Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Dianne Chipps Bailey, Managing Director, National Philanthropy Strategy and Executive Philanthropic Solutions at Bank of America.
What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
Trust! I wish I had known to trust that my unconventional but deeply authentic professional journey would lead me to a place such as Bank of America’s Philanthropic Solutions strategy team, where we leverage our industry expertise to help our nonprofit clients achieve bold goals. In moments of uncertainty – and there have been many – I wish I’d known to: Trust your informed instincts. Trust mentors who often know you better than you know yourself. Trust that even roadblocks often are for your good. Trust that when your passion and purpose are aligned, success will follow. Trust that when you leap, the net will find you!
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
My greatest professional challenge is helping our clients to address social issues, many of which are 400 years in the making and often seem intractable, with the goal of creating positive change that is meaningful and enduring. In pursuit of this goal, our clients increasingly embrace complex strategies designed to build more equitable systems. This work is ambitious, with long time horizons for maximum impact, but is well worth the investment. A more personal challenge is managing my passions. There are so many exciting opportunities to serve and grow that it’s difficult to discern where to engage fully while continuing to prioritize life beyond philanthropy, especially my family.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
Our clients’ deep commitment to make our world healthier, better educated and more humane inspires me every day. The philanthropists we advise bring refreshing humility to their grantmaking – only 4% of them claim to be experts! Our clients in operating charities are unrelenting in their pursuit of excellence and innovation. But what inspires me the most are the individual members of our national philanthropic strategy team at Bank of America. I am blessed to work with extraordinarily bright, insightful, dedicated, collaborative, warm and witty people – most of whom are women!
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
My commitment to women’s leadership is at the core of my personal and professional identity. My service to Women’s Impact Fund (WIF), a member of the Catalist network of women’s collective giving funds, has influenced almost every facet of my adult life. The lessons learned and networks nurtured through my WIF membership have opened many doors for me. A key example was the invitation to join the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) council. In my role as Bank of America’s National Philanthropic Strategy Executive, I regularly draw upon WPI’s research on gender differences in giving and volunteering. Perhaps more importantly, I also regularly tap into WPI’s powerful national network of leaders for expertise and inspiration. I hope that readers will join us in Chicago on March 31-April 1 for WPI’s 2020 Symposium: “Philanthropy Plugged In – Creating Community in the Digital Age.”
5. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
Philanthropic organizations have the power to support gender equality in at least three capacities: As institutions, as investors and as grant-makers. As institutions, philanthropic organizations must elevate women to serve in top leadership roles, both at the staff and board levels, and also commit to policies that empower women such as pay equity and family leave.
As investors, philanthropy must take care in considering whether to adopt mission-aligned investment strategies, including the use of gender lens approaches. And, as grant-makers, now is the time for philanthropists to make transformative, multiyear commitments to organizations focused on women and girls. Donating to these organizations can yield benefits in other areas – nearly six in 10 respondents to Bank of America’s Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy who gave to such organizations said they did so because it is the most effective way to address other social problems.
Yet we have a way to go: As WPI’s recent research has revealed, one in four affluent women donate to women’s and girls’ organizations (compared with one in five similarly situated men) but giving overall to such organizations totals only 1.6% of all gifts annually. We can, and must, do better to support gender equality in the U.S. and internationally.
6. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
I am fiercely optimistic about the future of gender equity movements. As I shared in my recent TEDx Talk, I believe our greatest hope lies with the indignant but optimistic people who are aligning their efforts to create collective movements and demanding change from both within and outside our institutions. The power of the possible rests with nonprofits that once worked in silos now collaborating to achieve shared goals; protests filling our streets exposing pain and elevating new women leaders; hashtags building awareness and fundamentally changing and linking narratives; and socially conscious companies such as mine helping to set the pace to create a future in which women lead equally in the workplace and beyond.
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