Philanthropic chauvinism alive and well in women’s philanthropy
While women play an increasingly important role in philanthropy; are on the whole more generous than men and have a strong influence on giving, women give less overall due to lower levels of wealth and are likely to give more to animal welfare and religious charities than to women’s and other social causes.
These were some of the points made by speakers at the Centre for Philanthropy and Giving’s (CGAP) panel discussion Female Futures, held at Cass Business School.
The discussion examined the role of women as donors and leaders in philanthropy and explored the challenges and opportunities ahead, a topic Philanthropy UK featured in a recent special report.
Hilary Pearson, president of Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC), gave a view of women’s philanthropy in Canada. She said one of the major differences is that men like to have the things they supported named after them, such as buildings, while women were more likely to support causes that changed their communities and were likely to be very engaged with those causes, giving time and money. Pearson also said there had been a revival in giving circles that allowed women to come together to give.
She said there was recognition among foundations, particularly those giving internationally, that if they invested in women and girls they were more likely to bring about economic growth and healthier communities.
Pearson said she was optimistic about the future of giving, particularly as the baby boom generation has reached an age when they were more likely to give the money they had made or inherited.
Cathy Pharoah, co-director of the CGAP, gave a UK perspective, and said there was an increasing reliance on donations from older women. She said while women were under-represented in high net worth philanthropy, they were nonetheless influential and shared in philanthropic decision-making, citing one study that showed 44% of male HNWIs interviewed made giving decisions with their wives.
Gillian Egan, trustee at Rosa, The UK Fund for Women and Girls, said women were currently more vulnerable than they had been in the last 50 years owing to budget cuts that were disproportionately affecting them. Women are much more likely to be single parents. She said women were experiencing real discrimination.
Diana Leat, visiting professor at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School and at the Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane Australia, agreed women continue to suffer discrimination and disadvantage, and suggested "sophisticated and sensitive discourse" with foundations who were funding women’s issues along with governments, associations and special interest networks to find out why these issues fall off the agenda could help in constructing a more authentic reality about the funding of women’s issues.
Leat also suggested that all issues, not just women’s causes, should be looked at through a ‘gender lens’: “Whether it’s poverty or education, for example, we should look at that issue through a gender lens to see how each is affected – we know for example classroom settings disadvantage boys.”
Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC), said she had found it “a waste of time" talking to government about funding women’s issues and said her pleas for more funding for women "fell on deaf ears".
She said raising women’s issues in male dominated arenas often lead to being stereotyped and their claims being marginalised or dismissed.
On why more women don’t give to women’s causes Hayes posited her own theory: “Is there something around women not wanting to acknowledge the pain or think about the difficulties that women and children have to face and so give to animal or religious causes instead?”
Pharoah said in conclusion: “The huge interest which the topic of female philanthropy aroused at the seminar speaks for itself: it is clearly an issue of concern to many involved in the world of philanthropy, whether as funders, fund-seekers or advocates. There is a need to have a much more open discussion of gender perspectives in our philanthropy, and I think several people who attended the seminar felt it would be important to widen the focus beyond women-only issues.”