Sister, Can You Spare A Dime?

Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-2.55.13-PMPublished in the New York Observer on November 3, 2014

I was not born into wealth. I grew up in a small town in British Columbia, Canada, never imagining that one day I would work on Wall Street, let alone Goldman Sachs. In 1996, after eight years at Goldman, I became the youngest woman and the firm’s first female trader to make partner. “Youngest woman” and “first female”—labels like these are often attached to successful women, and my instinct has always been to embrace labels, not reject them. I was privileged to have been handed not just the Goldman paycheck, but a platform to boot. With that platform, I was determined to change the firm’s approach to diversity.

In 1999, Goldman went public, and with the resulting windfall, my husband (who made partner at Goldman the same year I did) and I created a family foundation. Suddenly, I had a new label: woman philanthropist, which I found more difficult to embrace. There were few high-profile women philanthropists back then. However, for those first few years, I didn’t think about it too much, because I was focused on raising my family, doing my demanding job well, and championing diversity at work. I was what one might call a “checkbook philanthropist.”

In 2002, I left Goldman. I’m often asked why. Primarily, I wanted to use my time, treasure and talent to make more of an impact on the lives of girls and women than I could as a banker. It killed me that there were so few qualified women in positions of leadership in corporate America, and I was determined to figure out how to change the ratio.

One of the first things I did after leaving Goldman was to search out women to guide me. Slim pickings! In the early 2000s, there were virtually no named large gifts made to nonprofit organizations that focused on the unique needs of girls and women. The situation was so shocking that I did a study with a woman who had left an executive position at Morgan Stanley. We presented our findings in a report called The Map, and made presentations to countless wealthy women with the goal of promoting nonprofits that support women and girls.

Through this process, we discovered dozens of incredible women philanthropists who were funding women and girls in ways both big and bold. These women became our partners, our sisters, and ultimately our tribe. Many seemed to share a common approach. Alison Bernstein, a former vice president of the Ford Foundation and current director at the Institute for Women’s Leadership, recently outlined the four factors that define feminist philanthropy for her: adopting collective approaches, applying a gender lens to your giving, bringing in men as allies, and demanding accountability from those who get the grants.

Regardless of how you feel about the word feminist and the avalanche of conflicting connotations that word is likely to inspire, I like her list, especially the second factor.

Employing a gender lens means being aware of the impact of gender inequities and/or gender norms on a problem or issue. Men and women do not experience the world the same way, and if you take these factors into account, the result is more effective philanthropy. By now, there is a mountain of research that confirms the multiplier effect of investing in women and girls, and the significant benefit these initiatives have on both men and women in the long run. The question becomes: how can we leverage this evidence to spur more funding to women and girls?

The reality is stark. In 2011, only 7 percent of all funding dollars went towards programs that specifically empower women and girls, and worldwide, a mere 2 percent was allocated to adolescent girls. If all philanthropists, but in particular women philanthropists, would only apply a gender lens to their giving, the impact could be staggering.

Why women? Because women’s wealth is growing exponentially, with 27 percent of the world’s total wealth currently controlled by women. In North America alone, women now control an estimated $13.2 trillion of personal wealth, and of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth that will be inherited over the next 40 years, 70 percent will be passed on to women. Think about it. Over the past four decades, the lowest recorded percentage of the average giving of disposable income by individuals in the United States was 1.7 percent. If North American women gave just 1.7 percent of their current wealth, that would equal $230 billion per year in donations. Worldwide, if women gave 1.7 percent of their wealth, women’s giving could reach $1 trillion annually by 2026. One trillion dollars! Could $1 trillion bring an end to gender-based violence, income inequities, or the relative scarcity of women in leadership positions? I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot.

As a woman philanthropist, I intentionally focus my giving on the unique needs of girls and women, and I urge all women to do the same. Men too. But specifically, to my fellow women, what is stopping us from both stepping up our financial capacity and speaking up collectively for gender equality? What are we waiting for? Twelve years ago, I left Goldman because I had a dream of a more equitable, balanced and just world. I yearned for the day when women would come together in support of other women, and commit their resources to making it happen. Today, we have the financial power to make that dream a reality.

Jacki Zehner serves as chief engagement officer to Women Moving Millions. Their new philanthropic initiative is All in for Her, which is a call to action for women to fund women.

5 Non-Profit Leaders You Should Know

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(Photo credit: Global Fund for Women. Musimbi Kanyoro, Jacki Zehner, Hillary Rodham Clinton) Published on LinkedIn Influencers, May 23, 2014.

There are literally millions of non-profit organizations in the world, and over 1.5 million in the United States alone. Therefore, knowing which organizations to support with your giving dollars can be a daunting task. Most donor advisers will tell you to donate to organizations that support the causes that you are most passionate about as a first step, but even then, the number of organizations addressing the same issue can be overwhelming, and you ultimately find yourself back at square one: Who do I support with my giving dollars? For me, the decision always comes down to leadership, and more specifically, who is leading the organization? If I don’t feel confident in the person running the organization, I know I will never be confident in that organization’s ability to use my money to its fullest potential. At the end of the day it is people giving to people, so allow me to introduce you to five women non-profit leaders who are truly great people, and the organizations that they lead.

I hope to do more posts like this featuring people, both men and women, who work in a variety of issue areas, but given my passion around the advancement of girls and women, this is my starting place. Please know this is not a ranking and there are many more incredible profiles to come.

1) Julie Burton – President of the Women’s Media Center (WMC) (Photo from Left to Right: Julie Burton, Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan in New York City at a WMC event)

In 2005, Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan founded the Women’s Media Center. Today the organization acts as an advocacy and awareness institution for gender discrimination in the media, a monitoring system for sexism in the media, and as a platform for original content creation that promotes women’s voices in the media. Julie joined the Women’s Media Center in 2010, and since then has led the organization in its mission towards equality in the media landscape. She also serves as the Executive Producer of Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan, and I was honored to be on the show last year. Prior to joining the WMC, Julie was the CEO of Voters for Choice, the Founding Director of Choice USA, and has been an outspoken and vocal advocate for women’s rights for decades.

SONY DSC2) Francoise GirardInternational Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) (Photo Credit: International Women’s Health Coalition)

The International Women’s Health Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls around the world. To date, the IWHC has given out over $19 million to 75 organizations in 20 different countries, and their advocacy efforts have helped persuade 179 governments to make reproductive rights a key component of family planning. Francoise became the President of IWHC in 2012 after previously serving the organization as a consultant and as the Senior Program Officer for International Policy. She has also previously worked for Open Society Foundations, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and DAWN. Francoise is a longtime advocate for women’s reproductive rights, and is recognized as a leading expert in the fields of women’s health, human rights, sexuality, and HIV and AIDS. I met Francoise for the first time last year when we were both speakers at UBS’s Global Philanthropy Forum entitled “It’s A Girl.” She rocked my world.

3) Musimbi KanyoroGlobal Fund for Women (Photo from left to right: Christine Switzer, Director of Development at the Global Fund for Women, Jacki Zehner, Musimbi Kanyoro in Salt Lake City, UT)

Founded in 1986, the Global Fund for Women was created to provide resources to the worldwide community of women’s organizations. The first grants were distributed in 1988 and totaled only $30,000, but since then, over $100 million in grants have been distributed to over 4,000 women’s organizations in 170 different countries. Musimbi joined the Global Fund for Women in 2011, and has since led the organization through strategic directives that have focused on women’s leadership and women-led solutions, as well as the recent merging of the Global Fund for Women with the International Museum of Women. Musimbi is the author of 7 books, as well as numerous articles, op-eds, and speeches, and she is a renowned public speaker and women’s rights leader. A passionate advocate for women and girls for over 30 years, Musimbi is the recipient of numerous awards, honors, and honorary doctorates. Did I mention she speaks 5 languages and is one of 10 children? I wanted everyone I know to meet Musimbi, so two years ago I invited her to visit Park City. She participated in a number of events, including speaking at my children’s school about women’s rights, as well as to a large group gathered for lunch where we also made the amazing jewelry from SAMESKY available. What a day!

201832f4) Rachel LloydGirls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS) (Photo Credit: GEMS)

Rachel Lloyd founded GEMS in 1998 when she was only 23 years old, and since then, GEMS has grown into a leading organization combating domestic trafficking and the sexual exploitation of young women and girls. Operating out of New York State, GEMS is the only organization in the state that specifically serves female trafficking victims ages 12-24 by helping them leave the sex industry, and not just survive their experience, but fully recover from the trauma these experiences inflict. GEMS is recognized as being instrumental in helping to pass New York’s Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Act, which specifically recognizes sex workers as victims to protect instead of criminals to punish, and since its adoption in 2008, 13 other states have passed similar legislation. In addition to her work at GEMS, Rachel is the author of Girls Like Us and many other articles for various publications, the co-producer of the Showtime documentary Very Young Girls, and is the recipient of dozens of awards and accolades. I have met Rachel, read her book, and watched her movie, and I can tell you this woman in the real deal. The sexual exploitation of children is such a huge issue and one that all of us, and I really mean all of us, should be doing something to end. Supporting Rachel is a great way.

2384e595) Ritu SharmaWomen Thrive Worldwide (Photo Credit: Women Thrive Worldwide)

Founded in 1998 by Ritu Sharma and Elise Fiber Smith, Women Thrive is an advocacy group that works in Washington DC to ensure that women’s rights and concerns are at the forefront of US International Aid policies. Although based in Washington DC, Women Thrive does not accept any government funds, and therefore operates independently of any political affiliations, and Women Thrive does not run any programs itself. Instead, the organization focuses its efforts on advocacy, activism, and awareness, and brings the “voice of women around the world directly to decision-makers in Washington, D.C.” In addition to her work as the President of Women Thrive, Ritu is a respected motivational speaker and political strategist, and she is recognized as one of the leading experts in the fields of international women’s rights and US foreign policy. To date, Ritu has been featured in numerous publications, is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and World Pulse, and is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. I am so grateful that we have such an exceptional person holding our government agencies accountable for where our money goes.

Again, there are so many incredible non-profit leaders doing amazing work. Who rocks your world? Please share.

Let’s Kickstart What We Want to See in the World

0bcfabd Published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 16, 2014.

In the not so distant past, access to capital was extremely difficult. It didn’t matter how brilliant your idea or project may have been, the reality was that a select few people held all the cards in terms of financing, and whether you were trying to record an album, start a company, make a movie, or write a book, your project lived and died by those select few gatekeepers of capital. But no longer! We’ve seen the rise of the phenomenon known as crowdfunding, and last year I wrote about crowdfunding and highlighted Catapult, an online crowdfunding resource for backing projects that support women and girls across the globe. Now it is time to share the story of a particular Kickstarter campaign, one that could not be nearer or dearer to my heart.

The back story: It’s no secret that I love superheroes. I’ve written many times about my love of superhero movies, my obsession with Wonder Woman, and my frustration with Hollywood’s inability to get Wonder Woman to the big screen. This love of superheroes began as a child with my weekly dose of the Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends, but as an adult, my passion for superheroes was ignited in 2001 when I read an article by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine: “50 Rules of Leadership”. The last rule was left blank, inviting readers to come up with their own rule of leadership, and after thinking it through, I wrote in, “Be A Superhero.” I typed up this statement, and a colleague of mine added superhero visuals around it, in which Wonder Woman was prominently displayed. The finished product remained on my desk until I left that job, and it is currently hanging in my home office, reminding me every day to be a superhero and to strive to be the best I can be.

30327d3That colleague’s name was Dawn Nadeau, and just this week she and her partner, Julie Kerwin, launched a kickstarter campaign to support their new company, IAmElemental, that will produce a series of female action figures that represent The Elements of Power. These elements form a new version of the periodic table, and are based on the idea that we don’t need a radioactive spider to bite us in order become powerful; we are all already powerful, and that power comes from within. The action figures will be released as a series, with each series consisting of seven figures that each represent an element of a particular power. The first series is that of Courage, with the seven elements being Bravery, Honesty, Energy, Persistence, Enthusiasm, Industry, and Fear. Should these prove successful, IAmElemental has plans for many more series that when combined will create a periodic table of power.

What is potentially revolutionary about IAmElemental’s toys is that these figures do not have set origin stories, but instead encourage kids to create their own stories based on their own ideas and the powers they see within themselves. 0c7b276As the Kickstarter campaign states, IAmElemental believes that kids “are not only capable of creating their own stories, but that story creation is a vital part of their emotional development.” In other words, these action figures are meant to be more character than characters. It’s an amazing example of the power of play, and how something as simple as an empowering action figure can have a huge impact on a child’s imagination. It also helps that these action figures look amazing, and for once, offer realistic body sizes and ratios that stand in stark contrast to the female action figures currently on offer, thereby making them every mother’s dream come true for their impressionable daughters (and sons!).

So why did Dawn and Julie decide to start this company? Because as mothers they were frustrated with the lack of quality superheroes and action figures on the market for girls. Although my baby just turned 14 years old, I remember feeling the same way when she was younger. That is why I know this company will be successful. Smart, intelligent, let’s get it done women are creating something that they would want to buy, and know their friends would want to buy as well. They are not waiting for the market to give them what they want, they are creating the goods themselves. This is what is at the heart of the growing trend in women’s entrepreneurship, and platforms like Kickstarter are helping their dreams and hard work become a thriving business.

3ef8b00Needless to say, I immediately backed this campaign, not only because a dear friend started it, but because I want this product to exist. I know so many little girls who all have birthdays coming up, and this is a gift I can’t wait to give. A set of female action figures that helps us find our superpowers! Are you kidding me? Aside from a pint sized Wonder Woman t-shirt, this has ‘Jacki gift’ written all over it. And I’m not the only one who believes in this project, because just three days into the campaign, it met its initial goal of $35,000, and as of this writing, it’s 193% funded and climbing. Let’s not stop there. Join me in supporting these two incredible women and turn it from a campaign into a movement, and prove to the powers that be that there is a market for empowering female action figures and superheroes. Let’s bring the GIRL POWER to these GIRL POWER toys. And better yet, let’s bring the GUY POWER too.

If this project does not ring your bells like it does mine, consider supporting another project. With over 4,700 hundred live Kickstarter projects at the time of this writing, and more being added every day, there’s a project out there to suit everyone’s interests. And that’s just on one platform! Regardless of what project you ultimately decide to support, the important thing is that platforms like this are democratizing capital and I love it. While unlocking bigger pools of capital is still challenging, the proof of concept that success on kickstarter demonstrates offers a big head start, so let’s all support the projects we believe in and help make dreams a reality. Now that’s the stuff of superheroes.

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore