Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Executive Director of 100Kin10, an initiative that aims to train 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in U.S. classrooms by 2021.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I wish I had understood why it’s important to sweat the small stuff. Sweating the small stuff really matters. It means you care, it differentiates you, and it helps you learn about what you’re doing and how to get it done. I double-checked links, proof-read press releases and went over agendas minute-by-minute. But what I’ve learned, with perspective, is that the small stuff itself really is small. It only matters because, in total, it signals something bigger: that you care, that you’ve made the project your own, that you’re committed to excellence. It means you can be trusted to get your stuff done and get it done right. This doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. You can, and you will. And, that’s just fine. Because it’s about the trendline, and you’ve proven yourself someone who can be trusted. Realizing this makes it easier to see the big picture and experience joy in the work, too.
Institutions of higher learning are major recipients of philanthropic gifts, and received donations totaling nearly $47 billion in 2018 (a more than seven percent increase from the year previous). This rise is fueled in part by an increasingly wealthy, educated and philanthropically active group of women who are willing to make big ticket donations to colleges and universities.
Major female donors to higher education have included Roberta “Bertie” Buffett Elliott, who in 2015 gave her alma mater Northwestern University $100 million to fund the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies. The gift from Elliott, a member of Northwestern’s class of 1954, represents the single largest gift in the Evanston, Illinois school’s history.
Divorce is often a difficult process, and it disproportionately leaves women struggling with financial challenges. As we covered in regard to MacKenzie Bezos’ settlement, after a divorce, men’s standard of living generally rises by about 33%, while women’s drops by about 20%. Other studies have shown that women’s income after divorce drops by an average of 41%. These stats outline the divorce gap, one of many overlapping economic gaps women continue to face, including the wage, debt, unpaid labor, funding, investing and “pink tax” (consumer pricing) gap.
The Divorce Gap
There are many reasons women can find themselves struggling after a divorce; some stop working to raise kids during marriage and then find it difficult to re-enter the workforce and earn adequately. Others take on full-time caregiving for the first time after a divorce, which can conflict with their career paths and keep them from making enough to support their families. Some women haven’t chosen or been able to invest independently for the future and find themselves without a safety net or backup plan. The other financial gaps all come into play. Women are generally paid less, have more debt, receive less funding, invest less and are charged more for products designed for them. And the unpaid labor gap is significant here; women often take on care giving, housekeeping and other crucial contributions to families and societies that are uncompensated.
The final lineup of WFN’s conference Leadership for a Changing World felt like a fireworks finale of feminist brilliance across philanthropy, art, business, and politics. Let’s take a look at these amazing blasts of thought and strategy leadership one at a time.
Whose Story Is It?
Cristi Hegranes, CEO of Global Press and the Publisher of Global Press Journal, and Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, discussed how having more women creating and distributing media can have a significant influence on how we interact with, interpret, and change the world.
One of the best ways to leverage support for a community is by celebrating its culture. Angélique Kidjo and the Batonga Foundation seek to amplify their campaign for women and girls in West Africa through a one-of-a-kind benefit dinner hosted later this month in New York City.
Kidjo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, was born in Benin and grew up steeped in the rich musical and social culture of West Africa. She attended school at a time when girls’ education was not considered socially acceptable. In answer to taunts from boys in her classes, Kidjo would shout back, “Batonga!,” an invented word that has since translated into Kidjo’s music and philanthropy.
Rachel’s Network is a prime example of how women donors in particular use networks to enhance their strategy and address multiple levels of culture with their work, from environmental concerns to helping underserved populations. By championing funding initiatives that pair environmentalism and gender equality and acknowledging the intersection between them, Rachel’s Network has become “one of the most significant funding networks in the ecofeminist space,” as Philanthropy Women has previously reported.
The organization, which has donated about $2 million to relevant causes, is best known for looking at the “other side” of commonly-discussed issues like climate change and environmental preservation, noting how certain marginalized groups often go overlooked by media coverage and funding efforts alike.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I wish I’d had a feminist consciousness. Instead, I just accepted the status quo when I embarked on my first profession, as a social scientist at an offshoot of the Rand Corporation, and then, after I returned to law school, as an attorney at a Beverly Hills law firm. I had internalized the cultural devaluation of women – so much so, that when the law firm’s senior partner praised me about how I handled a case, telling me, “You don’t think like a woman,” I thought it was a compliment! That was in the late 1960s, before I woke up, as if from a long drugged sleep, and used my legal training to end women’s subordination, including, through the LA Women’s Center Legal Program, which I founded, writing a brief to the US Supreme Court making the then radical argument that legal equality for women should be protected under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Since then, empowering women has been central to my professional work as a researcher, writer, speaker and organizer.
You know it’s a good day when you get an email from NonProfit Pro Editor-in-Chief Nhu Te asking you for an interview.
In her article, entitled The Rise of Women in Philanthropy, Te combines the voices of seven different women leaders, creating an interesting effect.
The story looks at how women approach giving differently, and how their visibility and hands-on tactics set them apart as a gender.
Allison Fine, who has authored pieces here at Philanthropy Women and is the founder and CEO of Network of Elected Women, discussed some of the ways women’s giving is becoming less shaped by men. We team up nicely here with these quotes:
On August 20, 2019, an initiative to connect and catalyst the field of giving circles announced their intention to donate $32,000 to collective giving organizations. The funds, distributed in thirteen microgrants ranging from $500 to $5,000, will go toward circles and networks that “showcase, scale, strengthen, and sustain the field of collective giving.
This initiative is born out of a yearlong co-design process spearheaded by the organizations Amplifier, Asian Women’s Giving Circle, Catalist, Community Investment Network, and Latino Community Foundation.
New research supported by Paypal points to the fact that women give more to charity while earning 19% less than men, and as they age, women become more generous.
Since Paypal processes the payments for more than a half million charities, it has decided to release its first-ever annual insights on where, why, and how people are donating their money online. PayPal’s 2018 Global Impact Report found that in 2018, 55.1 million people from over 200 markets contributed $9.6 billion to more than 665,000 charitable organizations via PayPal.
Top Giving Trends
There is a lot to unpack in this research, but overall, an important finding of the study is that those who have less give more. The study found that “Donors in the low-income bracket ($0-$49,999K) give the highest percentage of their income to charities (0.63%) over any other income bracket.” Those with higher income levels ($125k+), only give 0.14% of their income on average.