Melinda+Laurene+MacKenzie + We Are The Women We Have Been Waiting For

Original Drawing by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests

As published as SheInvests #9 for LinkedIn.

Since 2008, I have written about women, money, and changing the world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Melinda French Gates is someone I have followed, written about, and in fact, met! In 2018, while serving as Board Chair of Women Moving Millions(WMM), an organization I co-founded, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted our member day in advance of WMM’s annual summit. It was at this event, prior to her onstage interview, that I had the opportunity to meet her and personally thank her for being such a visible and relentless champion for the advancement of women and girls. Needless to say, I was stunned, like many others it would seem, to learn last week of her divorce from her husband of 27 years.

It needs to be said upfront that I have absolutely nothing to say about their divorce. That is their private business. But I am curious about what the post-divorce Melinda French Gates will do in her public life. Specifically, what she will do with her money. With the inevitable divvying up of assets that accompanies any divorce, she will become one of the richest women in the world due to the estimated $146B of the Gates’ wealth that is to be divided up. So questions I have include, how will she continue to use her wealth, her voice, and her platform for good? She has long been called the most powerful woman in philanthropy, but might she soon be called the most powerful woman in investing as well? Furthermore, who are the other mega billionaire women who already are, or might become, the most powerful women in investing? This is, after all, the SheInvests Newsletter.

I don’t generally spend time speculating about people’s private lives, but I do spend time reading about people’s public lives. Specifically, I have been tracking the public lives of not only Melinda French Gates, but also Laurene Powell Jobs, and more recently, MacKenzie Scott as well. And this fantastic article written by Kara Swisher in the fall of 2020, provocatively titled “Move aside Mr. Trump: These women have more money and better ideas”, got me thinking about these three women together. The article was prompted by a Twitter attack directed at Ms. Powell Jobs, but the article was actually about what these women are doing with their wealth. And it ended with this: “So, my advice to Trump on facing powerful women like these? Tweet all you like, but you might want to get out of the way.” Get out of the way indeed.

When it comes to women and wealth, you could say that I have always been fascinated by rich and powerful woman. I did, after all, grow up watching Dallas and Dynasty. I also grew up watching the TV show Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter. Women, money, super powers. You get the idea. Although I studied finance in college, it was not until I landed at Goldman Sachs in 1988 that I was actually surrounded by real life rich and powerful people. And, big surprise, they were almost all men; men who became rich and powerful by mastering the world of finance. I was determined to become one of them, and I did. I made partner in 1996, the youngest woman and first female trader to do so, but even so, something always felt, well, off.

It was not until 2009, when I attended the celebration event for the Women Moving Millions Campaign, that I was once again surrounded by so many rich and powerful people. And this time, they were all women. Over 100 women, each having committed a million dollars or more to women and girls causes and organizations. Although it felt strange, uncomfortable in a “how in the heck did a girl from small town Canada end up here?” kind of uncomfortable, it also felt good, powerful, historic. And so began my leadership role with WMM and my journey into the worlds of so many ultra-high-net-worth women.

Every time a new member joined WMM, they had to fill out a form about themselves and their giving. And I loved reading their profiles, because I loved getting to know them. Of course, each woman came with her own story of how she got the money she had to give, but what was important was what she was doing with it, and their stories were amazing and continuously inspired me to do more. That is the power that comes with community. Over the years, I started paying attention to and collecting the lists of millionaire and billionaire women, hoping that someday, some of them, many of them, all of them, would join WMM as well. Despite meeting both Ms. French Gates and Ms. Powell Jobs, they were not members during my tenure, but together with Ms. Scott, they have most certainly given not only millions, but billions of dollars to organizations that primarily serve women and girls. And I thank them all.

So who are these three women? What do we know through what they have told us of how they are using their vast financial resources for good? Furthermore, where do they sit on the scale of visibility around what they do? Are they choosing to be a public figure, and if so, what are they saying about what is important to them? And finally, are they explicitly identifying as champions for women and girls and champions for gender equity? SheInvests would love to know.

Let’s start with Ms. French Gates. A graduate of Duke University, French Gates worked for Microsoft for nearly a decade, eventually leaving in 1996. In 2000, she co-founded The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband, now the world’s largest private charitable organization with about $37 billion in assets. She currently serves as the Foundation’s co-chair, and in 2019, she released her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. For years, she has been an outspoken and public advocate of gender equity, and to date has amassed a Twitter following of 2.5 million. She writes regularly on platforms like this one, LinkedIn, and has been interviewed more times than I can count. She has also pushed the conversation about the wellbeing of women and girls in to spaces primarily inhabited by rich and powerful male leaders, which I would put on a list of her major accomplishments. In Gloria Steinem’s famous words, “when humans are ranked instead of linked everyone loses”, so let’s just agree that it is fair to say that few women have done more to advance gender equity in the philanthropic context than Melinda French Gates. Yes it is about the money, but she also fully leaned into her leadership, which includes using her voice and her influence to champion for what she believes to be true. It all matters.

What is also public record is that in 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company that uses both philanthropic and investment capital to advance social progress in the U.S. According to their website, Pivotal Ventures takes two approaches to investing: 1) Seeding innovation by investing in early stage companies and funds, and 2) Advancing the field by building capacity and collaboration amongst leaders, stakeholders, and ecosystems. Also of note is the fact that Pivotal’s website states that this is a company founded by Melinda French Gates, not Melinda Gates. As far as I can tell, it was never just Melinda Gates. Finally, according to the publicly available information that I could find, Pivotal has so far invested in four companies, four funds, and made contributions to a handful of nonprofits. This is almost certainly not the full scope of their investment activities, but it is all that I could squeeze out of the Internet, as I am not, after all, an investigative journalist. More personally, Pivotal has come up many times in funding conversations with both start-ups and female founded funds that I have talked to in terms of potential funders, and I am pretty sure we are co-invested in at least one company.When I jumped over to check their profile on LinkedIn, it shows 94 employees, which also indicates a lot more activity.

Also, very notably, in October 2019, Ms. French Gates created a $1B pledge to expand women and girls’ power and influence in the United States, most of which will be allocated through Pivotal. As part of this pledge, she has already launched the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, a $40M donation that will go towards three yet-to-be-announced nonprofit organizations that are advancing equity. Interesting, this initiative is also supported by MacKenzie Scott and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies (#sisteringup). Ms. French Gates has also founded the GET Cities Initiative, which is focusing on accelerating the representation and leadership of women in tech through the development of “inclusive tech hubs” across the U.S., starting with Chicago and D.C. If I were the praying type, and I am, my hope is that Salt Lake City might one day be added to the list. If it happens, I am all in! Pivotal is leading both of these initiatives, and will be responsible for deploying all associated grants and investments.

Melinda French Gates has long been a powerful advocate for equity, and with this pledge, she has made it abundantly clear that she means to continue to use her considerable wealth not just to marginally improve the existing landscape for women and girls, but to change that landscape completely. Now that’s a goal I can get behind! However, it is interesting to note that, at least to date, the capital she has put towards this remarkable vision has seemingly been largely deployed through philanthropic grants. It remains to be seen how much of the balance of her pledge will end up as investments versus grants, but my hope is that it will be a lot, and that it will be made public. What I know for sure is that potential investors always ask “who else has committed?” and thus to know that Pivotal is on the cap table is huge. So huge.

Now, on to Laurene Powell Jobs. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton, and Stanford, Powell Jobs previously worked at both Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, as well as founded the health food company Terravera in the early 90s. In 1997, she founded College Track, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving low-income students the opportunity to attend post-secondary education.

In 2004, Powell Jobs founded the Emerson Collective, named after writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, a for-profit corporation focused on education, immigration reform, the environment, media and journalism, and health. I love the last few lines of her letter on their corporate website:

Our basic belief, as Emerson taught, is that we are doubly obligated: we must rely on ourselves and we must rely on each other. By helping individuals to achieve their dreams, we unleash the full force of the world’s most powerful resource: human potential.”

Powell Jobs explicitly states that she deploys both charitable and non-charitable capital, similar to Pivotal. Emerson’s website lists many incredible organizations, both for and non-profit, as well as numerous initiatives, many of which I have supported. Albeit at a significantly lower level. My guess is that there is a heck of a lot more going on behind the scenes at Emerson, judging by the fact that the About Us page features at least 150 staff members by my quick count. There are also a handful of other investments by Powell Jobs/Emerson that are publicly known, including a minority stake in the parent company for the MBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, as well as a stake in several media outlets, including a majority stake of the Atlantic Magazine, which I happen to adore. Emerson is quickly becoming a force in media investing in particular, which seems to be what agitated Trump and lead to his nasty tweet.

Since I always see things through a gender-lens, it is noteworthy for me that unlike Ms. French Gates, who has been extremely vocal and articulate about the need to focus on gender equity, Ms. Powell Jobs has not been. That said, Emerson does fund in the areas of equity and justice, which of course is likely inclusive of gender related inequalities, but this focus is not explicit. Many articles talk about her tireless efforts to champion social justice organizations and leaders, and again, I thank her!

Powell Jobs’ estimated net worth is around $20B, according to Google, and she is also on Twitter with a following of about 76.5 thousand. She regular tweets and retweets with a focus on climate change, social justice, her sports teams, and more.

Finally, MacKenzie Scott, novelist, and the most recent entry in the category of women mega-donors. It is estimated that her current net worth is over $60B, having risen from $38B at the time of her divorce due to Amazon’s rising stock as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making her the third wealthiest woman in the world. Scott made headlines in 2020 for quickly dispersing billions of dollars, almost $6 billion, to over 500 non-profit organizations, and she apparently did so without the endless process and red tape that is so often associated with major gift giving. That absolutely deserves a woo hoo times about one hundred!! Furthermore, in December 2020 alone, she gave surprise gifts totaling $410 million to historically black colleges and universities. Surprise gifts! Read this article about the impact, it might make you cry. It certainly made me cry.

In self published Medium posts in July and December of 2020, Scott goes into some detail about the issue areas she has funded and how much in each. Furthermore, she lists the organizations that received grants. Hundreds of them. A quick scan makes it incredibly clear that she is aligning the grants to the core belief that “there’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.” Are you kidding me right now Ms. Scott? Heck the heck yes! She goes on to say that “economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.” Funding with an explicit gender lens? Check.

It has been estimated that about $1B of her most recent gifts, or about 17% of the grant dollars, were earmarked specifically for women and girls, but as I have learned, while numbers like this are important, they really don’t tell the full story. Of all her listed categories, racial equity and economic mobility are the biggest recipients, but so is gender equity explicitly, which says to me that she is using an intersectional racial/gender lens. From her own words, it is clear that she sees how race, class, and gender create “overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” As for staff to help her do all of this? None that I could find but they answer has to be yes. I am not even sure she is doing it through a family foundation. It’s not surprising that it is being said that “Scott has the potential to join a small handful of funders who’ve reshaped the philanthropic landscape in the past half-century.” Again, linked and not ranked, but awesome. Simply amazing. On to what do we know about her interest in investing some of those billions with the same set of values?

I was unable to find any information about Scott’s non-charitable financial activities. I can only hope that if and when she does turn her attention to the good she might do with her investment capital, she brings the same brand of revolutionary thinking that she’s brought to her philanthropy. Oh the difference she could make, and make quickly! Project Sage, a project within the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and led by a global leader in gender-smart investing, Suzanne Biegel, has already done much the leg work in identifying strategies and funds. All that is needed is the capital. And if you care about investing for racial inclusion, they have done that work too, which I highlighted in SheInvests Newsletter #2.

As for her public profile, Ms. Scott has amassed a following of over 147.5K on Twitter, despite following no one and sending a grand total of three tweets. Clearly people are interested in her activities, myself included, and it is interesting to see how she is controlling her own narrative. Instead of participating in a lot of interviews, she’s writing about herself through Medium when she has something to share, amassing 12,000 followers on that platform along the way. My guess is that number is going to explode over time. She also publicly joined the Giving Pledge, declaring that, “In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.” Again, heck yes! I am sure everyone reading this will join me in saying we anxiously await more from you Ms. Scott. In your own words.

French Gates, Powell Jobs, and Scott are only three American women billionaires. As of 2020, there were 614 billionaires in the United States, and 13.5% of them are women. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these women are also white, with precious few billionaire women of color. It is worth noting that in 2021, Whitney Wolfe Herd made headlines when she became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire at the age of 31. I look forward to writing about Ms. Wolfe Herd, particularly because she is absolutely embracing investing as something that she not only does, but wants to support other women in doing. In fact, I attended a very special gathering, pre-pandemic, where she brought together investors, fund managers, successful entrepreneurs, and emerging ones for a weekend of getting to know each other, and it was incredible. It was there that I met Natalie Egan (she/her) the founder of Translator Inc., and subsequently invested $100,000 in her company. Translator Inc. produces diversity, equity and inclusion software, and Natalie is a remarkable leader, and an openly transgender CEO who proudly shares her story While I have long shared my due diligence on start-ups with friends leading some to co-invest, this event was that at a whole other level and it inspired me beyond words. It is on my “to do” list with my new venture ShePlace to have a similar type of event, bringing together women who want to start early stage investing, with investment experts and entrepreneurs. Stay tuned, and sign-up for our newsletter to be kept in the information flow. You might say ShePlace is my version of what French Gates is doing with Pivotal and what Powell Jobs is doing at Emerson Collective. And we are just getting started. (#sisteringup)

In time, I would love to dig in and profile so many more of these ultra high net worth women. If I had the chance, I would love to ask them these questions – Tell me about yourself? What is your earliest money memory? What do you think the role of money is in the world? What is your biggest hope for what your money can do? What is your biggest fear around money? Are you an active investor? If so, tell me about it. If no, tell me about why not. Do you self-identify as a champion for and funder of the advancement of women and girls? Why or why not? And so many more. The more we talk about women and money together, the better. And these are not questions only for the ultra wealthy. They are questions we can ask ourselves, our family members, our friends. Hmm… the Jacki Zehner SheInvests Podcast? Maybe.

In the decade I spent building and leading Women Moving Millions, I was on a crusade to encourage high net worth women to not only give with a gender-lens, but to use their voice and their influence as well. When Ms. French Gates said, and said, and said, and said, that “the data is unequivocal: no matter where in the world you are born, your life will be harder if you are a girl”, she legitimized, endorsed, and supported all of us who were saying it as well. (if you are looking for that data, click here for my top reports) So again, I thank her, and thank her, and thank her. And while I can hope that all philanthropists, and yes especially women philanthropists, employ a gender lens (there is a whole section of my 650 best reports that explains the why and how of this), what I see as my role is to make visible, to share, to educate, to inspire and not to judge. If we want women to be more visible and transparent in what they are doing with their resources, it is up to us to create a safe and welcoming place for them to do so. In other words, I got your back!

Today, I am bringing all my knowledge and my passion to crusading about gender-lens investing, and I am looking for all the women and men out there who are on this journey too. I consciously made this shift because I believe wholeheartedly that we will greatly accelerate progress towards a more gender-balanced, just, and equitable world fo all when this happens at scale. Philanthropic capital is important and necessary, but it will never be enough. Investment capital, lots of it, generously and intentionally deployed, just might be, especially when combined with passionate, informed, and relentless leadership. We also need education and community. More on my “to do” list.

I have quoted this statistic many times in the past. According to the latest Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum, at the current rate of progress we are still 135.6 years away from true gender equity. And if you are thinking that things are pretty good here in the United States of America, think again. The US ranks 53rd out of 153 countries. I went searching for a similar statistic as it relates to a global, or even national, racial gap report, and you will likely not be surprised when I say that I could not find one. What I did find was a new report by McKinsey and Company to add to my 650+ report listthat calls for new approaches to reduce race based inequities. Amazing and very much needed. As a woman, a white woman, what is true and authentic for me is to continue to primarily focus on gender and to champion for resources for all women+ and girls, I will also do more, so much more, to recognize and fund with a racial-equity lens and an intersectional lens. I have much to learn, that is on me, and I also appreciate all the understanding and help I am getting on this journey as well.

So to Ms. French Gates, Ms. Powell Jobs, Ms. Scott, Ms. Wolfe Herd, and all the other women billionaires, millionaires, and really everyone with investment capital to put to work, please consider this an invitation, an ask, a plea, to step into your power as investors as well as donors, and make it visible! You have the opportunity to do what no group of women in the history of the world has ever done – use your collective billions to not only fund non-profits that are working on reducing inequities and inequalities of all kinds, but to invest in people who do not have social structures working for them, and in fact are often working against them. People with hopes and dreams and great business ideas that, if successful, will address the persistent wealth gap that is at the root of economic fragility. And, if you are in the position of not having to make the maximization of financial return your number one priority in your investments, then don’t. There are now so many investment products that are being designed for impact, and not just financial return. As an example, take a look at C-Note, a company founded by Catherine Berman that helps institutions invest in under-served companies at scale. Point is, we can all make up your own rules. As investors we may be told by professionals that it should be all about making the most money on your money, but that does not make it true for you. It is not true for me. I want to be able to look in the mirror and know that my financial resources are aligned with my personal values. What we know for sure is that investment capital has the potential to create an economic wave of job and wealth creation, as well as result in new products and services that actually meet the needs of those most underrepresented and underserved. Investment Capital remains an underused tool for social change and it does not have to be.

I created SheInvests as a call to action. As a woman with money who wants to use her money, and specifically her investment capital, to make a difference, I recognized that if I struggle to do this, then likely others do as well. If I want for ideas, for opportunities, for community, for accountability, then it’s likely that others are in the same boat. I have a long way to go before I am the investor I want to be in the world, but I am on that journey and I am inviting you to be on it with me. As a former partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, I know a lot about finance, and I know that the tools and institutions of finance is not working for most people. But I also believe that it can. Money is a tool, a resource, that can be put to use around our values and around what we want to be true in the world. And while few have billions to invest, and in fact some people reading this might not have any investment capital due to accumulated debt, I still hope that this newsletter might serve some purpose for everyone. I plan on writing about ideas, about companies, about funds, about people, and about opportunities that check the boxes of aspirational, inspirational, and down right practical, and I welcome your suggestions.

In closing, I collect quotes. I have a word doc with hundreds of them, and one of my favorites is this one.

If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.

Okay. It’s good, but what makes it interesting is that it was a man who said it. Matthew Arnold, who lived in the 1800s and “was an English poet, sage writer, and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools”, wrote this for some reason I can’t find. Clearly he was way ahead of his time. Since he is long gone, I hope he won’t mind if I do a little sistering up with his beautiful quote.

If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together and use their money with great intention for the benefit of humankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known. We are those women and that time is now.

Jacki Hoffman Zehner

The drawings and cartoons in this article have been created by Liza Donnelly for SheInvests and ShePlace. The one above first appeared in my previous SheInvests newsletter. In that article I write about sistering up. In short, it means when women come together to make each other stronger.

Sistering Up: But first, canapé anyone?

As published as SheInvests Issue #8 on LinkedIn Influencers.

We are living in a different time. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Our reality today is drastically different from a year ago, six months ago, even perhaps just a month ago. And it is human nature to just do your best to work your way through it when everything is hard, cloudy, noisy, and disorientating. In short, when things don’t feel normal. And this past year has been anything but normal. We are living through a modern pandemic that has killed over three million people and caused hundreds of millions to fall ill. It has pushed our health care systems to the brink, destroyed untold livelihoods, separated families, and isolated our precious elders from the ones they love. But all of this is not new information. We have all been living through this reality in our own way since March of last year.

But now, with vaccinations slowly on the rise and the first tentative steps towards getting back to normal slowly being taken, the question becomes, Now what? What choices will we make going forward in light of everything that has happened? How will we begin to rebuild our lives, relationships, businesses, communities, and social structures? What do we, you, me, all of us, want to build in place of the systems that the pandemic found wanting?

This was the nature of a conversation I had last summer with my dear friend Jessica Houssian, co-CEO of The Equality Fund, right when we were in the thick of it. She was telling me about her work in designing and building one of the largest sustainable feminist funds in history (one billion dollars) to support feminist movements and women’s rights organizations in the middle of a global pandemic. And in the middle of telling me all this, she paused, and then asked me if I had ever heard of the term sistering. No, I responded. Tell me more.

A candid photo of Jacki, Jessica Houssian, and Lisa Witter

It turns out that the word sistering is used primarily as a construction term, and at its most basic, it means to make stronger. Jess described it like this: when you are constructing a building and the frame or support system is proven to be not strong enough, you sister (add) additional material to make it stronger. This process is called sistering. We both agreed that not only was this term awesome, but it was also what we were doing on that phone call. We were sharing our challenges, hopes, and dreams with each other, and asking what we could do to help. We were, and still are, sistering.

Since that day, sistering has become my own personal action word, and I have since stretched it into a personal mantra that I am calling sistering up. To qualify as a good mantra, the words should be motivational, and they should inspire you to be a better version of yourself. I hope that after reading what it means to me, you might consider adopting sistering up as your own mantra as well. And I will connect this back to investing. Promise.

But first, let me explain what I mean.

The way I see it, sistering up is both a mindset and an action oriented framework. And because I am making up this new word combination, I want to take the time to fully explain it. Of course, a sister is usually defined as a woman or girl in relation to other daughters and sons of her parents, as well as close female friends or associates. And we also know that the sisterhood has been commonly used to extend beyond the familial ties to refer to women working together in support of one another. But what about sistering? Well, sistering can describe what we do to support one another. Specifically, what we do as women to make each other stronger. It involves positive action, which is where the “up” in “sistering up” comes into play. We are sistering up in acknowledgement that there are still huge inequities and power structures that exist, and which result in gender related disparities. By sistering up, we will accelerate positive change. #SisteringUp

So on to the framework. The primary idea is that when you learn about something another woman is doing, or are presented with the opportunity to help another woman, there are four buckets of what you can do: Connect, Amplify, Champion, and Partner. And when I say women, I mean all self-identifying women, because we still live in a world where women are less likely to have embedded and unearned societal support systems and networks that help them flourish, which is why this is necessary. And if you don’t agree, please see the most recent edition of the Global Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum by clicking here.

The SisteringUp Framework

Connect

Take the time to think about who you are connecting with and who you are connected to, and more importantly, to what ends? Make a conscious decision to deepen and expand your connections, especially if you notice that most of your connections are with people from the same background and demographics as you. Take the time to listen and learn about new people and organizations, and park that information somewhere in your brain. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable passing along that information yet, but just knowing about it and making the conscious decision to continue learning every day will enrich your ability to help others in countless ways.

Amplify

You’ve connected and you’ve learned. Now share that information. Sharing can mean telling someone else, buying a product or service, tweeting something out, and in general, making a conscious effort to do something. It may not seem like much, but simply sharing your knowledge, not to mention your endorsement, can do so much. I truly believe that this bucket is incredibly undervalued and under-appreciated. Who knows what outcomes can result from these small acts of amplification? It could very well be that your one tweet, or post, or like, can bridge the gap between two of your followers, who together can make magic happen.

Champion

This bucket reflects a much deeper level of engagement than simply amplifying, as this is where you meaningfully put your capital, be it financial or social, on the line. You are vouching for someone or something because you did your homework, you know the person/company/product/service, and you believe in it. To champion something takes more time and effort, and there is absolutely risk involved. You are putting your reputation behind someone/thing else, and therefore your reputation is now on the line. But the inherent possibilities are also that much more grand. Perhaps there are doors that only you specifically can open because of your lived experience, and this is where you pay that privilege forward.

Partner

This is where you go ALL IN. This is where you don’t just vouch for someone; you partner with them and throw all of your support behind them. To do this, you will have to spend a significant amount of time and energy in support of this person, cause, and/or organization, so there is a limit to how many people with whom you can fully and thoughtfully partner. Therefore, when making that choice, think about why you are doing this and what you hope to accomplish. Both your head (logical) and heart (emotional) should be fully committed, but if you had to pick one, pick heart. Every time.

I feel like I have been using this framework for a long time, but until now, I never articulated it in this way, nor did I have a name for it. But now I do. Sistering Up.

So what does this have to do with investing? A heck of a lot, actually. Let me give you some examples of how I have applied this framework around my own investing, and how you can as well.

Connect

Since I began writing the SheInvests newsletter, I have been talking to more and more women about their money stories. I often start with a question. Can you tell me your earliest memory as it relates to money? Other questions include, what is your biggest fear around money? Do you think you know what you need to know about managing your money? If not, what do you think stops you from gaining that knowledge? To connect means to talk to other people about things, so I invite you to begin to talk to your friends and family members about money.

For myself, this past year, with the help of the incredible Rose Maizner, I have connected with many women, and in particular, women of color fund managers. If you read my Cheerios post, you know why. It is simply unacceptable to me that such a small percentage of investment capital goes to these managers, and I am determined to do as much as I can to change it. My first step was connection.

Amplify

As mentioned above, amplifying can mean a lot of things, but the core idea is to learn, do, and then share. If you read a book about investing, pass it on to a friend. If you have a wonderful woman financial advisor, recommend her to someone else. If you are not feeling confident in your knowledge about money, commit to taking an online course on money fundamentals. You can invite someone to do it with you, or you can buy the course for someone else. I recommend SmartPurse, and full disclosure, I am an investor with them because I believe wholeheartedly in their mission. If you are in a position to write a check of any size to fund a great women-founded company, of course go ahead and do it, but it’s equally important to then tell your friends who might also be in a position to do so as well. And if you are not in a position to write a check, you can still amplify by letting others know that fantastic women founders and entrepreneurs in your network are looking for financial support. Be the person who makes that introduction.

I spend a lot of my time amplifying both in a very personal way, and through all of my social platforms, including this newsletter. On my website I list all of the companies I have invested in, as well as books by authors I know and respect and so much more.

Champion

Championing as it relates to investing depends a lot on how much time you spend in this area. To champion, you want to have done your research and really believe in something. People ask me for investment advice all the time, and what I always say is that I am not an investment advisor, but here is what I am doing and why. Championing, not advising. If you spend the time to identify a great company, stock, or gender lens ETF, tell your friends about it.

For me, when I invest in a start-up or a fund, I allow the founders to use my name with other investors. And this is incredibly helpful to them! It is human nature to want to know who else is ‘in’, and at times, it is that social capital that is as important as the financial capital. I also champion people and funds that I may not be invested in for one reason or another, but really believe in nevertheless.

Partner

Again, to some degree, this depends on how active of an investor you are, but partnering can mean that you go out of your way to make introductions on behalf of your investment advisor to new clients. Or perhaps you provide some amount of crowdfunding to a new company, and then take the time to share this with everyone you know because you dig them so much. The key differentiator here is the amount of time you put in, the amount of social capital you put out there, and/or a higher amount of financial capital you invest, whatever that means for you.

For me, partnering means not only investing personally, but also reaching into my network to try and bring other investors to the table. And due to the time investment required, I can only do this for a small number of companies, advisors, and/or funds. This means that I have to choose carefully when deciding to partner with someone, because I always strive to be a full partner with my support. For example, with SmartPurse, not only did I bring other investors to the table, but I also took the time to help them test and refine their revenue, build out their market strategy, and helped to bring in key advisors to fill gaps in expertise.

Sistering Up

That is the framework for how you can bring a sistering up mindset to your investments. To bring it to life even further, I am thrilled to announce recent investments into two outstanding funds, both of which focus on tech innovations being brought to market by inclusive teams, especially those being built by women of color: the WOCstar Fund, led by Gayle Jennings O’Byrne and Pialy Aditya (pictured directly below), and The 22 Fund, led by Tracy Gray (pictured in the next paragraph).

Side by side headshot photos of Gayle and Pialy

Last October, I shared (again, amplify, amplify, amplify!) a robust list of ways to invest in racial equity. But beyond sharing, I wanted to find additional opportunities for sistering up. So Rose and I dove in, learning about the many funds, leaders, resources, and tools that are available to invest in people of color. Several funds stood out to us, and I plan to make more allocations soon, but WOCstars and The 22 were two that I knew I wanted to partner with almost immediately. I believe deeply in the missions of both of these funds, I am hugely confident in the profound expertise and capabilities of the managers, and the funds’ investment themes, sectors, and stages add important diversification to my portfolio. And, as an early investor in The 22 and a top investor in WOCstars, I know that I can help bring resources to bear that, I hope, will help them to raise additional capital in an environment that notoriously undervalues and overlooks women of color fund managers. Stronger together. Sistering Up.

Close up photo of Tracy Gray

Incidentally, The 22 and WOCstars are also both part of the Ally Collaborative, a group of six venture funds that are collaborating to increase representation in funds led by diverse fund managers, and investment into diverse-led companies. While not all of the funds are women-led (five out of the six are led or co-led by women), this is a powerful example of Sistering Up. By eschewing the tired culture of competition, these funds are actively helping one another to succeed, realizing that a rising tide lifts all boats.

I will be sharing more about both of these incredible funds, as well as the Ally Collaborative, in the coming months.

So there you have it. I invite you to embrace the sistering up (#SisteringUp) framework, and when you do, please share it! Anyone who thinks that hashtags cannot create change has obviously never heard of #metoo.

I also welcome your comments, your ideas, and your commitments to do more to support each other. According to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 135 years to achieve gender equality at the rate we are going, which is frankly about 100 years too long. And if you are a man reading this newsletter and wondering if you can join in the sistering up movement, the answer is heck yes! The more the merrier.

Love the Cartoon? Meet Liza! 

Headshot photo of Liza Donnelly

I met award-winning cartoonist and writer Liza Donnelly when we both gave a TED Talk at the 2010 Ted Women Conference. Nearly a decade later, our paths crossed again while we both were serving on the Advisory Council for the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College. In the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends, a collaboration was born. I am absolutely delighted to be sistering up with Liza, who will be creating an original drawing for each newsletter. We are also working on a book together on women and money, so please stay tuned for more updates on that project!

Liza has been drawing for The New Yorker Magazine for over 40 years, and she has also been a contributor for The New York Times, CNN, and CBS News, to name a few. She is the author/editor of several books, including the highly acclaimed Women on Men. Liza is also the creator and pioneer of live drawing journalism, and in recent years has covered protest marches, inaugurations, political national conventions, and entertainment award shows.

To find out more about Liza and her work, please click here. If you are on instagram you simply must follow her. @LizaDonnelly. #SisteringUp with Liza Donnelly.

The Lost Art of Connecting

As published on April 27th, 2021 on LinkedIn Influencers.

I am what you might call a “people person”. I love meeting new people, making introductions, and as much as I can, helping others. I am also what Susan McPherson, the author of a new book called The Lost Art Of Connecting – The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships, might call a super connector. It takes one to know one Susan.

As two super connectors anchored to New York City, it is not surprising that we met each other over a decade ago. Though we can’t remember the exact occasion, we are quite sure that the introduction was made by a mutual friend and the cofounder of Apolitical, Lisa Witter. Another a super connector. Susan suggests in her book that you always try to circle back to the person who made the introduction in the first place, so in case I did not thank you previously Lisa, thank you!

 

Of course I had to write about Susan’s new book, and of course I recommend that you purchase it, as it is filled with knowledge garnered from a lifetime of building relationships.

On to the interview.

Susan, you are the ultimate connector, so it is not surprising that you would choose to write a book about it. But why this book, and why now?

One would think I wrote this book as a result of living socially-isolated for the last 12 months, but actually the book’s thesis was created long before the pandemic. I had started to witness, like many of us, that we were relying too heavily on technology and social media for outreach, and measuring success by number of followers, clicks, and likes, without a lot of the benefits of real, meaningful connection that comes from building and retaining and deepening relationships. I still love the old-fashioned outreach of picking up the phone, writing letters and sending them off in envelopes, and (pre-pandemic) hosting of gatherings, and that method has served me well in both my personal and professional life. For years, friends would ask when I was going to share that methodology, so I decided to write a book… and then COVID-19 hit. While it might seem counterintuitive, this topic of meaningful connection is more relevant than ever, and we need to discuss how to best utilize those technological tools as an aide, not a crutch, to our communication—especially at this moment as we prepare to re-emerge from months of quarantine.

In the process, I believe we’ve all learned a great deal about ourselves this past year, and we’ve realized just how important our meaningful relationships truly are. As we are reflecting on passing the one year mark of the pandemic and look forward to hopefully reconnecting in-person in the coming months, my book is a roadmap for stepping back in with intent, care, and compassion.

You interviewed so many people about connecting. Can you share a few of your favorite take-aways from those interviews?

I am so grateful to the many amazing people who agreed to be interviewed for this book, including Jamia Wilson, Tiffany Dufu, Morra Arons-Mele, Adam Grant, and so many more.

Tiffany (founder of The Cru) shared very specific tips/ideas for breaking out of our echo chambers, which in the current social media platforms we participate in, is extraordinarily challenging. If we only hear from people like us, we are never going to truly grow and expand our minds. And Morra shared that much of her career was built off of a random connection she made with Lisa Stone, one of the founders of BlogHer. Morra explained that we should never discount the random people we meet along the way in life. They could have lasting implications. A 1973 study actually showed that 82% of those surveyed found their jobs through a contact rarely or occasionally communicated with.

I am so in to saying hello to random people by the way, and indeed, I have made some wonderful connections that way. I love how you suggest doing that in your book. You present a methodology, Gather, Ask, Do. Can you expand on what this is and why it is so effective?

I’m often asked how I built so many meaningful connections in so many communities over the years, and I realized that there was a framework to it.

First, “Gather”. Assess internally what it is you are hoping to achieve, find, learn, or secure, and then determine the channels, communities, and organizations you can do that with. Then “Ask”, which is when you develop the means to have meaningful conversations in which you can learn about the people you are interacting with. And do your best to listen so you retain what they share. Once you do that, you will have the tools you need to move into the “Do” phase, which is the actionable stage. It is focused on the art of the follow-up and finding ways you can be supportive and helpful, and then in turn you become someone who is reliable, dependable, and trustworthy.

What do all of us need to know about connecting?

Connecting is like a riding a bike. It might feel rusty at first if you haven’t done it in a while, but with a little practice, fine tuning, and leading with how can I support or help, it will become easier and more natural. Connecting on this level—in meaningful ways—truly does make the world a better place.

Indeed it does. Thank you Susan.

To order The Lost Art of Connecting, please click here.

Photo with me, Susan, Farai ChideyaAmy Richards and Lisa Yancey.