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Capital Acumen Issue 33

Women And The World

Only a fraction of foundation funding is for women and girls, but a growing number of female-focused philanthropic organizations are trying to change that.

Jackie V headshot

Photograph by Andy Ryan

If there is one demographic that has the potential to make the world a better place, when given the opportunity to do so, it is surely women and girls. In fact, an action as basic as providing more education for girls, especially in developing countries, can boost female labor force participation and economic growth.1 Societies that invest in girls’ education have fewer maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDS, and better child nutrition.2 And each additional year of education for girls can help reduce child mortality by almost 10% and increase future earnings potential by 10% to 20%.3

In short, when the lives of women and girls are improved, the benefits that ripple out to others — families, communities, even a nation — can be significant.

Even so, when it comes to supporting women and girls — in education as well as in areas such as job training, pay equality, healthcare and access to capital — philanthropic foundations in the United States often tend to fall short. Reports unfortunately reflect that only about 7% of general funding by U.S. charitable organizations goes to bettering the lives of women and girls.4

Giving With a Gender Lens

Amid this shortfall, however, there is a bright spot: Domestic funding for women, which fell from $800 million in 2008, the year of the Great Recession, to about $610 million in 2010, climbed to about $850 million in 2013.5

As for giving, women in general display more interest than men do in giving to or volunteering for charitable institutions. The 2017 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth® survey,** which examines the preferences of more than 800 wealthy individuals and families, found that among female respondents:

  • 75% volunteer their time in some way (versus 65% of men);
  • 35% raise funds for charitable organizations (versus 26% of men). (Notably, women express interest in impact investing. See “Women: Investing for Profit and Impact” below.)

Women's Funds: Innovating to Use Their Resources

The Women’s Foundation of California, The New York Women’s Foundation and The Dallas Women’s Foundation are three examples of organizations focused on women. They all share a common goal of advancing women and girls, and a belief that when they thrive, communities prosper. The number of female-focused funds has grown from about 20 organizations three decades ago to well over 100 today, located on six continents and creating a network of innovation in gender lens philanthropy. (Find more at

Women: Investing for Profit and Impact

 hands together for group of people

Philanthropy and impact investing share a goal of creating societal and environmental progress, and impact investing has the additional goal of creating financial gain for investors. U.S.-based assets under management (AUM) committed to sustainable, responsible and impact investing grew from $640 billion in 1995 to $8.7 trillion in 2016, with “green” AUM now 22% of the $40 trillion in overall AUM.6 Women, it seems, are particularly attracted to investing for impact. Roughly 63% of women say that social, political or environmental impact is important to investment decision-making, compared with 50% of men who said the same thing.7

The Women’s Foundation of California is focused on the economic security and prosperity of women and girls in California. Beyond grant-making, the WFC publishes the California Women’s Well-Being Index, which provides rigorous data on women’s health, personal safety, employment, economic security and political participation. The WFC’s Women’s Policy Institute then leverages this data to advance policies that support women’s economic security. The WFC has also worked with U.S. Trust to develop the Women and Girls Equality Strategy, which applies a gender lens in evaluating investments with the potential to generate both financial returns and social returns and is one of the key thematic investment strategies of U.S. Trust’s Socially Innovative Investment platform.

The New York Women’s Foundation promotes the economic security and independence of women and girls by supporting programs that give them greater access to education, job training, employment and financial resources while also working to achieve economic justice. The foundation offers bold leadership in exploring strategies, programs and initiatives that bring community, policy and research experts together to propel positive change for underinvested women and girls.

The Dallas Women’s Foundation envisions an equitable society where women and girls are full participants. The foundation is dedicated to creating economic security for all women, and is committed to strengthening the pipeline of female leaders. To further these efforts, it produces significant research studies and reports that examine issues impacting women across Texas. The foundation’s board has been incorporating gender lens investing into its tools for change, and they now include loans to nonprofits employing women with criminal records, equity in local companies run by women, and investments in companies that outperform their peers on gender matters.

For more information on donating to women’s organizations or investing with a gender lens, please contact your U.S. Trust advisor.

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