evoked the shared effort that Women Moving Millions summits are, and how this results in shared experiences that can refuel our courage and make us more powerful. Zehner writes:
The WMM summit 2018 could not have been more incredible from start to finish. (My next long post will be about it all.) I am in awe of how beautiful the program was (thank you JESS), how perfectly it was executed (the WMM and TES team), how open people were (thank you attendees), how much people shared (thank you speakers), and how everyone trusted that we, WMM, had created a safe place for everyone to be their most vulnerable and by definition, their most powerful.
I don’t want to overshare or overanalyze here. I just want to thank Jacki Zehner (as I have privately and will now publicly) for her brave years of service to the community through Women Moving Millions. And then point everyone to Jacki’s blog to read the post and let it open your heart and mind.
Both the Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions are in Seattle today, meeting with their members. The Women Moving Millions event is co-hosted by the Gates Foundation, and both groups will be meeting up to discuss their work in the evening at the Gates Foundation.
One might wonder if this is an indicator of the increasing involvement of the Gates Foundation in gender equality philanthropy. And, in fact, the evening will close with a cocktail hour for the Women’s Funding Network hosted by Women Moving Millions at the Gates Foundation, so there will be some time for the three networks to compare notes.
The focus of the Women’s Funding Network meeting is Women+Power. The program includes an overview of the day from Tuti Scott, Founder and President of Imagine Philanthropy, and includes panels on diversity, equality, and inclusion, as well as an evening cocktail reception hosted by Women Moving Millions at The Atrium, at the Gates Foundation. Teresa Younger, CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, will also be presenting on a panel with Melanie Brown, Senior Program Officer for U.S. Policy and Advocacy, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Cat Martin, Vice President of Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. The full program is here.
At the same time that all this was going on, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, announced the formation of the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, which will aim to increase gender diversity in STEM occupations. In response to a survey produced by Pivotal Ventures, showing the poor representation of women, particularly women of color in STEM, a coalition of companies will now devote $12 million in funding to address the problem. More on that here.
We at Philanthropy Women look forward to learning what these two powerful women’s funding networks come away with from these Seattle meetings. We’re hopeful that more of the Gates Foundation’s resources can be redirected to gender equality causes, since there is a strong need for this kind of movement-building. If a more substantial amount of philanthropy focused on feminist strategies, movements for justice, inclusion, and systems change would have more fuel than ever, and we might start to see how women’s leadership can guide us toward a more sustainable planet.
A new volume for feminism history buffs has arrived on the shelves — and it’s a biggee. And while based in history, the book reflects the current zeitgeist of the women’s movement, which is continuing to grow and become more intersectional. Roxane Gay, who gives the forward to the book, credits Kimberlé Crenshaw (one of our top posts is an interview with Crenshaw exploring her work to fund women and girls of color) with helping keep feminism “alive and well” and advance the movement in recognizing the complexity of identity in modern culture.
The book starts out at The Oxford Conference, where author D-M Withers, a museum curator and respected proponent of women’s cultural history, makes the argument that this was one of the notable beginning points to modern feminist organizing. The conference was meant to be on women’s history, but discussions at the conference ranged into home and family, capitalism, and psychology. Toward the end of the conference, Selma James, an activist since the 50’s, talked about feminism within the context of the anti-imperialist struggle, and recognized that “women [were] just a sector within that.” Hence, some of the roots of intersectionalism can be traced back to the Oxford Conference. As a point of interest, men ran the childcare at the Oxford conference to enable women to participate more fully — an excellent way for them to serve as allies to the early movement.
The book discusses in detail pivotal historical events like the Vietnam War, and provides tons of pictures from the early era — giving the reader a visceral sense of the way early feminists used media to present their ideas to the public. For a feminist like me whose mother subscribed to Ms. and who remembers seeing the Battered Wives edition of Ms. with the woman’s bruised face, the book is also an interesting walk down memory lane, helping me to recall how that image broke through the silence about violence against women.
The Feminist Revolution comes right up to modern times, with pictures from the 2017 women’s march ending the book. “In an era of rising right-wing nationalism, militarism, capitalist intensification, and border violence, the resources provided by feminist activism and thought are invaluable and more necessary than ever,” says the final chapter, Liberation Without Limitation.
Now that the Women’s Marches are bringing the struggle for gender equality back to the streets, The Feminist Revolution is making a timely debut. With more than 200 color illustrations as well as essays and oral histories, the book is a creative and diverse new resource for the feminist community.