The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) has awarded its first round of “Social Media and Democracy Research Grants.” The 12 projects provide “systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.” The SSRC is an independent, international nonprofit led by Alondra Nelson, a Columbia University Professor of Sociology and inaugural Dean of Social Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Facebook data will be used by researchers to better understand the role of social media on politics and society, notably the spread of disinformation and fake news, and how social media users attach themselves to particular online narratives. Several of the projects analyze how social media has affected particular political events, including recent elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany, as well as public opinion in Taiwan. The projects also examine the relationship between Facebook and traditional news media, and delve into the complex question of what constitutes “fake news,” and how it can be distinguished from more fact-based reporting.
Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece is by Jaime-Alexis Fowler, Founder & Executive Director of Empower Work, discussing how women, and anyone who needs outside support for a critical issue at work, can access this service, which is generously supported by Craig Newmark Philanthropies.
Jobs are at the center of opportunity. They affect everything from earning potential and career mobility to financial security and emotional well-being. Access to career opportunities, and support along the way, can play a critical role in gender equity and inclusion—in the workplace and beyond.
The video game industry has long been thought of as a “boys’ club.” Even before August of 2014, when the events of Gamergate painted a horrible picture of the worst case scenarios for women in the games arena, representation of women in games and a lack of female game developers left much to be desired.
According to the International Game Developers Association, women make up 47% of the people playing video games, but only 22% of the people creating them. Likewise, women have been historically under- or misrepresented in games. Too often, female characters in games were (and still are) over-sexualized, cast as tired tropes like the “damsel in distress,” or used as reward fodder for gamers who would normally be expected to play males.
On April 2, the University of California at Los Angeles announced a $5 million gift for the Samueli School of Engineering. Alumna Stacey Nicholas made the donation to support Women in Engineering at UCLA (WE@UCLA), a two-year-old program that works to close the gender gap in engineering majors at the university.
The engineering, science, and medicine fields have been traditionally male-dominated for decades. Nicholas’s gift is one of many recent efforts in feminist philanthropy working to close the gap between women and careers in the technologies — and to great effect.
Micro-loans, in which poor people are provided small loans so that they can jump-start or grow an enterprise, are often associated with least developed countries, but, according to a new study, this model has proved highly effective when applied to poor American women over the last decade.
The Grameen Bank model was pioneered in Bangladesh during the 1970s and 80s, and aimed to reduce poverty through the provision of loans, financial training, and peer support to those unable to access traditional credit mechanisms. It turned out a that small amount of funds enabling the purchase of such basics as tools, seeds, and livestock enabled many to lift themselves out of the most desperate kinds of poverty.
“There’s a time and place just for grants, and there’s a time and place for gender lens investing, but if you can find that sweet spot where they come together, that’s what gets me going,” says Katherine Pease, Managing Director and Head of Impact Strategies for Cornerstone Capital.
For Pease, the two strategies of gender lens grantmaking and gender lens investing can play a complementary role, particularly when using the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) as an investment vehicle. For women’s funds and foundations, Pease sees an expanding use of DAFs to create new ways to reach women at all levels of society with resources to grow their power.
If there’s one thing Linda Davis Taylor thinks there’s too much of, it’s women taking concessions in salary negotiations. As the CEO and Chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors, Taylor is calling on all women to create a culture where women ask for what they deserve at their jobs.
“I still hear so many women say they don’t know how to negotiate their salary, even women in top leadership positions,” said Taylor, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. She wants to see women get much more comfortable with having those difficult conversations that ensure equal pay and benefits for work at all levels and in all industries. She also wants to find more ways to ensure that “we start early enough in encouraging women to understand their role in salary negotiation.”
To that end, Taylor recently created a new tool for young women, to help them plan early for a healthy financial life. It’s called How to Build You Financial Power and Take Your Seat at the Table and it offers young women actionable, realistic advice on becoming aware of their money challenges and getting a plan early in life to grow their assets and invest in ways that align with both their long-term financial stability and their core personal values. Taylor sees tremendous potential for young women today to “harness the power of their money in order to shape the world around them.”
Taylor comes from a robust background in women’s education. For part of her career in financial management, she served as Chief Advancement Officer and later Chair of the Board of Trustees for Scripps College, a four-year private women’s college in Claremont, California. “Scripps introduced me to thousands of amazing women,” said Taylor. “My work centered on philanthropy and financial support of the women’s college, but it opened my eyes to so many issues and barriers that women face.”
Taylor saw many women in philanthropic families who “didn’t have an understanding of the financial system as they might, and didn’t feel entitled all the time to make aspirational gifts to their school even if the family had the wealth.” Women’s tendencies to put their own needs last, or at least several notches down on the list, resulted in women not making the same kinds of pledges to their alma maters as men.
But for women today, that is changing. Referencing the research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute on the growing influence of women in philanthropy, Taylor is seizing the opportunity and providing more services that catalyze women’s impact. “Women are more often being given the responsibilities, whether we are ready or not, to take on financial roles in our families. Taylor sees her approach as two-pronged, growing both the “competence and the confidence” that women need to become stronger agents of change with their money.
Taylor’s online guide for young women emphasizes embracing student loans as a reality that must be addressed in the financial plan, and uses language like “financial boundaries” to help young women figure out where to put their money, and how to begin saving early and often.
Taylor’s background for creating the guide includes her work establishing a program at Scripps College in financial literacy, helping young women figure out how to get off to a strong financial start after finishing their degree. “This message needs to be expanded throughout women’s lives, but we need to make sure that we start as early as we can to build in those tools. It’s more challenging for women today because they have student debt and may be working in a job that doesn’t make much money at first,” said Taylor.
As women advance in their careers, Taylor sees many who want to get into gender lens investing with their assets. “It’s all connected right now, there’s this global change with more women being active and involved and vocal, and then they’re recognizing there are so many things they want to directly impact, whether it’s with their job or with their giving.”
But for Taylor, it all starts with a woman developing good financial skills early in life. “To be effective as a donor to any organization you want to support, you first have to develop your own financial habits.” With her work with families, Taylor sees an integral part of that work as raising awareness around the issue of women’s financial empowerment. “We try to take a holistic view when we work with a family. We try to help a family be really clear about their value system and their purpose. Women in particular seem to resonate with that.”
Taylor sees multiple benefits to this approach, helping to connect the family and build trust. She often meets with family members as a group and asks them what it means to be part of their family. “That simple question is a tremendous ice-breaker. Everybody has an answer.” From there, Taylor says the conversation often naturally moves toward discussing values and charitable goals. “Those can be tremendous financial education opportunities with families.”
By focusing on financial empowerment of women, Taylor sees more movement for women to influence social change. “Chances are, they are going to be working longer, living longer, inheriting more wealth, so the power will be moving in that direction.”
Linda Davis Taylor is the CEO and chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors in Pasadena, California, and a champion for women’s economic independence and strength. She is a frequent speaker on wealth transition, family governance, and philanthropy, and author ofThe Business of Family.
All opinions expressed by Linda Davis Taylor are solely her opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors. You should not treat any opinion expressed by Ms. Taylor as a specific recommendation to make a particular investment. Ms. Taylor’s opinions are based upon information she considers reliable.
As I scour the internet in my never-ending quest to know more about feminist strategies in philanthropy, I don’t often come across union support as a primary strategy. The Ms. Foundation for Women does some work in this area with its support of the Miami Worker’s Center and the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, but supporting unions like the American Federation of Teachers or National Nurses United does not appear to be a primary focus of most feminist philanthropy strategies.
Consequently, this article on Apolitical by Odette Chalaby garnered my attention as one that progressive women donors might want to read and think about in terms of how they are aligning their strategy with union activity. There are many potential benefits for women’s empowerment to supporting unions that are primarily comprised of women.
First, some background on the problem:
Women in Unions Have Gender Pay Gaps that are Half the Size
While unions are often seen as largely white and male, it’s Hispanic women that stand to gain the most from membership in the US today.
Eileen R. Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), has a 30 year record of professional achievements in philanthropy, but it all started with being a social worker. I wanted to learn more about Heisman’s early social work origins, and also about how she led NPT from a small nonprofit in 1996 to the $6 billion dollar grantmaking organization it is today, making an indelible imprint on the landscape of modern philanthropy.
When we began our conversation, I asked Heisman to comment on what it felt like to run the country’s largest host organization for Donor Advised Funds. “When I read my own bio, sometimes it feels kind of like an out of body experience,” said Heisman with a chuckle. “But it’s nice to be able to say all those things are true.”
For all the time and energy Heisman has put into growing NPT over the past 22 years, she says the things that have kept her up at night were more parenting-related than work-related. Her children are now young adults and Heisman, now age 64 (“I feel like I’m about 39!”), is still steering NPT toward bigger and better things, with NPT now managing over 7,400 Donor Advised Funds and continuing to grow. NPT has raised over $13 billion in charitable contributions and currently manages $7.4 billion in charitable assets, making it one of top 25 largest grantmaking institutions in the US.
Vision + Decision-Making = Success
With her breadth of experience, I asked Heisman to talk about what attributes she sees as critical to success for philanthropists today.
“Two things are key to success: having a vision and being able to make decisions in a timely way,” said Heisman. “Even if you make a wrong decision from time to time, people want to see leaders who are decisive.”
Heisman emphasized that being able to envision growing the organization is critical, even if plans take a change of direction. “I like planning and I would do a lot of incremental planning about how it was going to work.”
In terms of how to make decisions, Heisman advised, “knowing your conscience and being a great data gatherer,” as a key combination.
While seemingly obvious, Heisman says paying attention to these two key elements — vision and decision-making — will put you leagues ahead as an organizational leader. Next, Heisman credits her ability to hire well and form successful professional relationships with her staff. “Hiring smart people, making sure they have enough resources to do their job, that they’re well trained, and relying on them when you’re not the best person to make a decision,” said Heisman. “I loved the idea of hiring people who were better at something than I was, and giving them the chance to do it.”
Leadership: It’s About the Relationships
I commented on how Heisman depended on relationships to build the strength of NPT as an organization. “I think relationships are almost more important than knowledge sometimes — learning who you can trust, who is a big picture thinker, who is a detail person, who do you go to when you’re upset and angry, who can go to who to process information and they aren’t threatened by it or upset by it.”
For Heisman, this kind of relationship-building is a big key to NPT’s growth over the past two decades. She talked about keeping a close eye on the roster of people around her, choosing carefully who to be in contact with, and what the intent is of the relationship. “I love having those thought partners around me.”
Heisman also described how leaders need to be fluent in dealing with disagreement, and create an environment where people can be different but also stay connected. “So if you have divergent points of view, how do you have civil discourse about it?”
Women’s Leadership and Political Giving
On the role of women in leadership, Heisman expressed frustration at the slow pace of change. “I think that women are really effective leaders, and I’m astounded at how few women are on corporate boards or running publicly traded companies. I find it really sad and unfortunate.”
While criticizing the lack of leadership opportunities for women, Heisman suggested that the most effective way for many high net worth women to influence this problem is through political support for candidates and PACs.
“The way women come to the forefront on topics like gender equality is through PAC’s and supporting campaigns of the leaders taking us there,” said Heisman. She sees tremendous potential for philanthropic women to direct some of their resources toward gender equality political action. “Philanthropy does effect the fringes of how some ideas get started, but the real substantial things happen when the government gets involved.”
Heisman cautioned, though, that NPT’s intent is not to direct donors in giving in any way. “Donors come to us from all different arenas and political points of view,” she said. “I’m in a different position [at NPT] where my personal points of view are really not important. I really have to stay out of that public discourse, and it’s hard sometimes.”
The Potential Chilling Effect of the New Tax Law on Small Nonprofits
I offered Heisman a chance to comment on the effects of the Trump tax laws on charitable giving, particularly the laws which took away the charitable giving deduction for a certain segment of the middle class. “I think small gifts to charities are going to decrease,” said Heisman. “The question is how much. You need two or three or four years of data points to see a trend. Maybe by that time, the tax laws will change back to being more reasonable relative to giving.”
“Another trend is even scarier,” added Heisman. “Twenty million fewer households are giving in the US, but giving is going up. So the wealthier are giving the lion’s share of the gifts in the US and regular everyday households are already giving less. Then we add the tax law change,” said Heisman, and suggested that the new tax law will likely even further exacerbate the trend of reduced giving from small donors and increased giving from the ultra-rich.
“Do we want giving in the US to be only the domain of the ultra wealthy? I think no,” said Heisman. She sees philanthropy’s definition as tied to the definition of a democracy in which people can use charitable giving to organize at the grassroots to improve their communities. “I think the idea that fewer people are giving is concerning,” she said, “And if I were running a small human services charity in a community, I would be concerned right now.”
Heisman described a dynamic whereby high net worth givers get cultivated by hospitals, universities, and research institutions and end up giving large sums in that direction. Meanwhile, small charities have a hard time accessing wealthy individuals, so there is a big division between the haves and the have-nots in how this plays out.
“This is going to be the first time people are trying these new regulations on,” said Heisman. “There’s been a big push on Capitol Hill to have a universal deduction, where people get to deduct every charitable gift regardless of where they stand for income. If I had my wish as a policy maker, that’s what I would be promoting.”
Women are cracking the glass ceiling and making it into top leadership positions amid the #MeToo Movement, according to new research, but the distribution of female replacements varies by geography and social sector.
In an article in the Houston Chronicle, authors Yan Zhang and Yoon Jung Kwon, a professor and Ph.D. student at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, argue that the phenomena of women replacing men in leadership roles holds great potential for signaling all sectors of society about changing gender norms. Even in heavily male-dominated sectors like major league men’s sports, a new era is dawning in which women’s leadership will provide a different paradigm.
Cynthia Marshall was hired as the new CEO of the Dallas Mavericks last February, with the mission to clean up the toxic culture of the franchise.
Marshall’s appointment at the time was not an anomaly. According to data recently compiled by the New York Times, the #MeToo movement has brought down 201 powerful men (and three powerful women). Among the 98 men whose positions have been filled, half of their replacements were women. However, the percentage of female replacements was lower in Republican states than in Democratic states, and it was lower in government, politics and businesses than in media, entertainment and education.
An important point here for women donors to contemplate: moves like that of the Dallas Mavericks bring the #MeToo movement into the popular culture domain through sports, and this may be an effective way to create visible leaders for gender equality that contribute significantly to social change.
The research also highlights an important problem: women in the fields of government, politics and business need more opportunities to rise into leadership positions. Feminist philanthropists are uniquely positioned to push for this in the companies that they own or invest in, and by contributing to PACs, women candidates, and organizations supporting the government and business leadership pipelines for women.
Back to the article:
Replacing accused men with women amid the #MeToo movement offers important benefits to the institutions where the scandals were uncovered.
First and foremost, replacing an accused man with a woman immediately sends a signal to external and internal constituents that the institution is going to change its culture. Second, since most victims of the #MeToo movement are women, it is easier for a female replacement than a male to connect with the victims based upon their gender similarity.
In the case of the Mavs, minutes after accepting the job offer, Marshall joined the team’s owner Mark Cuban for a news conference, in which she told the media, “I want to do it for the sisterhood.” Such a commitment to the “sisterhood” is unlikely to be made by a male replacement. The connection between a female replacement and the victims can help the institution repair its stigmatized image and damaged relationships with constituents.
Seriously, try to imagine anyone other than a woman taking a CEO position and saying they are going to do it “for the sisterhood.” This kind of leadership sends major shock waves through the culture and helps shift our understanding of what it means to be a leader.
By finding ways to link women’s empowerment and safety with cultures that are known for being particularly male-dominated, like major league men’s sports, feminist philanthropists may find unique opportunities to create awareness and foster social change.