News your connection to The Boston Globe

The wealth of women

PHILANTHROPY for women and girls has made global progress, using donated dollars to fight AIDS, promote education, and clean the environment. But money is still hard to come by. Of foundation grants over $10,000, only 7 percent go specifically to women and girls, according to the Women's Funding Network, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco.


The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of top donors shows that colleges and universities are powerful magnets for donated dollars. So are medical and scientific organizations, cultural groups, and well-known charities such as the Salvation Army. Joan Kroc, the late McDonald's heiress, tops the list of 2003 donors with $1.9 billion given to 10 organizations, including National Public Radio and the University of Notre Dame.

Missing is an intense focus on women and girls. That's a loss, because philanthropy solves problems and improves lives. Just as Andrew Carnegie's gifts have allowed people to take libraries for granted, a savvy donor could do the same for world-class day care, creating time for women and exceptional educational experiences for children.

The challenge for women's and girls' charities is promotion. In part, this means managing the backlash against some women's issues such as reproductive rights and the work-family balance, according to a report written for the Women's Funding Network.

Research is one way to raise issues and dispel stereotypes. For example, the idea that women prefer the "mommy track" to career advancement is balanced by the finding of the National Association for Female Executives that only eight women chief executives are running Fortune 500 companies; most companies groom men for the top jobs.

"We have to work hard," says Trinh Nguyen, director of development of the Boston Women's Fund. In its 20th year, the fund focuses on women and girls and on attracting donors of all ethnic and financial backgrounds. Fund themes include affordable housing, political participation, and immigration. The fund also invests in spiritual development. Among the grantees doing this work is the Women's Theological Center in Boston, which fuses spirituality and social change, and the Education and Careers Collaborative in Mattapan, which used a $4,500 grant to send American women to meet with women organizers in Cuba.

The weak economy has hurt. In past years the Women's Fund distributed $675,000 in grants. This year it was $350,000. The fund's goal is to give out $1 million in grants and to build its endowment to $2 million in the coming months and $20 million in 10 years.

More philanthropy, from women, men, and foundations, should be focused on helping women and girls.

Globe Archives
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months