Make no mistake there’s been a quiet transformation of leadership in the philanthropic community. Perhaps you missed its subtle arrival. It’s not the flamboyant style of the mighty tycoons of the past, driven by ego; but rather it’s an elegant and fashionable movement driven by sensibility and purpose.
Ladies who lead are making waves for the greater good by living authentic lives fostering the ideals of creativity, collaboration, and giving both time and money. Ladies who lead are using “time tested ‘women’s ways’ of leading, (that) have become the gold standard for great leaders of both genders, and the building blocks for success in today’s global economy,” writes Martha Mayhood Mertz in Becoming ATHENA: Eight Principles of Enlightened Leadership.
What’s good for the global economy is also good for the philanthropic economy. Leading the philanthropic economy, as marketing guru Tom Peters first proclaimed in 1997, are women – “the greatest ‘national’ economy.” And this “greatest economy” is good for every nonprofit organization’s sustainable fiscal health.
Research findings from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University affirm the growing impact of women’s giving leadership in their Women Give 2012 Study. When taking into consideration factors such as income, education and marital status, a key finding is that “Boomer and older women are more likely to give to charity and give more than their counterparts when other factors affecting giving are taken into consideration.” This study is a follow-up to the Institute’s Women Give 2010 research which found that “Single women are more likely to give to charity and give at a higher level than single men, across most income levels, after accounting for other factors that affect giving.”
The tipping point, in my opinion, for this significant paradigm shift toward boomer women’s more dynamic and purposeful leadership style, occurred in 2006 in an historic one week window of time when three icons in women’s history died. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King died on Jan. 30. The visionary feminist Betty Friedan died a few days later on Feb. 4. Moving forward from this loss, boomer women began not only to unite in their philanthropic mandate for a better world, but also to reassess their strengths to lead in a more compassionate and collaborative way.
You can read more about boomer women and their journey in Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation, the book I co-authored in 2010.