When Women’s Leadership Has Market Value, the World Changes

It seems, in the feminist philanthropy community, everyone is waiting for that tipping point to come, when women’s leadership finally establishes its value to the world. Covid, it seems, is helping to accelerate our awareness of the added value of women’s leadership. By showing that countries led by women having strikingly better COVID survival and containment rates, we should finally be at that point where you could practically pour the product of women’s leadership into a bottle and sell it on the open market.

And now a few words from our Editor in Chief, Kiersten Marek.

Well, think again. I have been on my own quest to establish the value of women’s leadership, particularly women’s leadership in philanthropy, over the past four years. I went in with the theory that feminist strategies are more powerful strategies, and once people get to know more about them, lots of folks would flock to our website and build up our subscriber base to the point where, eventually, it might even turn into a for-profit market product. Though fiscally sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network, our budget and strategy is built around the idea that only a small portion of our funding should come from grants, and that as our subscriber base grows, eventually, we could become attractive to a regular small business publication or larger progressive media platform.

But as a woman entrepreneur, what I find is, there just aren’t a lot of date possibilities out there for us on the merger dating scene. The reasons are complicated. One reason is because I have such a varied skill set all in one person, that it’s hard to find another person like me. I’m not trying to brag, I’m just pointing out that my versatility and perseverance are what built Philanthropy Women, and my versatility and perseverance might be what brings Philanthropy Women to an end.

What I have learned is that people are endlessly willing to tell you how important you are, tell you what value you add to the world, but they just aren’t willing to pay for it. It’s all part of the great American culture we have, that conditions us to recognize the value only of rich and famous people, and to feel threatened by anyone who is not rich, but who has the temerity to stand their ground and assert their value.

Merging Problems for Women Leaders and Publishers

Four years in, it’s clear that there is a growing audience for news about women’s philanthropy, and ideas and strategies centered on gender equality, diversity and inclusion, and systems change. But the path to making this platform into a sustainable small business, or even a partially subsidized non-profit, is unclear. Throw Covid on top of that, and it’s like a wet blanket on a dying fire.

One potential merger partner told me they had a hard enough time staying on top of the work they had, and they couldn’t afford to take on any more of the updating and technical headaches of merging and running another platform. Most other potential merger partners have not responded much. Am I really that poor of a salesperson, with the materials I’ve created for merging, or is the product I have created with Philanthropy Women just not valued by the world?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. The world will start actually changing when we start valuing women’s leadership correctly. It all comes back to recognizing women’s work and not trying to get something for nothing. One thing I’ve vowed to do is stop subsidizing the cheap and sexist practices of the patriarchy that affect me directly. I hope you’ll join me in fighting to protect the value of yourself as a (fill in your occupation) and do your part to create a world where women’s leadership has market value.

Last I heard, large, powerful publishers like Forbes still don’t pay their gender equality freelance writers at all. The women who write all those columns on gender equality philanthropy for Forbes, many of which are on the same subjects we’ve just covered, get zero dollars for their work. They’re expected to live off the prestige and exposure. That is the world we live in. Not a world where women’s ideas, women’s work, and women’s leadership are valued.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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