On Philanthropy: Suffragette Dreams Come True – via Philanthropy

1919 image of Wisconsin suffragettesNot yet equal in politics and business, women lead in philanthropy

Contributed by AFPSEWI
Milwaukee Business Journal
June 14, 2019 issue

One hundred years ago, on June 10, 1919, Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. When I reflect on the struggles of our foremothers, I wonder:  What have we accomplished?

The suffragettes believed women voters would transform our society.  Yet 100 years later we have yet to elect a female president.  Females represent less than 30% of elected positions in DC and just three cabinet posts in the current administration. Women hold under 8% of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies, and just 5% are CEOs.

After a century, women are still underrepresented in politics and business.  While the U.S. has a long way to go for gender equality, suffragette dreams are coming true – via philanthropy.

A recent Forbes study revealed:

  • Women control over half of private wealth and are responsible for around 86% of household consumer decisions.
  • Female philanthropists give at an average rate of 3% of their annual gross income -- twice that of their male counterparts.
  • Longer life spans mean that women inherit their parents’ and spouse’s wealth, concentrating their philanthropic potential -- within the next 40 years 70% of legacy wealth will be transferred to women.

My great grandmother would be appalled at the current state of politics, but she would surely be excited about these statistics. While the fight for gender equality must continue, we can appreciate the progress women have made – especially in philanthropy. 

With their natural mindfulness about strong families and communities, women will direct their generosity in ways that will make our world more equitable for all. Wisconsin was the first to ratify the vote for women.  Let's hope we lead again -- in feeling the effects of women's philanthropy.

On Philanthropy appears monthly in the Milwaukee Business Journal for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter. This month’s column is contributed by Ellen Wilkinson.