WOMEN AND PHILANTHROPY
Lori Lee Underwood
B.A., University of Colorado, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
This thesis for the Master of Social Science
Lori Lee Underwood
has been approved
/ 7 Date
Underwood, Lori Lee (M.S.S.)
Enlarged Housekeeping: Women and Philanthropy
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, women formed various
voluntary associations, including settlement houses and womens clubs. These groups
educated women and gave them a socially sanctioned means of public participation.
Though some decried womens work for social change, women argued that their moral
natures obligated them to alleviate social ills. This benevolent work ushered women
into newly created professions.
Women continue to enter professional careers, and particularly have filled
philanthropic roles in the past 20 years. Evidence indicates, however, that women are
denied leadership positions and board memberships in many agencies, particularly the
most substantial organizations. Studies also show a large gender wage gap in
nonprofits. These inequities are most obvious with respect to minorities, especially
Inequality also surfaces in funding for womens causes. Funders assume their
broad giving impacts males and females equally, but this frequently is not the case.
Those in the womens funding movement argue that the specific needs of females must
be taken into account in broad giving programs in order for them to solve social
problems. Many women in philanthropy aim to rectify inequality in philanthropy by
diversifying the composition of staffs, boards and grantees.
Women working to increase giving to females form national networks and local
organizations. Three Colorado agencies represent three different approaches to
philanthropy for women: The Junior League of Denver, which trains women to
volunteer and serve on boards; the Hunt Alternatives Fund, whose grants demonstrate
that broad giving can impact males and females equally; and the Womens Foundation
of Colorado, which strictly funds programs boosting the economic self-sufficiency of
females. Members of these organizations help funders recognize that women have
specific needs that must be considered in giving.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
I dedicate this thesis to my family and my grandmother for their help and support with
my academic pursuits.
My thanks to Dr. Jana Everett, Dr. Myra Rich, and Dr. Mike Tang of the University
of Colorado at Denver for their suggestions and support while I planned and wrote
Chapter 1: Introduction....................................................1
Chapter 2: Enlarged Housekeeping: The History of Womens Benevolence
2.1. Voluntary Associations.............................................10
2.2. Testing the Private Sphere: Temperance, Abolition..................13
2.3. The Moral Reformers................................................14
2.4. Women and Evangelical Reform.......................................17
2.5. Womens Clubs and Female Education.................................18
2.6. The Setdement House Movement.......................................24
2.7. Women and Social Change............................................28
2.8. Women and Changing Conceptions of Womens Place..................30
Chapter 3: Women and Philanthropy: Feminizing the Nonprofit Sector
3.1. The Nonprofit Sector...............................................37
3.2. Women in the Nonprofit Sector......................................39
3.3. The Feminization of the Nonprofit Sector...........................43
3.4. Women and Status in the Nonprofit Sector...........................48
3.5. Women, Men and Money...............................................50
3.6. Women on Nonprofit Boards..........................................55
3.7. Women and Voluntarism............................................ 62
Chapter 4: Funding for Women and Girls: Changing Dynamics
4.1. The Status of Women and Girls......................................66
4.2. Funding for Women and Girls........................................71
4.3. Barriers to Funding for Women and Girls............................81
4.4. Universal Funding and the Needs of Women and Girls...............85
4.5. Women Helping Women............................................... 91
4.6. Women and Money....................................................95
4.7. W omen s Foundations.............................................99
4.8. National Womens Funding Organizations............................102
Chapter 5: Womens Foundations in Colorado
5.1. The Junior League of Denver...................................... 107
5.2. The Hunt Alternatives Fund........................................115
5.3. The Womens Foundation of Colorado................................121
Chapter 6: Conclusion
6. American Philanthropy and Womens Voices..........................129
6.1. Responsiveness in Giving: Adding a Gender Lens....................133
A. Interview Questions........................................138
B. Interview Consent Forms....................................139
The issues of women and philanthropy and funding for girls and women are
increasingly coming under scholarly gaze. The history of women in voluntary
associations has particularly gained the attention of womens historians and other
historians as well. The most interest in women and philanthropy, however, was
sparked by reports that put funding for womens and girls programs at only two to
four percent of all philanthropic dollars in the last 20 years (Odendahl 1994, 305). This
statistic drew many into the womens funding movement, which aims to increase
awareness of the need for gender-specific funding, in order to increase giving to
My thesis is a contribution to this effort, and investigates many areas of women
and philanthropy. The second chapter looks at how nineteenth-century voluntary
associations educated women, let them exercise leadership skills, and most importantly,
gave them a socially-sanctioned entrance into the public sphere. This public activity led
women to tackle urban problems and to challenge social norms, such as the sexual
double standard and womens relegation to the domestic sphere. These notions evolved
into a consciousness of their place in society as women and of the need to put their
needs on an equal footing with mens. This early consciousness represents a precursor
to the advocacy for womens issues that characterizes modem womens organizations
and the womens funding movement. The history of the womens movement as it
evolved in voluntary associations not only reveals the roots of contemporary
organizations, but also frames the questions researchers ask of these groups. This
study recognizes that womens philanthropic efforts today continue a long tradition of
womens voluntary associations. The nineteenth-century organizations and the causes
they championed also paved the way for women to enter the professions, as they
continue to do today.
An analysis of womens status in the nonprofit work force follows in the third
chapter. Women have flooded the nonprofit labor market in the past two decades, and
have particularly filled positions in fund-raising and among foundation staffs. Despite
this influx of women, however, they encounter glass ceiling situations in the
nonprofit sector as in the for-profit arena, and confront several obstacles to leadership
positions and pay equity with men. These inequalities demonstrate that the nonprofit
sector is in danger of becoming feminized as more women fill its ranks, which
depresses status and pay relative to other sectors.
One influence women exert on the nonprofit sector is that they often add an
emphasis on the needs of girls and women to giving programs, or start organizations
expressly to give to programs for females, my fourth chapter argues. This effort is
motivated by the disproportionate funding that goes to programs for men and boys
versus those for women and girls. Of equal concern is the tendency for funders to
assume that their universal grants to broad audiences will reach females and males
equally, though this is not the case. Women in philanthropy encourage funders to take
womens needs seriously, and recognize that no social problems will be alleviated
unless womens particular concerns are considered in the solutions. This chapter also
describes national womens funding organizations, ranging from the National Network
of Womens Funds, which unites disparate womens organizations, to the Ms.
Foundation for Women, one of the largest womens funding agencies in the country.
My fifth chapter describes and compares three Colorado womens
organizations~the Junior League of Denver, the Hunt Alternatives Fund and the
Womens Foundation of Colorado. I chose these organizations because they represent
three different approaches to assisting women and girls through philanthropy. The
Hunt Alternatives Fund makes grants to broad populations, with an eye to the needs of
women and minorities. The Junior League also prefers to make universal grants,
especially to initiatives for children and families, but mainly benefits women through its
training programs. Members enroll in a course which trains them to be professional
volunteers, and many women carry this training with them to the boards of nonprofit
organizations. The Womens Foundation chooses to assist women by strictly targeting
them in their grants and programs. The group responds to the tendency of many
funders to overlook the specific needs of women and girls.
Chapter six concludes the paper by discussing how the new ranks of female
nonprofit workers help philanthropy respond to the needs of women and other
disenfranchised groups. Many women aim to rectify inequities in giving by redefining
power relations within organizations, and by making societal issues of womens
I investigated these areas pertaining to women and philanthropy chiefly through
library resources and the published reports of national womens funding organizations,
particularly Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy and The Feminist
Majority Foundation. I also conducted my own research by interviewing a
representative of each of the three organizations my fifth chapter focuses on. These
women described their agencys goals, programs and stance on funding for girls and
women. I also attempted to gauge the level of funding for women and girls by using
Foundation Center publications and estimating the percentage of grants impacting this
The issue of women and philanthropy is crucial because many philanthropic
organizations aim to solve some of societys most urgent problems, but these issues
will remain unless specific consideration is given to the needs of women and girls. If
philanthropic dollars do not begin to redress the inequalities experienced by females,
not only will the status of this population remain basically unchallenged, but so will
some of the most serious issues facing the nation.
2. Enlarged Housekeeping:
The History of Womens Benevolence
Florence Kelley arrived at Hull House, Chicago, bn a frosty morning in
December, 1891. The trip had not been easy. She had picked her way through streets
obstructed by fallen horses and mounds of black snow. But the welcome she received
from Jane Addams, cofounder of Hull House, made her journey worthwhile. Addams
opened the door with a pudgy baby on her left arm, and welcomed her as if she had
been invited. Unexpected guests such as Kelley popped up daily at Hull House, and
Addams maintained hospitality for all people and ideas. She invited Kelley to breakfast
with Hull House volunteers such as Ellen Gates Starr, who founded the institution with
Addams. Then it was back to work as usual at Hull House: counseling immigrants,
finding houses for the elderly, and entertaining school children in playgrounds. For
Kelley, it was the beginning of seven happy, active years with the home (Kelley
Kelley was not alone. In fact, thousands of women found happy, active years
with benevolent societies and voluntary associations in the nineteenth century, ranging
from settlement houses to moral reform agencies, from missionary societies to
womens clubs. Such women carried on a philanthropic tradition that stretches back to
Europe, prior to colonization of America (Bremner 1988). Much of womens
participation in voluntary associations was invisible to many historians until relatively
recently. Now, historians take a serious look at these organizations and realize the
crucial role many groups played in shaping womens place in society and in shaping
American philanthropy received one of its biggest boosts in the eighteenth
century from the Great Awakening of the 1730s. This movement strengthened
humanitarian impulses and popularized benevolence, especially toward the poor. For
the thirty years between the Great Awakening and the Revolutionary war, the country
experienced several emergencies that heightened the need for philanthropy. The Indian
wars caused benevolent institutions to tackle problems such as disabled soldiers. The
needy population also multiplied due to two depressions, the influx of immigrants, and
epidemics of diseases such as small pox (Bremner 1988).
The nineteenth century saw a movement toward voluntary associations to
address social ills. Due to the popular prejudice against ostentatious displays of wealth,
benevolence was the only socially acceptable extravagance for the leisure class in the
first half of the nineteenth century (Bremner 1988). Voluntary associations multiplied
between 1820-1845 (Evans 1989). Alexis de Tocqueville, traveling in the U.S. in
1831, described this mass organization:
Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly
form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing
companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other
kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous
or diminutive. (Qtd. in Evans 1989, 67-8)
Such associations have been fundamental to American life since the early nineteenth
century, particularly for women. Historians now see female associations as central to
American social and political development (Scott 1991, 2). Through these groups
women brought their domestic values to public life and transformed definitions of state
responsibility (Evans 1989).
When looking at the proliferation of womens voluntary associations in the
nineteenth century, it is difficult to believe that organizing among women was a radical
move. But gender prescriptions during this time dictated strict domesticity to women,
and organizing into groups was a unique innovation. True, community engagement
was part of domesticity, but group activity for public, political change was novel.
Historians describes the canon of domesticity for women during this time. A
womans role was to create a domestic paradise to ease the social and economic
changes men encountered with industrialization. Women were prescribed to the shady
green lanes of domestic life where they were believed to find pure enjoyment and
hallowed sympathies (Ladies'Magazine, 1830, qtd. in Cott 1977, 67). Guided by this
conception of womanhood, a proper lady would find public activism unthinkable.
In many instances, womens gender roles not only prescribed strict domesticity,
but also explicitly admonished female efforts at influence beyond the home. As T.S.
Arthur advised in The Lady at Home "Let her not look away from her own little family
circle for the means of producing moral and social reforms, but begin at home (qtd. in
Evans 1989, 69). Clergymen of the early 1800s similarly admonished female moral
reformers. They saw reform as strictly a male endeavor; a woman attempting to have
such influence was unwomanly and unnatural. Many members of womens
organizations disagreed. These women, mostly the wives and daughters of middle-
class businessmen, professionals and farmers, asserted their moral obligation to
reform, based on their natural moral superiority (Scott 1991).
Such arguments demonstrate that womens benevolent activity could reinforce
gender roles. Addams, for instance, justified the reform efforts of the women of Hull
House by insisting they merely undertook enlarged housekeeping Domesticity
entailed an ethic of selflessness,1 and women who helped the poor fulfilled this
expectation (Cott 1977). The view of many clergymen that womens charity displayed
their natural generosity underscores that womens activism could reinforce rules of
femininity (Berg 1978). When women themselves feared their activities violated gender
norms, they cloaked them in the rhetoric of charity.
Whatever justifications women used for their reform activities, several factors
combined to assist women in their endeavors. Some historians credit religious fervor in
general and the Second Great Awakening in particular with ushering in a new female
activism. Strong religious, political and economic ferment swelled in the 1830s and
created what Bremner (1988,45) calls a Benevolent Empire--a coalition of separate
but interdenominational societies that raised money for religious purposes. The
religious revivals of this period encouraged womens participation, and advocated
womens public prayer to mixed audiences in the 1820s. Womens participation in
revivals gave them confidence to assert their moral mission (Evans 1989). Through
evangelicalism female reformers could not only legitimate their actions, but also address
topics that normally were unspeakable, such as the sexual double standard (Smith-
Rosenberg 1985). Christianity moved women, particularly middle- or upper-class
women, to concerns about the world beyond the four corners of the home. The fire of
evangelicalism ushered women into the public domain where their moral visions could
reform social problems (Scott 1991).
1 Jean Baker Miller (Toward a New Psychology of Women), and Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice)
also describe womens socialization into self-abnegation.
The condemnations of religious leaders, however, argue against an
uncomplicated relationship between religion and female benevolence. The Rev. J.K.
Brownson, for instance, believed women had a role in the great moral reforms, but not
one of leadership. Even supportive clergy decried societies they thought took women
beyond their station (Berg 1978). The Rev. William Gray supplied further evidence of
the friction between female societies and religious institutions in 1821, when he
informed Female Mission Society members that the men would be taking over their
organization. These are certainly events of a promising character and appear well
adapted to give strength and permanence to the mission (Berg 1978, 152). Members
of the society likely disagreed that their current endeavors lacked strength and
permanence, but they complied with the order.
Other factors that contributed to the proliferation of female associations are less
debatable. One factor was the economic shift prompted by industrialization and
immigration. Economic growth increased the number of businessmen who could
support their families without the economic contributions of wives and daughters,
allowing them to participate in charitable activity (Scott 1991). Economic changes
lightened womens domestic load as goods began to be purchased rather than made.
Household duties were further eased by the Irish and immigrant domestic help that
poured into America in the 1890s. Middle-class women filled their new-found leisure
time with charitable work (Rossi 1988). Womens increased free time coincided with
the growing number of college-educated women between 1890-1910, another catalyst
for organization (Flexner 1975).
Womens associations received their biggest push, however, from women
themselves. They wanted to use their college educations, their new leisure time, and
their particular moral influence to medicate the social ills they saw around them. Most
importantly, they wanted to find a sense of purpose for themselves outside of
2.1. Voluntary Associations
Voluntary associations provided many women with the outlets they needed.
Through such groups they could influence society, often in a socially sanctioned
manner, while testing the boundaries of domesticity. Scott (1991) identifies three
phases in the evolution of womens voluntary associations: benevolent societies,
reform groups, and the soldiers aid societies of the Civil War era. These phases
coincide with three types of organizations: religious, self-improvement and community
improvement. The first rudimentary womens organizations were the church sewing
circles organized in about 1820 to raise money for religious and charitable work
(Flexner 1975). Missionary societies dominated the organizational landscape in the
1870s; groups such as the Womens Christian Temperance Union were prominent in
the 1880s; and womens clubs dominated the 1890s. Womens groups proliferated,
drawing women from all walks of life, as Scott (1991, 2) explains:
...womens associations were literally everywhere: known or unknown,
famous or obscure, young or ancient, auxiliary or freestanding,
reactionary, conservative, liberal, radical, or a mix of all four; old
women, young women, black women, white women, women from
every ethnic group, every religious group had their societies.
These societies augmented the work of family, church and local government (Scott
One of the largest womens voluntary associations in the world remains the
Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA), founded in Boston in 1867 to
provide boarding houses to single women of good character working in the cities
(Scott 1991) (Evans 141).2 YWCA members partly defined their work as providing
the influence and protection of a Christian home for these women. The group also
supported factory inspection and minimum-wage laws. Each state branch followed its
own agenda: the Pittsburgh YWCA, for instance, created homes for aged women and
unmarried mothers, as well as an industrial school (Scott 1991).
In the African-American community, the Independent Order of St. Luke,
founded in 1867, represented one of the largest and most successful of thousands of
mutual benefit societies established since the eighteenth century.3 Maggie Lena Walker,
the first female bank president in the country, steered the group, which provided
insurance for blacks, enhanced their economic development, and encouraged them to
unite. Walker believed that women in particular could only avoid the traps and snares
of life by banding together (Kerber and Sherron de Hart 1995, 233).4 Club members
ventured into politics by participating in the 1904 streetcar boycott. Women were
instrumental to many societies, Scott explains. [TJhere were associations of some sort
2 Several female Jewish philanthropic organizations were begun during industrialization for similar
purposes. The Council of Jewish Women, for instance, was stationed at Ellis Island and provided
temporary guardianship for immigrant women who came to America to work and whose families could
not be immediately contacted. Other middle-class Jewish philanthropists set up housing in American
cities for working immigrant girls, because it was scandalous for a girl to live alone. Still other Jewish
philanthropic organizations, such as the Clara de Hirsch Home in New York, the Home for Jewish
Working Girls, and the Josephine Club, not only provided affordable quarters for young women, but
also strove to improve them mentally and morally through lectures and concerts. See Susan A. Glenn,
Daughters of the Shtetl.
3 Social clubs and mutual aid societies were also prominent among Latino Women. For a small
monthly fee. clubs such as Centro Asturiano, Circulo Cubano (for white Cubans) and Unione Italiana
provided health care, insurance, and burial benefits (Hewitt 1990).
4 Walker believed black women had special incentives to organize. Who is so helpless as the Negro
woman? she asked. Who is so circumscribed and hemmed in, in the race of life, in the struggle for
bread, meat and clothing as the Negro woman? (Kerber and Sherron de Hart, 1995, 234).
in nearly every black community, North and South, in cities, towns and villages. .
[Organized black women touched every area of life, from home to politics (qtd. in
Kerber and Sherron de Hart 1995, 231). Black women expanded their sphere of
influence with the organizational proliferation that continued throughout the nineteenth
Between 1865 and 1900 womens organizations expanded so quickly in
number and kind that by 1900 it was difficult to determine how many associations
existed. Most groups were religious in nature, but women also belonged to secular
societies (Scott 1991). The clubs success persisted although many organizations
relinquished their female control in the 1850s. At this time, activities in voluntary
associations were institutionalized, with a change from female to male control with
female auxiliaries (Evans 1989).
Historians see womens voluntary associations as essential to reshaping
nineteenth-century definitions of public and private. Evans (1989, 313) holds that by
the 1880s women had transformed the public landscape through their volunteerism until
it became an area where citizenship could take on continuing and vital meanings,
personal problems could be translated into social concerns, and democratic experience
could flourish. Associations enabled women to dull public/private distinctions.
Blurring this distinction was critical for women who sought self-fulfillment
beyond home and family. The middle-class women who established associations talked
of their own search for meaningful work (Scott 1991). Leaders of organizations found
an opportunity to separate their identities from their husbands and to demonstrate their
competence. Volunteering was a means to self-fulfillment for housewives and college-
educated women alike.
2.2. Testing the Private Sphere: Temperance, Abolition
The temperance movement offered many women an opportunity to put their
needs on an equal footing with mens. They brought their concerns about male
drunkenness and its effects on wives and children into the limelight. Female temperance
agitation began in the 1920s, and reinforced gender norms to an extent because it
focused on a domestic concern, and because women justified their agitation in terms of
their moral superiority. At the same time, however, women tested gender norms by
publicly espousing anti-male rhetoric.
For years the Womens Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in
1874, led the crusade against male drinking and other vile habits.5 The religious
organization was primarily a prayer society for temperance, but also worked for sex
education in schools, minimum wage laws, womens suffrage and prison reform (Scott
1991). They also helped women learn about and participate in politics and advocated
social purity by fighting venereal disease.
Although WCTU members publicly discussed taboo topics that proper ladies
should not have even known about, their activities were not seen as improper because
they were steeped in the rhetoric of religious responsibility. Furthermore, because they
agitated collectively, they were not regarded as stepping beyond their proper station. As
Scott (1970, 147) explains, ...the WCTU provided a respectable framework in which
5 The WCTU also gave Latino women their only contact with philanthropy prior to the 1890s (Hewitt
southern women could pursue their own development and social reform without
drastically offending the prevailing views of the community about ladylike behavior.
Collectively women could test gender role bounds more freely than they could
individually, and they could bring attention to their needs.
2.3. The Moral Reformers
[C]ommon consent allows the male to habituate himself to this vice.
-The New York Female Moral Reform Society
By mid-century, poverty and other social ills wrought by industrialization were
a top concern for womens organizations. Overpopulation, unemployment and poverty
proliferated during this time on a scale previously unknown in America. Thus, women
who called themselves moral reformers set out to alleviate poverty, in particular its
effects on women and children.
The early moral reform efforts, such as the New York Female Moral Reform
Society (FMRS), founded in 1834, attacked prostitution. These middle-class wives and
mothers offered an alternative life to fallen women and attempted to shame and
reform their clients (Scott 1991). The Societys executive committee minutes explain
their position on this matter: Why should a female be trodden underfoot and spumed
from society and driven from a parents roof, if she but fall into sin, while common
consent allows the male to habituate himself to this vice, and treats him as not guilty?
(qtd. in Smith-Rosenberg 1985, 117). To club members, the sexual double standard
symbolized the pleasure male-dominated society took in robbing passive and
defenseless women of their innocence, and then accusing them but not the men of sin
(Smith-Rosenberg 1985). In denouncing the male social preeminence represented by
the double standard, members of the society sought to establish womens rights and
needs. They would not have thought of themselves as feminist, however; their aim was
to spread moral values as they believed only women could, and their chief method of
reforming prostitutes--and the main goal of the Society overallwas to convert them to
evangelical Protestantism (Smith-Rosenberg 1985). Butin so doing, they criticized the
Because they publicly discussed such an unladylike topic, it was not long
before clergymen and laymen alike accused the reformers of stepping beyond their
station. The women countered that men held them responsible for morality, so men
could not blame women for shouldering that duty (Scott 1991). Mid-way through the
1840s, the moral reformers shifted their focus from prostitution to children, and
changed their name to the New York American Female Guardian Society. By the
1860s, the society was a shelter for poor women and an employment agency (Smith-
Another prominent moral reform agency at mid-century was the Childrens Aid
Society (CAS). This group in particular represented the views of many reformers that
poverty could be eliminated by changing the character of lower-class people. Charles
Loring Brace founded the middle-class CAS in 1853 with the aim of helping all poor
children, especially street orphans. The group sought to alleviate poverty in urban
New York, and sponsored religious meetings, workshops and industrial schools for
the poorest children (Scott 1991) (Bremner 1988). CAS workers assumed that if
children were prostituting or scavenging, it was primarily the fault of the mother, who
the reformers thought lacked moral fortitude and consequently could not pass values to
her children. The reformers view of the mothers of street children was rooted in their
own middle-class lifestyles, historians argue. Reformers could not understand that
lower-class parents needed their childrens economic contributions. Because they saw
the mothers as morally unfit, the CAS began the placing-out system, which removed
children from the parents to prevent the sins of one generation from passing to the
Despite their work with the lower classes, female reformers often ignored the
plight of African Americans; even progressive reformers ignored lynching. White
reformers also frequently excluded black women from their ranks. Black female
reformers had different priorities than their white counterpartsthey often combined
their welfare work with their civil rights agitation, for instance (Gordon 1994). But
they also shared white womens views that their work was key to social progress and
reform (Giddings 1984). African American women saw their obligation to alleviate
social wrongs, particularly for their race, and viewed their activism as extensions of
Moral reform societies were a natural draw for women, who thought
themselves the embodiment of moral purity. Middle-class women in particular
gravitated to the societies because they saw a chance to rid lower-class women of vice,
which would benefit people of all classes. In many ways, however, the reform
movement reinforced not only classist and racist norms, but also stereotypes of
women. Reformers emphasized their natural morality, and reform organizations that
excluded women from power also pushed them out of the political realm. Women were
6 This notion that the middle-class reformers sought to impose their values onto the lower classes is
contestable. Barbara Berg writes in The Remembered Gate that this theory applies to male
organizations but not female voluntary associations between 1800-1860. She writes that the reports of
female societies in the early nineteenth century do not indicate much moral stewardship (Berg 1978).
However, Stansell may be correct in her interpretation of the CASs motives considering that the
organizations staff were male while women only worked as volunteers (Evans 1989).
more successful in challenging their relegation to domesticity in the religious societies
that reached their height in the 1870s.
2.4. Women and Evangelical Reform
It was not only pressing urban problems, or efforts to expand the realm of
activity, that stirred women to join associations during the nineteenth century, but also
spirit of religious fervor. Women often stated that they believed God asked for their
work, so they must ignore those who would tell them otherwise. In doing such work
women exercised their Christian virtues.
Womens organizations in churches fostered the first independent charities in
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the 1860s and 1870s, black
women and white women were forming three major groups of religious associations:
organizations such as the Womens Christian Temperance Union, societies such as the
Young Womens Christian Association, and lastly, the home and foreign missionary
societies of Protestant churches (Scott 1991).
Religious associations provided women with a freer atmosphere in which to
discuss social and political issues generally viewed as inappropriate for women to
consider. Women in missionary groups of every denomination began to demand their
right to run their own organizations and handle their own money. But such requests
were not well received. Most resulted in fights between the sexes, particularly in the
Baptist churches of blacks and whites, and the Methodist Episcopal Church (Scott
While white women had a variety of organizations, secular and religious, for
black women the church was the central medium for reform. By 1890, black womens
welfare activities took three forms: mutual benefit societies, which strove to provide
sickness and burial insurance for blacks; womens clubs, composed of middle-class
women; and church groups of poorer women (Gordon 1994).7
Church organizations gave many women their first experiences with reform and
philanthropy. Religion motivated women to join associations where they believed they
would be effective in relieving moral and social ills, whether church groups or the
secular womens clubs that were rising to the forefront of American society.
2.5. Womens Clubs and Female Education
A witty woman is a scourge ... to the world.
In 1868 a group of professional women were asked to help prepare a dinner for
Charles Dickens at the New York Press Club. When they finished assisting with the
dinner, however, they were told they could not attend (Evans 1989). The women
responded by creating their own club where they would always be welcome, and the
Sorosis Womens Club for female education was bom. The women chose the term
sorosis from a botanical dictionary for its reference to a plant with an aggregation of
flowers that bore fruit, to show the members intent to move frail women into the
7 Other historians believe that religion had little or nothing to do with pushing women into benevolent
societies. Berg (1978) points out the proliferation of female voluntary societies in cities 30 years before
the Second Great Awakening. She also notes that religion was not the impetus for the American
Female Moral Reform Society, which frequently criticized religious leaders. Though they may have
objected to clergymen, however, these women may still have been motivated to join organizations out
of ideals of Christian virtue.
public arena (Blair 1990, 21).8 Sorosis members encouraged women to abandon their
trivial concerns and cultivate their higher faculties in order to lift the sex as a whole,
much as African American club women advocated education as a means of racial
uplift.9 Sorosis was one of many clubs created for the education of women.
Educational clubs for women were radical in a culture that saw female education
as unimportant. Historians have not pinpointed the exact year in which colleges opened
to women, because that time depends on how one classifies a college as a womens
college. Some argue that prior to the Civil War, the only higher education institute
admitting women was Oberlin College in Ohio (McCarthy 1995). Others add that
womens colleges did not begin to appear until 1865 (Scott 1991).10 Womens
education was slow to spread in the U.S. because many men, such as Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, opposed it. A witty [i.e. educated] woman is a scourge to her husband, to
her children, to her friends, her servants, and to all the world, he wrote. Elated by the
sublimity of her genius, she scorns to stoop to the duties of a woman and is sure to
commence a man (qtd. in Evans 1989, 56). Such arguments against female education
K The Sorosis constitutions definition of purpose underscores this aim: The object of the association
is to promote agreeable and useful relations among women of literary and artistic tastes.... It
recognizes women of thought, culture and humanity everywhere, particularly when these qualities have
found expression in outward life and work.
It aims to establish a kind of freemasonry among women of similar pursuits, to render them
helpful to each other, and bridge over the barrier which custom and social etiquette place in the way of
It affords an opportunity for the discussion among women, of new facts and principles, the
results of which promise to exert an important influence on the future of women and the welfare of
society (qtd. in Blair 1980, 23).
9 As Sorosis members stated, We have proposed to enter our protest against idle gossip, against all
demoralizing waste of time, against the follies and tyrannies of fashion, in short, against everything
that opposes the full development and use of the faculties conferred upon us by our Creator (qtd. in
Evans 1989, 139).
10 But by 1880 one-third of all undergraduates were women (Gordon 1994,73).
on the grounds that it would lead women to rebuke their natural roles permeated the
nineteenth century.11 Women were ornamental, not intellectual.
According to men, that is. Many women, however, gravitated to clubs in search
of what Evans calls self-culture. Club members generally had the education to
generate ambition, fewer children than the average woman, more material resources and
leisure time, and longer lives than their mothers and grandmothers. Such women found
an outlet in educational clubs that expressed the unmet needs of middle-class women
both for intellectual stimulation and for mechanisms of reproductive mobility not totally
controlled by their husbands Evans explains. They read and reported on great
literature and held cultural events. When women took leadership roles or traveled to
conventions they were exposed to new ideas (Evans 1989, 183). They also gave
women a support system in a safe setting where women could question dominant
ideologies. Clubs enabled women of the antebellum South who desired more education
than could be found at local seminaries to rely on their own efforts (Scott 1991).
African American women shared this interest in educational organization. Their
groups grew nationally between 1892-1894, from Ida B. Wells anti-lynching activism
(Giddings 1984). Educating for racial uplift was a key goal. Education was particularly
crucial to the black community because though growing numbers of black women had
the opportunity to enter college and the professions, they were cornered in domestic
and menial work because white women wanted them as servants (Giddings 1984).
uCott (1977, 111), also cites an editorialist with the Connecticut Courant who protested Catherine
Beechers introduction of a moral philosophy course at her Hartford School for Girls. I had rather my
daughters would go to school and sit down and do nothing, the editorialist wrote, than to study
philosophy, etc. These branches fill young Misses with vanity to the degree that they are above
attending to the most useful parts of an education.
Club members sought to give black women better opportunities and higher expectations
One of the most prominent African-American clubs for self-education was the
National Association of Colored Womens Clubs (NACW), founded in 1896 and
uniting over 36 clubs in more than 12 states. In 1914 it claimed 50,000 members and
over 1,000 clubs (Scott 1991, 148). Giddings calls the organization a watershed in the
history of Black women because in it women were neither auxiliaries of a mens group
or minorities of a white womens group (Giddings 1984, 95). This national network of
black womens clubs trained new African American leaders and worked to help people
help themselves (Evans 1989). They promoted black education in order to polish the
image of black women in white minds. The club was also a response to the exclusion
of black women from many white womens clubs (Scott 1991).
With the motto, Lifting As We Climb, NACW members also sought racial
uplift by helping the homeless and providing support through employment services and
day care centers. Such endeavors sprang from the mutual aid societies and cooperative
medical programs of earlier in the nineteenth century. Mary Church Terrell, one of the
wealthiest and most educated black women of the time, said the motto represented the
clubs commitment to working with women in particular and the importance of
womens role in the uplifting of the race. Members have determined to come into the
closest possible touch with the masses of our women, she wrote, through whom the
womanhood of our people is always judged (qtd. in Giddings 1984, 98).
12 These interests also prompted black leaders such as Jeanette Carter, Julia F. Coleman, and Mary
Church Tenell to form the Women Wage-Earners Association in Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s.
The group aimed to teach African-American women how to organize for better wages, housing, and
working conditions (Giddings 1984).
For white women, the primary purpose of the secular clubs was self-
improvement, which eventually led to other reforms. For black women the goals were
racial uplift and broad-based giving. Members also took a prominent stand against
lynching and slavery, and offered help to freed slaves. These activities demonstrate
differences between black womens and white womens philanthropy. While white
women differentiated between the deserving and the undeserving, black women
saw a unity of the race in white oppression. They recognized that many whites did not
distinguish between classes of blacks, so they extended a hand to all.13
Womens clubs made advances not only for women in society, but for society
as a whole. While joining together for self-education, women built thousands of
libraries (Scott 1991). Club women in major cities worked in areas such as child care
and overcrowding, laying the groundwork for social reformers and settlement house
workers (Evans 1989). Some clubs tackled working conditions in sweatshops, such as
the Illinois Womens Alliance, formed in 1888 with the combination of over 20
Chicago womens organizations. More importantly, the clubs identified problems,
undertook projects to address those needs, then turned their operations over to local
governments and moved on to their next challenge. Such clubs functioned as
watchdogs to keep government on the right track. Legislative reform efforts focused
on public health, particularly cleaning up the milk supply that often was contaminated
en route from the commercial dairies to consumers. Club women eventually forced
1? Terrell was well-aware that all blacks were members of the lower classes in the eyes of whites, or as
she stated, ... all black women were perceived in the light of those who had the least resources and
the least opportunities. Therefore, blacks had to be in touch with all members of the race. Self-
preservation, she wrote, demands that [black women] go among the lowly, illiterate and even the
victims, to whom they are bound by ties of race and sex... to reclaim them (qtd. in Giddings 1984,
local governments to regulate the production and distribution of milk (Scott 1991).
They also helped redefine conceptions of state responsibility for public welfare, while
learning about and participating in the political process.
Black club women were less likely to form literary and educational societies
than they were to form groups that cared for the old, the sick, the disabled and the
church (Flexner 1975). They also organized into unions to help working classes. The
National Association of Wage Earners was a black womens organization that sought to
combine the resources of housewives and professionals to increase the economic
position of black women, on the principle that all black women should be able to
support themselves. Similar principles motivated the founding in 1898 of the Womens
Union, a black womans group that argued that women belonged in both the public and
private spheres. With the motto, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World,
they maintained that women could be active in economics and politics without
abandoning their familial duties (Kerber and Sherron de Hart 1995).
Womens clubs grew particularly quickly in the South during the Civil War,
which roused the charitable impulses of all Americans as never before. The need for
soldiers relief and ladies aid societies buttressed the proliferation of womens groups.
Women founded 15,000 soldiers aid societies before the end of the war, which
became confederate memorial associations after the war (Bremner 1988, 73). These
memorial associations were successful partially because all areas of American
philanthropy saw major gains in the 25 to 30 years after the Civil War. This success
was again spurred by national emergencies, particularly the depression of 1873-78.
Individuals, older charities and public authorities set out to help those who had lost
everything by setting up soup kitchens and lodging homes (Bremner 1988).
Locally, Denver in the late nineteenth century benefited from the Womens Club
of Denver, which began in autumn 1895. It claimed over 1,000 members and had six
departments, its department of reform being one of its most popular. Those who
worked in the reform department created the Civic Federation of Denver in 1895. For
years it remained the only political working organization of women in Colorado except
for partisan clubs. Womens Club members cleaned up trash along Sixteenth Avenue,
and converted donated vacant lots into vegetable gardens. They also saved trees along
Thirteenth Avenue by opposing a proposed widening of the street between Grant and
Logan avenues (Conine 1994).
The only type of womens association that could rival the womens clubs in
terms of impact on womens place in society and on society itself would be the
settlement houses, which began in the 1890s and stretched into the twentieth century.
This activity would not only bring women into the public sphere, but also usher them
into the professional world.
2.6. The Settlement House Movement
The men of the city have been carelessly indifferent
to most of this civic housekeeping.
Lower-class people and sweatshop workers in Chicago at the turn of the
century had a powerful ally in the Hull House settlement which sprouted in their midst
in 1898. Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr founded the home for the care of the poor
and the acculturation of immigrants at the mansion of the late Charles Hull. In 1893 it
had 15 permanent residents, and by 1900 it had 50, mostly female, residents (Muncy
Hull House battled child labor, and lobbied for urban sanitation, juvenile
courts, maternal and child health, mothers pensions, public education, union
organizing and better working conditions. A Hull House report on the condition of
working classes surrounding the settlement led to legislation limiting the work day to
eight hours for women and children. Hull House also featured a kindergarten,
Chicagos first public playground, lectures for adults and social clubs for the young.
They sought to acculturate immigrants through art, music and the humanities, but later
became more practical (Evans 1989). Though Hull House emphasized help for
immigrants, it, like other white settlement houses, ignored or excluded blacks, or were
segregated (Gordon 1994).14
The black community sponsored a parallel movement in which female
settlement employees worked primarily for racial uplift. Fannie Barrier Williams said
her work aimed to, be a center of wholesome influences to the end that well-disposed
white people may leam to know and respect the ever-increasing number of colored
people who have earned the right to be ... respected (qtd. in Gordon 1994, 132).
Unlike white philanthropists, Williams did not differentiate between worthy or
unworthy blacks, but believed that with help all blacks could work to improve the
standing of the African American community in white society.
While Hull House and other settlements were created explicitly to combat social
ills, implicitly they aimed to combat womens ills. Addams in particular was concerned
about the loss of vitality she saw in women who returned from college and found that
society had little use'for them. She said that social norms that cultivate altruism in
14 Segregation was a trend among whites in the Progressive Era, as they thought it would strengthen
the social order (Gordon 1994).
women, educate them, and then give them no means of acting on these virtues contain
all the elements of a tragedy (Addams 1910, 237). In our attempt then to give a girl
pleasure and freedom from care we succeed, for the most part, in making her pitifully
miserable, Addams wrote. She is besotted with innocent little ambitions, and does
not understand this apparent waste of herself, this elaborate preparation, if no work is
to be provided for her (Addams 1910,238). After dealing with this emotional turmoil
in her own life, Addams wrote that she decided to rent a house in a needy section of
town, in which young women who had been given over too exclusively to study,
might restore a balance of activity along traditional lines and learn of life from life itself
(Evans 1989, 148). 15 Women needed a venue in which to help themselves while
helping others. For many, Hull House was the answer.
Through settlements such as Hull House women learned about state, city and
ward-level politics, and a summer or a year at a settlement could serve as a springboard
for social activism (Evans 1989). Thus settlements ushered many women into
professional lives. Julia Lathrop exemplified this career trajectory: she began as a
volunteer at Hull House, served at various social welfare posts, then became the first
head of the Childrens Bureau (Scott 1991). Hull House in particular nurtured
womens professional ambitions through its fellowship system, and created the
profession of social work. Workers identified social needs, assigned women to tackle
the problems, and Hull House benefactors paid their salaries. This system helped Hull
House meet the needs of the surrounding community while allowing its volunteers to
15 A biographer of Addams cites the need to assert a womans place in the public world as the key
motivation behind the work at Hull House. The desire to unlock the shackles that would have bound
them to obscure, private lives provided Addams and her followers with a motive for creating a female
dominion within the larger empire of policymaking (Muncy 1990, 257).
experiment with new professions. In the 1920s, however, the free spaces that the
settlements had provided for such experimentation became more structured and
hierarchical, with emphasis on professional training.
To those who accused reformers of not knowing their proper place, Addams
argued that women were justified in working in the settlements because they merely
extended womens domestic roles. Reform work was really enlarged housekeeping:
female reformers brought domestic values into the public sphere, which men were not
likely to do. The men of the city have been carelessly indifferent to most of this civic
housekeeping, she said. Addams went so far as to claim that womens exclusion from
the public realm led to many social problems. [C]ity housekeeping has failed partly
because women, the traditional housekeepers, have not been consulted as to its
multiform activities[.] She counted among these duties the care of parks and libraries,
the overseeing of markets, sewers, and bridges, and the inspection of provisions and
boilers (qtd. in Rossi 1988, 605).
While Hull House dominated the settlement movement, there were other
pockets of activism that attracted women who sought to help lower-class and immigrant
people. By 1915 there were over 400 settlements in America, promoting various efforts
to help immigrants, the poor and workers (Patterson 1989, 49). Larger settlements
such as Hull House and the Henry Street Settlement Lillian Wald created became
virtual parts of municipal government and sometimes virtually ran publicly-funded
programs (Gordon 1994, 76). Graduates from Smith College, inspired by Toynbee
Hall, founded a Settlement Association in 1887, with chapters at Vassar, Smith,
Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Harvard Annex. It opened its first settlement in New York
City (Muncy 1990).
The settlement movement eventually ran its course and began to wane with the
less altruistic mood of the 1920s.16 But before the settlement house movement ended,
women had changed-aspects of society and of themselves. They had asserted that
women-particularly skilled and college-educated womenhad a place in reforming
society and in exerting their influence beyond the home. Though in many ways their
philanthropic work in these homes reinforced gender norms, they also challenged
them by giving women a public voice in government, and asserting their right and
ability to assume leadership roles outside of the domestic sphere.
2.7. Women and Social Change
No study of womens voluntary associations would be complete without
particular attention to the often sweeping impact these groups wrought on society. As
we have seen, women banded together for various social causes: for racial uplift; to
reform people who had fallen into sin; to warn of social problems; and to serve as
watchdogs for government entities.
It was up to women to spot urban troubles because men were involved in the
growing economy and failed to see the problems invading the cities (Scott 1991).
Female society members began by identifying social ills related to poverty, then moved
10 The virtual end of mass immigration after 1914, and competition from governmental services,
especially after the New Deal, also defeated the settlements (Patterson 1989). Other factors in their
decline were their frequent association with radical causes and that their new fleet of volunteers came
from less-privileged backgrounds and brought fewer resources to the organizations (Scott 1991). But the
end of the settlements did not end womens voluntarism. By World War I, various service organizations
had been established by men and were staffed by wealthy women professionals and volunteers. Then,
after World War II, when women were ushered back into the home after a brief stint in the work world,
women found volunteer work in schools, communities and recreation structures. By the 1970s,
middle-class women who sought status beyond their homes followed women of earlier decades by
joining neighborhood organizations and forming new clubs (Gold 1975).
to slavery, education, alcohol abuse, prostitution, womens wages, child labor,
industrial pollution, health and safety on the job, loss of natural resources, and finally,
juvenile justice. Some of these women worked with men, but most were segregated
(Scott 1991). Once they created programs to address these concerns, they enlisted help
from state governments. In doing so, they shaped conceptions of government
responsibility for the social welfare, though they did not intend to create a welfare state.
Voluntary associations were crucial for influencing policy and introducing
women to the political process. Hull House workers investigations, for instance, led to
protective legislation for women and children. The Childrens Bureau was one
legislative entity created almost entirely by womens associations. Voluntary
associations influenced government in other ways as well, such as by lobbying for new
laws and seeking appropriations for their groups (McCarthy 1995). Organizations such
as the National Federation of Womens Clubs, the WCTU, and the National Congress
of Mothers formed a three-tiered system that paralleled local, state and national
governments. Furthermore, it was the womens community organizations that
generated major legislative changes such as the state minimum wage, workmans
compensation, child labor and antilynching laws (Scott 1991). Because they were
nonprofit groups, they were considered less corrupt than government entities, so
women could push through legislation that the government often could not, which
paved the way for the welfare state (McCarthy 1995).
Womens associations were vital for building community institutions, including
nursing homes and orphanages. By the 1930s, many libraries, schools, colleges,
kindergartens, museums, health clinics, parks, playgrounds and school lunch programs
could thank society women for their existence. In the cities, women fought spreading
slums, air and water pollution, political corruption, overcrowded public schools,
deteriorating infrastructure and contaminated water. The societies initially fought for
such specific changes, and only in the late nineteenth century sought more general
social reorganization (Scott 1991).
The largest changes in society came not from these endeavors, but from the
efforts of individual women to change conceptions of womens proper place in
society. In this effort lies the roots not only of womens emergence into the public
sphere and into newly created professions, but also of contemporary philanthropic
organizations that work to place women in positions of authority and to increase
monetaiy support for women and girls.
2.8. Women and Changing Conceptions of Womens Place
After years of participation in womens organizations, women became
intelligent enough to recognize their secondary status, and confident enough to initiate
reform efforts (Flexner 1975). But the road to improve their status often was uphill.
They faced opposition from men and women who felt that women should not involve
themselves in the public arena, and should not publicly discuss the topics they
discussed. Despite this opposition, however, women managed to find opportunities
and to create a space in the public sphere for female activism and the exercise of power.
As part of a group, members of womens organizations could challenge their
relegation to domesticity by participating in activities they never would have as
individuals. They also assumed leadership roles, which reformed many womens
conceptions of their abilities. Participation in new activities led members of groups such
as the Moral Reform Society to state that society unjustly confined women to domestic
tasks (Smith-Rosenberg 1985). Educational societies played a crucial role in releasing
womens possibilities and enabling them to participate in public life.
Associations also bridged the private and the public by teaching women about
politics, and that they had a right and an obligation to participate in public activity. A
synthesis [between intellectual life and private life] was needed that would facilitate
womens entry into politics without denying womens commitment to domesticity,
Scott (1970, xii) explains, and clubs provided that synthesis. Drawing up petitions,
lobbying and going to court became common female activities. Women noticed the
change in their perceptions of themselves relative to the public realm, and this
recognition gave them confidence. Eventually state government officials turned to club
women when they wanted women to contribute to public institutions, and even named a
North Carolina club woman welfare commissioner (Scott 1970).
Organization enabled women to navigate legal channels as they would have
been unable to individually, and sometimes they sidestepped discriminatory laws.
Under coverture, which persisted until the married womens property acts of the
1850s, a woman was legally subsumed under her husband in marriage, and could not
own property. As members of charity or reform groups, however, they could raise and
invest money, buy property, and assume financial responsibility for the organizations
management, where otherwise their signatures on a contract were invalid (McCarthy
Organizations also allowed women a means to become professional in areas
other than the traditional womens fields such as primary school teaching. Women
gravitated to voluntaiy associations where they could build their careers, while men
launched their careers from research institutions and universities (McCarthy 1995). For
many women, benevolent activity was their career, while men often saw philanthropy
as part of a larger careeras an opportunity to network and to polish a public image.
Women assumed skilled positions within organizations, such as the Moral Reform
Society, which hired women over men as agents, editors and bookkeepers (Smith-
Rosenberg 1985).17 Hull Houses fellowship system allowed women to experiment
with and create careers in benevolence and reform that sometimes evolved into
government positions. Associations provided a place where women could be
professional, and helped them to develop a cooperative and distinctly feminine style of
professionalism (Scott 1991). Many women began their careers as volunteers in
associations and worked up to salaried positions in the same or similar groups (Gordon
Thus women, particularly in institutions such as Hull House, developed
benevolent careers that evolved into the profession of social work. As social work
professionalized, however, women found themselves eased out of the field they helped
create. The 1920s were social works heyday of professionalization, in Historian
Regina Kunzels (1993, 37) words, when such workers agonized over their
professional status. Social workers, male and female, realized they were at the bottom
of the professional hierarchy, and sought to affirm their careers by adopting more
masculine, scientific means of dispensing welfare and therefore rejected the
philanthropic methods of earlier women. As Kunzel (1993, 3) explains,
professionalization meant the victory of the objective and scientific experts over the
moralistic ladies bountiful and the eclipse of the ideology of womanly benevolence by
17 The Society deliberately promoted women to demonstrate that they could and should do these jobs
the new, more secular ideology of professional social work. Professionalism was
masculine by definition, so the feminine, unexamined charity methods of well-to-do
women were derogated.
Professionalization required inventing a scientific method for doling out
assistance, which came to be known as casework. This method involved three stages:
assembling of facts, investigating the facts, and manipulating these facts for new ends
(Kunzel 1993). Casework was particularly suited to women, some thought, as it often
took the form of professionalized matemalism in Gordons (1994,103) words, in
that women listened to their clients, sympathized with them, and tried to solve their
problems.18 Those who were deemed helpable could then be assisted in finding a job
or sent to the appropriate agency that could assist them (Bremner 1988).
Social workers realized that their relatively low professional status also sprang
from the perception that they were engaged in a female profession. James H. Tufts
stated this notion bluntly in 1923. From the point of view of improvement of
professional standards, he said, it is highly desirable that the profession should not
be regarded as a female profession (qtd. in Kunzel 1993, 44). Thus many thought
professional standards could be raised by recruiting more men, which, as Kunzel
(1993,45) explains,linked the concepts of prestige, status and professionalism ever
more closely to masculinity and male participation. To this end some proposed to
attract male college graduates to the field by offering them salaries two or three times
higher than womens (Kunzel 1993). This fear of feminization permeates the nonprofit
sector today, as later chapters will demonstrate.
ls Some professionalization was also pragmatic, to help organize cases. Child-rescuing societies, for
instance, needed to organize their cases to save their reputations after removing children from parents,
placing them out, and literally losing them (Gordon 1988).
Not only was the large number of female social workers 19 a problem for some
who sought higher professional standards for social work, but so were the feminine
values that stigmatized the helping professions; values that now seemed overly
sentimental and impractical. Stuart Alfred Queen championed this view. He advised
removing social work from sob sisters to true professionals, for social work was
not... an interesting diversion for spare time, but a profession, a mans job, as
Kunzel (1993, 45) explains. Arthur Todd agreed, saying in 1919 that social problems
cannot be seen clearly by eyes dimmed with easy tears, nor can the calls to
constructive social work be heard above the thumping of a fluttery heart (qtd. in
Kunzel 1993, 45). Gordon (1994, 66) adds that, Scientific charity wanted no
sentimental, muddle-headed ladies dispensing alms, but tough-minded men engaged in
long-range vision and strategies.20 Both male and female social workers disparaged
early benevolent work because it was excessively feminine.
Social work earned professional status through the academic training centers.
By 1930 there were 31,000 workers categorized as social and welfare workers, a
number representing a 66 percent increase in the previous 10 years (Gordon 1994, 72).
Prior to the Progressive Era, social work did not refer to a profession, but rather to
various benevolent and reform activities, from casework to reform politics.
Professionalizing welfare work stabilized civic organizations, enhanced the
19 Women composed 70 to 90 percent of all social workers, according to the 1930 census (Kunzel
20 Stereotypes of women hurt their career ambitions in other ways as well. At the turn of the century,
female caseworkers were not allowed to handle sex abuse cases because the cases would be too
"polluting (Gordon 1994).
governments response to poverty, and increased the perception of social provisions as
a public, not private, responsibility (Gordon 1994).
Professionalization was also necessary because in the early twentieth century
the needy offered increasing opportunities for the wealthy to give, asking for help with
churches, missionary services, temperance, hospitals and orphanages, for instance.
Consequently, some of the most important philanthropic agencies sprang up between
1900 and 1915, including the Boy/Girl Scouts, the Campfire girls, the American
Cancer Society, and the National Urban League.
The efforts of professionals to control giving received a setback with the onset
of the Great Depression, which brought almsgiving back into style, particularly in 1930
and 1931. Fortunately, the expansion of all levels of government intervention in public
welfare activities took some pressure off philanthropic agencies, freeing philanthropic
agencies to develop research and experimental programs and to improve cultural life
(Bremner 1988).2 Womens groups and female professionals played a strong role in
encouraging government intervention in the welfare of citizens.
If womens societies allowed their members to sample the professions and
therefore test public/private distinctions, then the question arises as to whether these
associations provided a catalyst for womens consciousness of their place in society.
The answer to this question lies in determining whether the associations fostered
sisterhood among women, or whether they were riddled by race and class divisions. 21
21 Freeing philanthropy for other pursuits led liberals and radicals to criticize philanthropy in the 1930s
for its ability to dictate social policy. As Edward C. Lindeman of the New York School of Social Work
wrote, Nothing is so repugnant as the arrogance of those who presume to impose cultural norms upon
a society on no basis of warrant other than... pecuniary success under... a competitive economy
(qtd. in Bremner 1988, 153). By the end of the 1930s philanthropy was under fire for rejecting
sentimentality. Nevertheless, American philanthropy managed to pull through the Depression with
more popular support than ever (Bremner 1988).
Scholars argue that associations tied women together, and therefore that these
groups motivated women to place their needs on a level with mens. In some voluntary
societies women united in their recognition of their oppression and in their challenges to
domesticity (Berg 1978). Sisterhood was also fostered in reaction to discrimination, as
in the creation of Sorosis. Women banded together to create spaces where they were
welcome. As later chapters will show, this early feminism22 led to the creation of
contemporary womens organizations that accept women, train them for leadership
positions, and agitate for womens issues.23
Club members of the nineteenth century ushered women into the public sphere
and into the professions. Today, women are filling the ranks of the nonprofit sector in
record numbers. Though this work may be an innovation on the nineteenth-century
social work, todays female nonprofit workers often meet the same problems as their
nineteenth-century counterparts. For instance, scholars of the nonprofit sector ponder
the potential feminization of the independent sector as it becomes increasingly filled
with women. They argue that these women perform female tasks, much like the
enlarged housekeeping of the female settlement house workers before them. But the
potential for feminization is just one consequence of the influx of women in nonprofits,
as the following section will show.
221 use feminism broadly to describe womens awareness of their restraints in society and of their
particular needs as women.
23 Others argue against sisterhood in womens organizations. Scholars point to the racial segregation
and class divisions of some womens organizations to demonstrate the lack of female solidarity.
Similarly defeating to notions of sisterhood are the different philanthropic styles of black women and
3. Women and Philanthropy:
Feminizing the Nonprofit Sector
The lack of research on womens roles in the nonprofit sector hampers any
investigation of the role of women in philanthropy. Even prominent studies of
nonprofits, such as the 1987 Research Handbook on the Nonprofit Sector, ignore
women and gender issues (Steinberg and Jacobs 1994). The lack of research on
women in this arena relates to the scarcity of literature on the nonprofit sector as a
whole. Only since the 1970s and 1980s has data on the independent sector in general
been systematically collected and compiled (Lott 1994). As Michael ONeill (1989,
169) writes, The striking thing about the third sector is that it is seldom seen as
important and in a sense seldom seen at all. 1 Only recently have researchers begun to
view the nonprofit sector, and the increasingly prominent role of women in it, as
worthy of scholarly interest.
3.1 The Nonprofit Sector
Describing the nonprofit (or independent) sector as an entity is risky. Legally, it
is defined as being exempt from taxes, but it is ambiguous and diverse, and can be
defined narrowly or broadly. The independent sector consists of organizations with
501(c)(3) classification, including religious, charitable, scientific, literary and
educational organizations; and 501(c)(4) organizations, like social welfare agencies,
1 ONeill (1989, 169) continues to remark on the invisibility of the third sector: The nonprofit sector
is hardly noticed, relegated to a pleasant and harmless world of churchgoers, opera buffs, and Girl Scout
cookie vendors. It is, in many peoples minds, still the world of do-gooders.
local employee associations and civic leagues (Lott 1994). Private nonprofit agencies
include schools, churches, colleges and universities, research institutes, hospitals,
social action movements, welfare agencies, arts and cultural organizations, community
development groups, mutual benefit societies,2 and foundations, among others.
Foundations are defined as nonprofit organizations existing to give money to other,
service-producing nonprofits. Types of foundations include independent, corporate,
community and operating.3 Foundations are one of the smallest areas of the nonprofit
sector, constituting less than five percent of all nonprofit revenue (Lott 1994, 156).
The process for filing exemption also complicates the task of determining the
size of the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits are those agencies that organize to provide a
service or advance a cause, while businesses form to make money and government
aims to provide law and order (ONeill 1989). Nonprofits must file for tax exemption
and submit yearly reports to the Internal Revenue Service and state agencies, but
religious institutions, organizations with less than $25,000 in yearly revenue, and
operating subunits of large national organizations do not need to file. Therefore,
Michael ONeill (1989) estimates that between 500,000 and a few million nonprofits
are not regularly counted among the nonprofit sector.
Though gauging its exact size is tricky, it would be difficult to overstate the size
of the U.S. nonprofit sector. In 1990, less than one million nonprofit organizations
employed over 14 million people in this country, and accrued organizational operating
2 Mutual benefit societies are those which form for the benefit of their members, such as veterans
organizations. They constituted 90 percent of employees and revenues of the nonprofit sector in the late
1980s (ONeill 1989, 3).
3 Operating foundations are those which do not make grants, but fund their own activities, such as
social science research (ONeill 1989).
expenditures of more than $389 billion (National Council for Research on Women
1995, vi). Health, education and social welfare represent the three largest employment
groups in the nonprofit sector (ONeill 1994). Labor statistics show that in 1990
nonprofits employed 11 percent of all workers, whereas the for-profit sector employed
70.9 percent of workers, and government employed 17.7 percent of workers (Lott
The large majority of nonprofit workers are white collar, which includes
professional and technical workers, managers and administrators, sales workers and
clerical workers. These professionals have a relatively high level of education, prestige
and pay (Preston 1994). But what about women in the independent sector? Are they
filling the nonprofit sector in greater numbers as more women push into the work
force? Are females concentrated in lower-salaried jobs, or do they have access to
leadership positions? The next section explores the influx of women into the nonprofit
sector, and assess how they are faring.
3.2 Women in the Nonprofit Sector
Many observers point to the increased presence of women in the nonprofit
sector in the past 20 years, and research seems to bear out this suspicion. Current
Population Surveys (CPS) of 1969 and 1991 show that the percentage of professional
women working in the nonprofit sector rose from 22 percent in 1969 to 29.9 percent in
1991, a 35 percent increase, according to Anne Preston (1994, 53-4). As women
infiltrated the ranks of the for-profit sector in the 1970s and 1980s, they also entered
the nonprofit sector in increasing numbers. In 1987, 68.3 percent of nonprofit
employees were women, and most worked in health-related occupations (Steinberg and
Jacobs 1994, 94). By 1994, women constituted 75 percent of all nonprofit sector
employees, and currently over 5 million women are paid employees of the nonprofit
sector (Preston 1994, 58; Odendahl 1994, 299).4
About 75 percent of the jobs in the health and human services fall in feminine
occupations like teaching, nursing and health care work, social work, day care, and
administrative support (Burbridge 1994,121). The typical female nonprofit worker is
not a philanthropist, board member or a foundation executive, but rather, if a
professional at all, is a nurse, social worker, teacher or librarian (Steinberg and Jacobs
1994). But women have also filled the ranks of the nonprofit philanthropic world.
Women are pushing into areas of philanthropy that have been the domain of men, such
as major giving, fund-raising5 and board leadership (McDonell 1992). In 1975, just 29
percent of foundation professional staff members were women (Odendahl, Boris and
Daniels 1985, foreword). By 1982, women constituted 43 percent of foundation staff
members (Odendahl, Boris and Daniels 1985, 3).6
Fund-raising positions are particularly attractive to women. This occupation
drew women in the 1980s because of the proliferation of nonprofit organizations and
cuts in federal funding that heightened the demand on private coffers. Women
outnumbered men among fund-raising, or advancement, professionals for the first time
4 Another 50 million volunteer annually (Odendahl 1994,299).
5 Tifft (1992) breaks fund-raising into seven areas: health-care institutions, which are the most
promising for women because of these institutions size, prosperity and potential to multiply as the
population ages; educational institutions, which also are good for women because they have the money
and staff to provide mentoring, in-house training and upward mobility; social-service groups, which
often are solo operations; the arts; environmental causes; advocacy groups; and political fund-raising
groups, which face the problem of being dull between election years.
6 Minorities constituted eight percent of foundation employees in 1982 (Odendahl, Boris and Daniels
in 1990: a CASE-Ketchum Survey of Institutional Advancement showed that women
were 54.7 percent of respondents, whereas the previous survey in 1986 showed men
as a 51.5 percent majority (The Outlook for Women 1990, 13). Women now
outnumber men in professional fund-raising associations. The membership directory of
the National Society of Fundraising Executives (NSFRE) for 1991-92 showed that
women constituted 52.2 percent of members (Mixer 1994).
Women of color have not made the inroads into the fund-raising profession that
white women have. The 1992 NSFRE roster showed that minority women represented
four percent of all female members, an increase from the 1988 survey. Similarly dismal
numbers were reflected in 1990 CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of
Education) statistics: minorities, male and female, constituted 4.5 percent of
membership, up from 3.3 percent four years previously (Mixer 1994, 230). African
American female fund-raisers work in greater numbers in schools and advocacy
agencies like black colleges, the United Negro College Fund, the Urban League and the
NAACP.7 But the low salaries and lack of flexible scheduling keep many women of
color from entering the profession. Latina women are even more underrepresented
among fund-raisers than African American women. In fact, nonprofits lag behind the
public and for-profit sectors in hiring Latinos: in 1995,5.3 percent of nonprofit
workers were Latino, compared to 6.4 percent of government workers and
8.6 percent of for-profit workers (Cortes 1995, 30). Latino nonprofit workers typically
work in social service agencies and youth organizations (Mixer 1994).
7 Some scholars hold that African American fund-raisers in particular have difficulty soliciting
endowments and planned gifts because of donor stereotypes that blacks do not have much experience in
handling large amounts of money (Mixer 1994).
Womens increased presence in the nonprofit world certainly reflects the influx
of women into all professions in the last 25 years. Yet many theorize that particular
features of the nonprofit sector attract women. Some, like Elsa Holguin, executive
director of the Hunt Alternatives Fund in Denver, hold that womens interest in the
nonprofit sector is not surprising given their socialization into nurturing roles. The
nonprofit sector is the next step from nurse and school teacher and if youre going to
go to the next level its going to be in the nonprofit sector because women tend to go to
those professions where we can help somebody. The motivation usually is not money,
Holguin said (1996). Some women are also drawn to philanthropy by the desire to
redress what they see as discriminatory practices in nonprofits in hiring and in doling
out assistance. Female-run philanthropic nonprofits tend to be more ethnically diverse
than male-run organizations. The dearth of giving to womens causes also motivates
some women to become involved in the nonprofit sector, as will be discussed.
Some believe that womens socialization to be caretakers makes women
particularly well-suited for philanthropy. This socialization gives women better people
skills than men, for instance. Women are filling the ranks of development, said Anne
Bryan, development director of the Womens Foundation of Colorado, and theyre
good at it because theyre good at relationships which is what development is about
(Bryan 1997). Carolyn Sanzone, director of corporate and foundation relations at the
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, agrees. People give money to people, not to
buildings, she said. Women tend to be good listeners and nurturers. Those skills
translate easily into (fund-raising) (qtd. in Tifft, 1992, 68). Too well, some say.
The influx of women into nonprofits, and particularly into fund-raising, has led some
to fear the feminization of fund-raising, which could lead pay and status to plummet.
Others argue that womens domination of this important field could pave the way for a
new respect for female professionals.
3.3 The Feminization of the Nonprofit Sector
As more women join the ranks of fund-raisers, and as philanthropic work is
seen as an extension of womens nature, some fear that fund-raising will become
feminized, leading to a depression of salaries and status. Joseph R. Mixer (1994)
explains that a field becomes feminized when the plethora of job openings matches the
number of women interested in and capable of filling them. ONeill (1994) claims that a
field is gendered female when two variables are presentthe devaluation of womens
work and the subordination of women by mentwo variables found in the independent
sector. Nonprofits are also feminine, ONeill continues, because occupations are sex-
segregated, and because the symbols, images, values and activities of nonprofits are
feminine and soft, such as serving others and being concerned for ethics and morality.
The sector can also be viewed as having been feminized because wages are lower in
nonprofits than in the for-profit sector, which reflects the devaluation of these positions
relative to the same positions in the (male) for-profit sector (Steinberg and Jacobs
Some fear that if fund-raising comes to be seen as a feminine occupation,
prestige and compensation will plummet, leading its practitioners to go the way of
librarians, dental hygienists and public relations specialists (Mixer 1994). Feminization
could also prevent many women from ascending to executive or board positions in
nonprofit organizations (McDonell 1992). Some cite the lower pay of female fund-
raisers versus male fund-raisers, and the low wages in the nonprofit sector in general,
as evidence that this feminization has already taken place. A 1992 NSFRE survey, for
instance, found a female fund-raisers average salary to be $40,000much lower than
the $52,000 average of males (Tifft 1992, 68). The work of nonprofit employees often
is seen as an extension of the traditional roles of women, which has been the case since
the nineteenth century, as the last chapter demonstrated. Therefore, nonprofit work is
feminine, stemming from inherent attributes of women rather than from acquired
skills, thereby obviating the need for high compensation (Steinberg and Jacobs 1994).
Others counter these fears of feminization by arguing that stereotypically
feminine characteristics help female fund-raisers, and can make them impervious to the
discrimination associated with feminization. Statistics show womens access to
leadership positions in the nonprofit arena is increasing. Women have steadily ascended
to managerial positions in greater numbers in the past 25 years: in 1970 women held 35
percent of nonprofit managerial positions versus 58 percent in 1990, an increase of 23
percent in 20 years (ONeill 1994, 13). According to the 1991-92 membership
directory of NSFRE, 30 percent of female members hold top positions in their
nonprofits (Mixer 1994).8 Susan Tifft (1992) confirms such statistics, noting that
female fund-raisers are less likely to bump their heads on the glass ceiling than women
in other fields because of the objective measures of successhow many dollars are
brought in. Women also follow the quick advancement of the field as a whole.
8 These positions included president, executive director, administrator, vice president for development,
director of development, director of marketing and/or public relations, campaign director and associate
Some studies even show that women working in nonprofits have better access
to leadership roles than women in the for-profit arena. Between 1982 and 1992, the
number of women heading foundations and corporate giving programs proliferated,
with women holding 43 percent of the chief executive positions in 1992 compared to 26
percent in 1982, a 17 percent increase in ten years (Gurevitz 1994, 17). Anne Preston
uncovered similar statistics. Between 1969 and 1994, the nonprofit sector saw a
tripling of women managers. In the same time frame, the number of female managers
only increased 33 percent in the government sector and declined in the for-profit sector
(cited in Lott 1994, 173). Women are also more likely to hold professional and
managerial positions at nonprofit organizations than at corporations. Only one Fortune
500 company has a female CEO, and she shares the title with her husband (Demko,
Gray and Hall 1996, 38).
Further statistics reinforce the notion that women have greater opportunities in
the independent sector. In the for-profit sector, a 1995 survey of 799 major companies
showed that 19 women filled director and executive positions, while 3,993 men held
these same positions (Shaw and Taylor 1995, 118). Women are better represented in
the nonprofit arena. According to a 1990 census, 592,000 women employed in the
nonprofit sector had executive, administrative and managerial positions versus 431,000
male nonprofit employees. In fact, women held 58 percent of such positions (ONeill
executive director. However, results may be skewed because NSFRE membership dues are high, which
may exclude lower-paid women from membership (Mixer 1994).
9 The 1990 census was the first to differentiate private nonprofit positions from private for-profit
positions (ONeill 1994).
Scholars such as Ronnie J. Steinberg and Jerry A. Jacobs (1994) argue that
women can more readily become leaders in nonprofit organizations than in for-profit
agencies. The predominantly female environment of many nonprofits facilitates
womens entrance to leadership positions, making it easier for them to fit into new
organizational schemes. Women are also more likely to supervise a predominantly
female staff than a primarily male one because of the taboo against women supervising
The interest nonprofit managers show in promoting women leads Katherine
McDonell (1992) to conclude that women are earning respect for their roles in
philanthropy. New organizations constantly surface to help female philanthropists
network, and organizations and foundations underwrite research on women and
philanthropy. All this interest implies that women are beginning to achieve a new level
of respect and power within philanthropy, McDonell (10) concludes, arguing against
fears of the feminization of the sector.
But McDonell seems too optimistic. Studies find that women face the same
obstacles to leadership positions in the nonprofit sector as in the government and for-
profit areas. Normally, when you say glass ceiling you think of the corporate
sector, said Prema Mathai-Davis, executive director of the YWCA of the USA, based
in New York. People forget that it cuts across all arenas, even the nonprofit sector
(qtd. in Demko, Gray and Hall 1996, 38). In 1994, men held two-thirds of the top
development positions (Lott 1994, 172; Mixer 1994, 234). CPS data for 1991 shows
that while 20 percent of male nonprofit workers were managers, only 12.1 percent of
female nonprofit workers held managerial positions (Preston 1994,58). Bryan
supports these conclusions. The vast majority of vice presidential positions that get
paid in six figures are male and I dont see that changing,10 she said, but added that
this must change if everyone coming through the ranks is female. But its going to be
hard, I mean, theres real resistance to it (Bryan 1997).
Statistics support Biyans conclusion. Women are less likely than men to work
in the best-paying fund-raising jobs: in a 1990 survey, of those who listed management
of a fund-raising program as their chief duty (with an average salary of $56,920) only
33.8 percent were women (The Outlook for Women 1990, 13). Women get shunted
into support roles rather than direct operations, said Sheila Wellington, president of
Catalyst, a New York nonprofit research group studying women in the work force.
Women end up not having the core experience that leads to top jobs (qtd. in Demko,
Gray and Hall 1996, 38). Such statistics demonstrate that the nonprofit sector is in
danger of being feminized.
In the realm of fund-raising, women hold only 11.1 percent of the presidencies,
25.6 percent of vice presidencies, 40 percent of assistant vice presidencies, and 35.3
percent of the executive director titles. Females seem to be concentrated among
directors (79.2 percent female), officers (69.8 percent) coordinators (76.6 percent),
managers (72.7 percent) and assistant or associate directors (79.2 percent) (The
Outlook for Women 1990, 13). Such statistics led Julie Conry to pronounce at a 1990
Indiana University conference on fund-raising: Women have been the backbone of
American philanthropy .. [but] titles, money, and professional status have gone to
men (qtd. in Ostrander and Fisher 1995, 68), again supporting the notion of
10 She believes men dominate vice presidencies because of the old boys network, and also because
they have more giving ability than women.
The gender discrepancy in access to leadership positions in the nonprofit sector
demonstrates that the effects of feminization infiltrate the independent sector. So, too,
do statistics showing that even when women do reach the upper echelons of nonprofit
management, they lead organizations with less assets and prestige than those men lead.
Despite womens progress in the nonprofit sector, men continue to dominate the most
powerful organizations. As the next section will show, major groups continue to resist
pressure to diversify their boards.
3.4 Women and Status in the Nonprofit Sector
Several scholars note that the more prestigious the organization, the fewer
women hold top positions (Lott 1994; Odendahl and Youmans 1994; The Feminist
Majority Foundation). Although over 40 percent of all U.S. foundations have female
presidents, women lead only 5 of the 25 largest funds, according to the Council on
Foundations in Washington (Demko, Gray and Hall 1996, 38). Lott (1994) notes that
except for the national womens organizations, those nonprofit boards that equally
represent women are community-based with limited budgets and influence. The more
prestigious the board, the fewer women youll find, Odendahl concurs (qtd. in
Gurevitz 1994, 17). Local health and human services boards represent one of the few
boards with equal numbers of male and female trustees (Lott 1994). A 1994 survey by
the National Center for Nonprofit Boards (NCNB) concluded that despite widespread
acknowledgement that women are underrepresented on nonprofit boards, large charities
resist recruiting them as trustees. Simultaneously, however, the smaller nonprofits
progressed in this area (Gurevitz 1994).
The larger an organizations endowment, the lower the percentage of women sit
on its board, M. Gittell maintains. This fits with the theory that the more powerful the
institution, the less likely it will respond to pressure for diversity (qtd. in Odendahl
and Youmans 1994, 191). Odendahl and Youmans (1994, 187) concur. Women were
and are clearly barred from holding certain high-status board appointments. Women
constitute 46 percent of trustees at charities, but the number sinks to 38 percent among
charities that raise $10 million or more per year (Blum, Demko, Gray and Hall, 1996,
38). ONeill (1994) concludes that discussions of women and the nonprofit sector must
ask if it is a conscious or unconscious part of social status allocations which gives men
leadership of the most important organizations and the most important careers.
The tendency may be unconscious, considering the deep roots of the reluctance
to put women in charge of large organizations. Most foundations were staffed by white
males at the program and policy levels until the early 1970s (Odendahl 1985). Even by
1979 only 21.5 percent of the trustees of the largest 134 United Way chapters were
women (Odendahl and Youmans 1994,191). In 1981-82, female CEOs headed two of
36 foundations in a sample with over $100 million in assets (Odendahl 1985, 16). As
Odendahl (1985, 6) explains, Only one or two foundations that can be considered of
major size have a woman chief executive. There is the usual and frequently hidden
discriminatory salary and promotion policy, with the resultant, all too frequently
justifiable complaint that women do the work and men reap the kudos and monetary
rewards. Thus it seems that the nonprofit sector is being feminized, and that its female
workers suffer the unequal access to high salaries and leadership positions that
accompanies this trend. More evidence of the feminization of the nonprofit sector
comes from gender discrepancy in wages, as the next section illustrates.
3.5 Women, Men and Money
Womens obstacles to leadership positions in large organizations translate into
gender discrepancies in compensationsubstantial discrepancies, in some cases. A
survey of 188 nonprofit organizations by The Chronicle of Philanthropy found the
median salary of all chief executive officers to be $188,686. However, the median
salary for female CEOs, who composed 16 percent of the survey sample, was
$163,100, compared to the male median salary of $192,125 (Blum, Demko, Gray and
Hall, 1996, l).11 This discrepancy can be partially attributed to the fact that women tend
to lead smaller institutions with smaller budgets than those led by men.
Some claim that among fund-raisers, when differences in qualifications,
experience and competence are accounted for, the gender gap in compensation has
narrowed. Very competent women who compete for and succeed in important fund-
raising jobs can command requisite compensation (Von Schlegell and Fisher 1994, 41).
Other evidence, however, shows a gender wage gap in nonprofit work. A 1990 CASE-
Ketchum Survey of college fund-raisers, for instance, showed that female respondents
made an average salary of $36,123, compared to a male salary of $49,066, or 35.8
percent higher. This wage gap was a slight decrease from a 1986 survey in which
mens salaries were 43 percent higher than womens (The Outlook for Women 1990,
" Beth Wohlgelernter, executive director of Hadassah, the Womens Zionist Organization of America,
had a salary of $117,230, which was next to last among 19 Jewish charities in the survey, even though
her organizations budget was the fifth-highest among those groups. The others were headed by men
(Demko, Gray and Hall 1996, 36).
13).12 It is difficult to argue that women have parity in the nonprofit sector, or that the
sector is not being feminized, with men commanding a one-third higher paycheck than
women in the same positions.
Minorities face similar wage differentials in the nonprofit sector. Minority
professionals in a 1990 CASE-Ketchum survey had usually worked almost a year
longer in their jobs than their white counterparts, but made less money ($39,954 vs.
$42,078) (The Feminization of CASE 1990, 8). White fund-raising officers in the
survey earned more than their minority counterparts, $2,097 more when accounting for
education, experience, age and gender (The Feminization of CASE 1990, 16). The
survey could not determine whether this discrepancy was due to race or to other factors
such as sample error. Women of color still earn less than white women, especially in
the nonprofit sector (Preston 1994).13
Fund-raising offices have also been slow to open their doors to minorities. Only
4.5 percent of the fund-raisers responding to the 1990 survey identified themselves as
minorities, with blacks constituting the majority of the sample (The Feminization of
CASE 1990, 16). As trained, educated minorities continue to infiltrate the nonprofit
arena, employers will be forced to recognize these pay differentials and take action to
rectify the inequalities.
Most salaries in the nonprofit sector are low, due in part to the inability of nonprofits to pay ample
salaries to retain workers (Steinberg and Jacobs 1994). Salaries have improved, however. Wages of
female nonprofit workers have risen relative to the wages of women government workers: in 1991 the
average nonprofit woman made a higher hourly wage than her government counterpart (Preston 1994).
Nonprofit womens wages also grew relative to that of female for-profit sector workers: between 1981
and 1991, nonprofit womens wages increased from 90.7 percent to 92.9 percent of the wages of
women working in the for-profit sector.
13 Preston gathered her data from Current Population Surveys (CPS) of the U.S. Bureau of the Census
for 1969, 1973, 1981 and 1991.
Scholars forward several explanations for gender differences in wages. One is
education. A 1990 CASE-Ketchum survey found that while 62.2 percent of male
respondents hold a degree beyond the bachelors, only 37.7 percent of women have
earned an advanced degree. Another factor is experience. Female respondents were
younger than the males: 61.9 percent of CASE members 40 years and younger are
women. Furthermore, while 49.2 percent of women were in the prime earning years of
their 40s and 50s, 59 percent of men were in that range. Perhaps because of the
difference in ages of respondents, men had more experience than women in all
positions. The men had been in fund-raising three and a half years longer than women
on average, and had held their current jobs more than a year longer. Men also had more
experience in the education field: among those who went into education before going
into advancement, men had 10.2 years of experience to womens 7.6 years (The
Outlook for Women 1990, 14). The gender gap is smallest among vice presidents (11.1
percent) and assistant/associate directors (14.9 percent). But it was 43.7 percent among
managers and officers, which indicates that the few men with the lower-level titles are
faring very well compared to their female counterparts. In fund-raising, the pay gap is
35.4 percent (The Outlook for Women 1990,14). According to these theories, pay
discrepancies do not result from sexism. Rather, they persist because women have yet
to earn the education and experience to match their male counterparts; women just need
time to catch up.
Some chief executives in a survey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy said that
pay discrepancies will be rectified once women have time to move up the corporate
ladder. At organizations with few women in high positions, and where executives must
work 10 or 20 years to reach the top job, it will take women time to catch up to the
positions and wages of men (Blum, Demko, Gray and Hall, 1996). Male and female
fund-raisers agree that wage differences are due less to discrimination than to mens
longer average number of years in the field (Tifft 1992).
Others blame womens lack of training in how to haggle for better wages.
Furthermore, child-rearing and family responsibilities lead many women to want less
demanding jobs, which usually command lower wages. Women also are isolated in
undervalued, lower-paying subsectors such as education, health care and social
services, which reinforce traditional gender roles (Lott 1994). Furthermore, in a survey
of CASE members, women said they were more likely than men to stay at their current
jobs, and stationary status in fund-raising positions limits the variety of experience and
deters upward mobility (Mixer 1994,228).
Job title also determines salary. Generally, the better a persons title, the better
their salary. Because men are more likely to be in the top positions than women, they
will likely be paid more. Primary responsibility is another factor in the salary of a
nonprofit professional. Those who manage their institutions fund-raising program, for
instance, make the most money, and only 33.8 percent of women responding to the
1990 CASE-Ketchum survey held this position, which could also anchor womens
wages relative to mens in the nonprofit sector (The Salary Surge 1990, 15; The
Feminization of CASE 1990, 8). But the 1990 CASE-Ketchum survey found that
though men in the survey had the higher titles, this did not necessarily influence the
wage gap, because a man with a given title will, on average, out-eam a woman with the
same title (The Outlook for Women 1990,14). Such evidence demonstrates the
negative consequences for women of the feminization of the nonprofit sector, and that a
fund-raisers sex can be crucial to determining their remuneration.
Thus one of the most convincing reasons for the gender pay discrepancy
remains discrimination against women. Even when factors other than sex are factored
in, some studies conclude that nonprofit workers acquire the greatest indicator of their
future salary before they are born. Even with identical age, race, fund-raising
experience, job tenure and education, a man will earn $7,642 more than a woman in the
field. Based on an average female salary of $36,123, being male is worth a 21.2
percent bigger paycheck (The Outlook for Women 1990,14). A 1990 survey showed
that men in advancement made 14.2 percent more than women when all other factors
such as education, age and experience are held equal. That gap was 12 percent in 1986
(The Outlook for Women 1990, 13). According to the same survey a woman earns
$5,136 less than a man even if they hold the same title, work at the same type of
institution, work in the same area of advancement, are the same age, hold the same
degree, have the same advancement experience and job tenure, and are the same race.
That $5,136 gap is 14.2 percent of the average female respondents salary. This gap is
larger than the 12 percent of the 1986 survey, but smaller than the 20 percent
differential in 1982 (The Outlook for Women 1990, 14). Such statistics indicate that
sexism depresses the salaries of female employees.
Some point out that this pay gap can benefit women. Bryan holds that women
are infiltrating the nonprofit sector partly because of this gender wage gap. "One reason
that women have most of the jobs now is that they'll work for less than men will, she
said, adding that:
Women in corporate executive positions are often paid less than their
male colleagues doing the exact same work across the hall. So if a
company can hire a woman who will work herself to death for two-thirds
the pay of a comparable man they're going to do it. (Bryan 1997)
Therefore, women fill nonprofit roles because they are more affordable than men.
Though women may benefit from this discrimination, it hurts more women than it
In the nonprofit sector as in the for-profit arena, gender differences in
compensation are due to the devaluation of the sector and to old fashioned sexism.
[T]he low level of wages paid in [the independent] sector is, in no small part, a
function not only of the devaluation of womens work in the sector, but also the result
of the devaluation of the nonprofit sector because it is heavily populated by women,
Steinberg and Jacobs conclude (1994, 90). Studies indicate that sexism and the
feminization of the nonprofit sector lead women to be placed in positions that command
lower salaries, and to be paid less than men once they ascend to top positions. These
factors also keep women from participating fully on the boards of major organizations,
as the following section explains.
3.6. Women on Nonprofit Boards
Many nonprofit organizations have been slow to open their board rooms to
women and minorities. As is often the case, the persons with the fewest resources
have the least representation in how future resources are assigned, the Feminist
Majority Foundation (1991, 4) concludes. A 1990 report from the Council of
Foundations found that 71 percent of foundation members are male, and a similar
percentage of foundation directors are male. In the same year 23 percent of foundations
had no women or people of color as trustees, Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy found (Empowering Women in Philanthropy 1991,4). In 1992 women
comprised 28.7 percent of the boards of foundations responding to a 1994 Foundation
Management Report by the Council on Foundations. This number was almost identical
to the numbers reported in previous surveys from 1988 and 1990; the numbers have
grown by less than six percent in the past 10 years (Gurevitz 1994, 17). In 1994
women held less than 25 percent of seats on foundation and college boards (Lott 1994,
When women do earn board posts, it is usually with smaller organizations.
Major corporate directorships are considered to be the top of the board hierarchy, but
40 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies had no women directors in 1990. That year 31
percent of the biggest foundations had no women trustees (Odendahl and Youmans
1994, 188). Women are better represented among chief executive officers of
foundations than corporations, but they tend to head smaller foundations (Empowering
Women in Philanthropy 1991). Women are less likely than men to be invited to serve
on a major nonprofits board because most substantial educational and other
mainstream charities look at a prospective board members giving level first, then
decide whether or not to invite the individual to serve on committees or boards (Shaw
and Taylor 1991). Men currently are more able to give large gifts, though this is
changing, as the next chapter will show. Therefore, a low-status volunteer role may be
the only way women can have a personal impact on issues that are important to them
(Von Schlegell and Hickey 1993).
Women seem to find leadership roles on the boards of national affiliates and
community nonprofits more than other types of boards. In 1994, for example, the
national board of the Leukemia Society was all male, but the Southeastern Pennsylvania
chapter had a female board president, who was the first female president in the
organizations 16-year history. The board had 30 men and 6 women that year (Gurevitz
1994,18). Women find seats on the boards of agencies promoting traditionally
female interests, such as arts and cultural organizations or social service groups.
However, the large and prestigious symphony orchestra boards usually are directed by
a group of corporate executives. And, of course, women fill the majority of seats on
boards of organizations addressing womens issues. As Odendahl explains, Women
represent women. They dont represent people (qtd. in Gurevitz 1994, 19).14
White, wealthy women, however, usually circumvent these obstacles to board
leadership. They often find positions as trustees of the most prestigious nonprofit
organizations because of their class status and funding capabilities (Odendahl 1994,
297). Upper-class women move quickly into leadership positions on the boards of
their organizations. From these positions, they influence organizational operations and
policy, and carry out what they perceive as their primary task-fund-raising, said
Ostrander (qtd. in Odendahl and Youmans 1994, 201). Juanita Tamayo Lott (1991)
offers one explanation for this tendency when she notes that wealthy women are more
like the power eliteupper-class, white and olderand therefore have more access to
legitimating and decision-making roles than other women. They are also welcomed
because their husbands frequently fund these organizations.
Women of the leisure class seek board appointments because these positions
allow them to legitimate their class status. Wealthy female board members are more
likely to be involved in planning charity galas than with making policy decisions on
more prestigious organizations (Lott 1994).15 These women also typically do not sit on
14 For more on men as the norm and women as the other, see Simone de Beauvoirs The Second
15 Odendahl and Youmans (1994) note that the charity ball organizing committees are dominated by
women, as charity event chairs must have far-ranging contacts within a social network of giving and
the boards of nonprofit organizations that benefit women, or give money to such
agencies, because they are taught to privilege class over gender (Odendahl and
Youmans 1994).15 Middle-class women, on the other hand, regardless of ethnicity,
serve on limited numbers of nonprofit boards, and primarily serve as volunteers with
less status than their upper-class counterparts on the board.
The dearth of women on foundation and nonprofit boards reflects long-standing
tradition. In 1973, women were 18 percent of foundation trustees, and by 1988,29
percent of foundation board members were women, the same as in 1990 (Odendahl and
Youmans 1994, 190). Women filled 20 percent of seats on governing boards of the top
75 coiporate, community and private foundations, according to a 1989 survey by
Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy (Odendahl and Youmans 1994, 191).
Boards have been predominantly male, says Michael OKeefe, executive vice-
president of the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis. And they fall into the long-held
stereotype of placing women in service roles and men in leadership roles very readily
(qtd. in Blum, Demko, Gray and Hall, 1996, 38). Despite social pressure to diversify,
some boards cling to their male-dominated systems due to a perception of womens
substandard leadership abilities (Gurevitz 1994). 16
they must have rapport with people of wealth. But the main function of charity balls for elite women
is the maintenance of class status. The crucible of the wealthy elite in their pursuit of the status quo is
the charity ball writes M. Haley (qtd. in Odendahl and Youmans 1994, 203). Arlene Kaplan Daniels
adds that throwing lavish fund-raising events is one method elite women use to compensate for their
relative powerlessness and invisibility in society (cited in Odendahl and Youmans 1994).
16 Few upper-class women are advocates for women because they are socialized into traditional womens
roles. They usually fight for conservation, juvenile civil rights and school improvements (Daniels
1988). A notable exception to this tendency is oil fortune heiress Swanee Hunt, a vocal womens
rights advocate, who will be discussed in the next chapter.
Board memberships are also blocked to minorities. Ninety-four percent of
foundation board members are white, according to a 1990 survey by the Council of
Foundations (Empowering Women in Philanthropy 1994, 4). This trend also has
historical roots; a 1979 survey found that 14.9 percent of the trustees of the largest 134
United Way chapters were minorities. Many boards of foundations and colleges show a
token ratio of minorities; in 1994 Asians, African Americans and Latinos represented
six percent of the members of such boards. The token ratio on foundation and college
boards for women and minorities versus white males was nine to one (Lott 1994, 172).
Women of color are at a particular disadvantage with respect to board
memberships. In 1989, just two percent of foundations responding to a survey had
African American women on their boards (Odendahl and Youmans 1994,190).
Another survey in 1989 by Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy of the top
75 community, corporate and private foundation boards found that [o]nly 14 percent
of the board members were people of color, 20 percent were women, and just five
percent were women of color (Burbridge 1994, 159). Minority womens situations
had not improved much two years later. A 1991 survey showed that in the top 67
foundations women of color held five percent of board appointments; that 58 percent of
foundations had no women of color on their boards; and that 69 percent of major
foundations had no trustees who were women of color (Odendahl and Youmans 1994,
191). Latino women have the greatest chance of serving on an equal footing with men
on the boards of Latino organizations; women have enjoyed equal status with men in
such organizations since the 1970s (Hewitt 1990).
Many nonprofits are aware of their boards diversity problems. In a 1994
survey, nearly 59 percent of respondents indicated dissatisfaction with their diversity
efforts. However, 53 percent also indicated satisfaction with their organizations plans
for recruiting board members from diverse populations (Gurevitz 1994, 1). Because
diversifying is a difficult process, many boards take an I know I should diversify, but
I dont have to attitude (Gurevitz 1994, 1). Boards generally only make diversity a
priority if it will have a material effect on raising money; ethical reasons take a back seat
(Gurevitz 1994). With increasing public pressure on organizations to diversify,
however, including women and minorities on boards may soon become a financial
necessity for nonprofits, which would open doors for these populations.
Other nonprofits cite an absence of qualified candidates as the reason for not
recruiting women and minorities. As one nonprofit searcher said, There are never as
many good candidates out there because fewer women have risen to positions of
power (qtd. in Gurevitz 1994, 18). A nonprofits source of funding dictates the
composition of a board to a great extent. If private money sustains an organization, the
board will include more white men because of their clout and position in the
community. If a board must raise great amounts of money to meet its needs, it is not
surprising to find the board dominated by men because they have the funds or access to
them (Gurevitz 1994). But as more women and minorities enter the field, make social
connections, and gain education and professional training, they will make better
candidates for board appointments.
Becoming strong candidates for board memberships is crucial to women and
minorities, as these appointments will help them raise their status in the nonprofit sector
on several levels. The board appoints new chief executives and sets their salaries at
most charities. The boards and executive staff are also responsible for governance and
policy-making functions (Lott 1994). Therefore, the composition of boards needs to
change before women and minorities can make further progress in the nonprofit arena
(Demko, Gray and Hall 1996).
Leadership roles are crucial to womens efforts to raise their status in society.
Womens leadership is required to effectively advocate for womens concerns and to
help society creatively address political oppression, racism, economic injustice,
environmental degradation, and other pressing issues, explains the National Network
of Womens Funds (1985-1992 report, 12). The compositions of governing boards,
where the power lies in nonprofit organizations, reflects and reinforces discrimination
throughout the independent sector and society (Odendahl 1994). More women must be
on the boards in order for women to reach parity with men in positions and salaries.
The preponderance of white males on the boards of nonprofit organizations can
hinder fund-raising efforts. Many women look at the representation of women on a
board before supporting an organization.17 As Ann Caldwell, the first woman chief
development officer in the Ivy League, said, when women see themselves in equal
numbers as trustees and leaders, larger gifts from women will follow (Von Schlegell
and Fisher 1994,43). Minorities, too, are careful to give to organizations that will treat
them fairly. Jean Fairfax (1995, 19) comments on this concern among African
Americans. [Prospective black donors to majority-white nonprofits ask tough
questions about the racial and ethnic composition of boards and staffs, the
constituencies they serve, and the decision makers concerning budgetary allocations,
she writes. Representative numbers of blacks on the boards are key to developing their
17 As one woman donor said, I always make sure there are women on a board before I support an
organization. And I feel an obligation to help get other women on boards I am a part of (qtd. in Shaw
and Taylor 1991, 46).
trust. 18 Until boards open their doors to women and minorities, they will continue to
lose the funding that these populations could provide, and risk turning away other
potential donors concerned about diversity.
As women and minorities gain social connections, money, education and
professional training, they will become better board candidates and eventually the
boards of nonprofits will reflect the diversity of the society they serve. Though smaller
organizations are diversifying, larger organizations are slower to follow suit. But the
growing perception that women and minorities are as talented as white men, coupled
with pressure from groups that organizations serve, will help boards diversify to better
serve their constituencies.
3.7. Women and Voluntarism
The salaries of nonprofit workers do not concern some women, who offer their
services for free. Voluntarism is the cornerstone of most nonprofit institutions, who
could not survive without it. In fact, only nine percent of the nonprofit work force is
paid (Odendahl 1994,299). Yet voluntarism is often invisible or devalued. This
devaluation comes from the preeminence placed on paid work, Odendahl (1994,299).
maintains. The Western cultural value of money is such that, like work in the home,
18 To be successful, it is important for fund-raisers to understand and cultivate minority prospects, who
often have high giving levels. A 1989 survey of African American giving, for instance, showed that 60
percent of African American households with an income below $20,000 annually donated, and 30
percent donated and volunteered. Among households earning more than $40,000 per year, the percentage
of giving jumped to 88 percent, with 62 percent donating and volunteering (Fairfax 1995, 13).
work done for free is viewed as less valuable. Thus many feminists in the 1970s
argued that voluntarism exploited women.19
Many women frame their choice to volunteer in terms of the need for their
services and for professional-quality work. Women also note that voluntarism can
provide experience and opportunities that can lead to paid work. But married upper-
and middle-class women find paid work difficult to justify, Daniels (1988, 11)
explains. For them, the ideology of voluntarism combines ideas about the unsuitability
or impracticality of paid employment for women like themselves with the desire to find
interesting or challenging employment Such women are also motivated by an ethic of
giving to the community, she continues. Ideas about the necessity for altruism and
unpaid community service combine with ideas about the selfishness of seeking paid
work when many others really need those jobs. Framing decisions to volunteer in the
language of concern for community offers these women a sense of individual choice,
but upper-middle and upper-class women are limited in paid work experience, so they
would find employment other than volunteer work difficult to obtain (Daniels 1998).
Voluntarism is particularly important to upper-class women because it enables
them to maintain their class position while preserving their roles as mothers. Some
leisure-class women maintain that their work boosts their husbands status. Her
19 In the 1970s the National Organization for Women argued that volunteer work kept women
dependent by filling their time with free service rather than letting them find paid positions to fulfill
themselves (Fisher 1993). One prominent writer, Doris Gold (1971, 533), represented NOWs position
when she attacked voluntarism as one of the oldest, most subtle, most complicated ways in which
women have been disengaged from the economy with their own eager cooperation... She also
assailed the exploitative aspects of voluntarism, in its implication that social justice for all classes can
be achieved through the moral service of some who are expendable, albeit out of free choice (546).
She also maintained that society took advantage of womens ambivalence about their work force
participation, played on their desires to be strong citizens, and countered womens long-term goals by
encouraging them to volunteer.
voluntarism shows conspicuous consumption, and she makes social contacts for him
(Daniels 1988). Rich women understand their gender roles and try to find appropriate
missions and activities for themselves within the system. For such women, voluntarism
fits with traditional roles, as Daniels (1988, 7) explains. They engage in the leisure-
class behavior appropriate to subordinate and ornamental wives while constructing the
particular form of family that their own social status requires. They volunteer for
socially sanctioned causes, such as museums or orchestras, and would face family and
social disapproval if they departed too much from traditional expectations. Upper-class
womens husbands, friends and parents encourage their voluntarism because they
usually work in high culture, education, social work and charity, and therefore sustain
class interests (Daniels 1988).20 G. William Domhoff describes upper-class women as
gatekeepers and caretakers of upper-class societal institutions. They set social and
cultural standards for the rest of society (qtd. in Ostrander 1984, 8). Or as Ostrander
(1984, 115) puts it, Voluntarism ... provides community services and improvements
that may make things better for the few people who have access to them. Volunteering
allows the elite to stay on top.
Thus, the budding research into the status of women in the nonprofit sector,
and particularly in philanthropy, indicates that women are increasingly infiltrating the
ranks of nonprofit institutions. Though women may have better access to leadership
positions in the independent sector than in the for-profit and government sectors, they
20 Wealthy women are seldom volunteers in direct service capacities, such as answering phones at a
school or library, staffing a desk or comforting victims, or only perform these tasks for a short period
at the beginning of their voluntary careers. These activities are typically reserved for middle-class
women (Ostrander 1984).
remain underrepresented in the top leadership positions, and in the top organizations.
This discrepancy will almost certainly change as women gain more experience and
training. Women also earn less than men in the nonprofit sector. This is due in part to
their inexperience relative to men, but all other factors being equal, women earn less
than men simply because they are women. This discrepancy, too, will change as
women ascend to leadership positions in nonprofits. More women leaders should also
lead to increased opportunities for minorities, as female-run organizations tend to stress
diversity, as the next section explains. In general, then, studies suggest that though the
going may be slow, women will achieve parity with men in all aspects of the nonprofit
sector, and counter any feminization effects that may arise from the predominance of
women in this field.
So if more women are infiltrating the nonprofit sector, and can be expected to
continue to ascend to leadership positions, what affect, if any, will women have on the
independent sector? Will they work for womens causes? What are these causes, and
are they being addressed now? The next chapter attempts to answer some of these
questions, and to recommend how to bring more women into the nonprofit sector, and
how to make philanthropy respond to the needs of women and girls.
4. Funding for Women and Girls:
Homelessness. Poverty. Education. Welfare. Domestic violence. Child care.
Every issue on the national agenda carries a dimension that specifically impacts women
and girls. None of these problems will be solved unless the needs of this population are
considered in the solutions. Yet public policy, politics and philanthropy are rarely
conducted with a gender lens. Womens issues are rarely seen as societal issues. In
fact, some of the agencies best equipped to address these problems as they impact
females, such as foundations and corporate giving programs, frequently fail to do so.
What are the barriers for women and girls? Are funders adequately meeting these
needs? If not, what are women in the field trying to change to see these needs met? This
section will attempt to answer these questions, and then recommend strategies to make
philanthropy more responsive to the needs of women and girls.
4.1. The Status of Women and Girls
Many of societys most urgent problems hit women and children the hardest.
They constitute the majority of the poor, and more than half of all poor families
(Womens Foundation of Colorado 1994,7). The case is particularly urgent for women
of color, who are three times more likely to be poor than white women (Feminist
Majority Foundation 1991, l).1 Unmarried women support seventy-six percent of poor
1 Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic women heads of households and 56.1 percent of African American
women who head households live in poverty, while 37.9 percent of white women who head households
live in poverty (Feminist Majority Foundation 1991, 3). Accordingly, poverty strikes minority
children hard. Eighty-two percent of black children under six years of age and 78 percent of Hispanic
African American families, 48 percent of poor Hispanic families, and 44 percent of
poor white families.2 Many single mothers are in crisis in the U.S. Despite womens
increased labor force participation in recent years, women and their children constitute
the fastest-growing segment of the poor population. Families headed by single women
have three times the rate of poverty for all families with children, and twice the rate of
poverty for families headed by single fathers, due to womens lower average salaries
relative to mens (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1994, 7).3
Although some studies find 75 percent of U.S. women working in paid jobs,
40 percent of women working outside the home do not earn enough to stay above the
poverty line (National Council for Research on Women 1991, xi). Women hold 63
percent of the minimum-wage jobs nationally (Womens Foundation of Colorado
1995a, 14). Most employed women occupy nonprofessional jobs, mostly as clerical,
retail and service workers (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992).
Seventy-five percent of working women still earn less than $25,00 per year (Women
and Philanthropy 1996b, l).4
children living in female-headed households are poor (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy
2 When a woman divorces, her income drops 74 percent, but when a man divorces, his income rises 42
percent (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1995, 46).
3 One of every five families in Colorado with children under 18 years of age were headed by women in
1990. These families are hard hit by poverty. Three-fourths of U.S. women who head homes with
children and have less than a high school diploma live in poverty, compared with 34 percent of men in
the same situation (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1994, 21). In 1989, women were 60 percent of
all poor adults in Colorado, though they were 51 percent of the population (Womens Foundation of
Colorado 1994, 7).
4 Even with affirmative action, businesses owned by women and people of color get less than six
percent of all federal contracts (Women and Philanthropy 1996b, 1).
The gender wage gap poses another problem. On average, women still earn 74
cents per $1 a man earns, and this number sinks to 54 cents per $1 a man earns for
women aged 55-64 (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1995a, 17).5 Colorado women
earn 70 cents per $1 earned by similarly employed men (Womens Foundation of
Colorado 1994, 6).6 Even educated women face these obstacles. A woman with a
college degree earns a median income of $28,000, compared to $39,000 for a college-
educated man (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 3). Such
statistics lead Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy (1992, 2) to conclude
that Persistent institutional barriers keep women poorly schooled, poorly paid, and
just plain poor.
Working women face other obstacles to economic security as well, such as
occupational segregation, lack of benefits, undervaluation of their contributions to the
workplace, the glass ceiling, lack of reliable day care and child support, interrupted
careers due to family obligations,7 and increased costs of child care,8 elder care and
5 Women over 65 are twice as likely as men of that age to be poor (14 percent and seven percent,
respectively). Women constitute 75 percent of the lower-class elderly population, but only 58 percent
of all the elderly population (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1994, 26).
6 This average salary has risen six cents since 1995 (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1994, 24).
7 A 1995 study found that 88 percent of women believe that it is their responsibility to care for family
members. Therefore, many of these women are juggling family responsibilities with career goals, as
the greatest increase in the labor force in the past 25 years has been married women with preschool
children. In 1990, 75 percent of mothers with children between the ages of 6 and 12 held paying jobs
(The Womens Foundation of Colorado 1995a, 40). Women apparently also believe they have nearly
sole responsibility of housework. Wives who work full-time outside the home complete 70 percent of
household chores, whereas full-time housewives complete 83 percent of domestic tasks (The Womens
Foundation of Colorado 1995a, 43).
8 The average working family spends about 10 percent of its income on child care; low-income families
spend about 25 percent of their paychecks on day care (The Womens Foundation of Colorado 1995a,
health care (Womens Foundation of Colorado 1995a). These problems were
exacerbated by the structural adjustment policies enacted in the 1980s which severely
cut social services, affecting women in two ways: cutting jobs in the predominantly
female areas of health, education and social service, and cutting support services for
women such as day care and senior care (Womens Funding Network 1996).
Many women face urgent problems not only in the work place but also at home.
The number of women and children seeking domestic shelters has increased
dramatically in recent years, and statistics now show that more than half of all American
women will be the victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence in their lifetimes
(Feminist Majority Foundation 1991,3). Overcrowded shelters turn away seven out of
eight women seeking to escape violence at home (Women and Philanthropy 1996b, 4).
Thus, domestic violence contributes to the epidemic of homelessness: about one half of
homeless women and children are on the street due to violence in the home (The
National Council for Research on Women 1995, ix).
Womens health issues are another area of concern. Diseases such as breast
cancer have reached near epidemic proportions, not to mention health threats such as
heart disease, endometriosis and cervical cancer, which disproportionately affect poor
women of color. Yet government and foundation funding sources continue to overlook
these needs, and research studies fail to incorporate women, as will be discussed.
Girls face obstacles unique to them. As they approach adolescence, the hope,
spirit and ambition they show as young girls fades. There is a syndrome about girls
middle school age, Bryan said, where they stop being self-confident and they
consequently drop out of challenging courses (and) they drop out of college
prerequisite classes (Bryan 1997). Adolescent girls are more likely than boys to be
depressed, and many have considered suicide. They have low self-esteem and negative
images of their bodies (National Network of Womens Funds 1993).9 Girls initially
show excitement about technology, math and science, but their interest slowly wanes
and by grade seven boys and girls see computing as a male activity (Womens
Foundation of Colorado 1995). This tendency can turn girls away from careers before
they know they exist.
Lack of interest in science and technology bodes ill for girls economic futures.
By some estimates 75 percent of tomorrows jobs will require the use of computers,
but fewer than one-third of participants in computer courses are girls (Womens
Foundation of Colorado 1995a, 46). Technology represents but one area in which girls
receive an inadequate education to prepare them for the future. School is still a place of
unequal opportunity, where girls face discrimination from teachers, textbooks, tests
and their male classmates the New York Times proclaimed in 1992, referring to a
report by the American Association of University Women (Women and
Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 3). Such statistics lead the Womens
Foundation of Colorado (1995a, 46) to conclude that Across race and culture, as well
as economic class, all girls are economically at risk. Without intervention, girls,
particularly girls of color, are in danger of closing doors of opportunity, and
contributing to social problems such as poverty.
Given these dire social ills that often disproportionately impact girls and
women, it would seem that foundation and corporate giving agencies would be eager to
9 For more on this phenomenon in adolescent girls, see Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice:
Psychological Theory and Womens Development; Carol Gilligan and Lyn Mikel Brown, Meeting at
the Crossroads: Womens Psychology and Girls Development; and Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia:
Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.
help. One might expect the needs of this population to be addressed now that more
women are in the nonprofit sector. But this does not seem to be the case. Programs
targeting women and girls receive just a sliver of the philanthropic pie. Why do funding
agencies overlook womens and girls needs? What are womens organizations doing
to redress the problem?
4.2. Funding for Women and Girls
It is difficult to document mainstream funding, and particularly difficult to
determine what constitutes a grant for a particular population such as women and girls.
In order for a grant to be considered as targeting girls and women, the Foundation
Center requires that a grant meet one of four requirements: 1) Women and girls must
constitute a substantial majority of either the members or clients of the agency or
program; 2) The agency or program is intended to increase participation by or lend
services to this population; 3) The agency or program must address an issue or
discipline as it affects girls and women; and 4) The agency or program must address an
issue or discipline that primarily affects females (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, iii).10 Because of this difficulty in determining what grants reach
10 For their 1992 report on the status of giving to women and girls, Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy relied primarily on data from The Foundation Center, and mainly on the Grants Index,
20th edition, which reports on 57,443 grants of $10,000 or more made by 832 foundations. Grants
were reported to the Foundation Center between March 1990 and April 1991, and therefore are
considered grants for the year 1990. The Grants Index represents a significant share of all giving to
American foundations, though not all giving. The foundations included in the 20th edition donated
$4.47 billion, or 57 percent, of all grant dollars awarded by the countrys 32,000 grantmaking
foundations. They are considered a good indicator of distribution patterns in the field, Women and
Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy (1992, iii) hold. The Foundation Center had made significant
changes to the Grants Index in recent years, however, challenging the validity of anything but a broad
comparison of giving between 1988 and 1990, Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy (1992)
what populations, some statistics on the amount of funding for females have come
under fire, as will be discussed.
This section will analyze government funding and individual donations, which
together with workplace giving constitute most independent sector funding. But as The
National Council for Research on Women (1995, vi) notes, established foundation and
corporate giving programs, though contributing less than 12 percent of the funding for
the independent sector, must also be analyzed for the crucial role they play. Foundation
and corporate funding provides emergency funds for smaller nonprofits, especially new
initiatives, and helps sustain many mid-sized and larger organizations. In 1990,
foundations provided the lifeline of various nonprofit organizations, with grants
exceeding $8.7 billion (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 2).
Studies of women and philanthropy should focus on this funding, as most womens
funds are small or were recently created (National Council for Research on Women
More importantly, however, these funds must be recognized for their influence
beyond the dollars they give. As Michael ONeill (1989, 137) states, foundations in
particular buttress essential services. Foundation grants have played a major role in
medical research and education, world food production, the development of public
television and radio, and the arts. Furthermore, according to The National Council for
Research on Women, grants from national foundations, corporate giving programs,
and respected regional and local foundations amount to a seal of approval that
facilitates the nonprofits capacity to solicit funding from individuals and to build up
alternative sources of income from contracts and sales of products and services.
Organized philanthropy has been crucial to the survival of many fragile
organizations since the 1980s, when many nonprofits turned to private philanthropy to
compensate for cuts in federal and state funding. The requests for funding that
inundated nonprofits will likely revisit funding agencies with the budget cuts of the
1990s. Even professionally-administered foundations responded to the deluge of
proposals in the 1980s by tightening their giving guidelines. Womens funds and other
nonmainstream groups were among the first to be slashed from the lists of potential
grantees (National Council for Research on Women 1995). Current budget cuts may
soon force these funds to suffer the same fate.
In order to determine the fate of womens funds, one must first assess the
current state of funding for women and girls. Though the numbers are not above
criticism, overall they indicate that philanthropy does not meet the needs of women and
girls. Donors still do not see these needs as crucial to the most pressing issues facing
the country. Because the issues facing females are inextricably linked to our worst
social problems, funding for women and girls can be seen as a barometer of the success
of philanthropy as a whole.
Most studies conclude that programs for women and girls receive a
disproportionately small share of philanthropic dollars. Despite problems of defining
what constitutes a grant benefiting women or girls, the national pattern indicates that
funding for this population has increased one-tenth of one percent since 1989. Between
1981 and 1989, foundation gifts to womens causes increased by one half of one
percent, though foundation giving increased 600 percent in this period (Grigsby Bates
1989, 33; The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991,4).
But even large increases in funding that seem significant can prove illusory. For
instance, though the dollar amount of grants to women and girls more than doubled
between the 1970s and the 1980s, this giving still represented less than four percent of
all philanthropic activity during the decade (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, i). Funding for womens programs rose sharply between 1971 and
1976, from $1.7 million to $12 million, but the $12 million figure represented six-
tenths of one percent of all foundation giving (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, v).11
The Foundation Center estimates that in 1993, the leading 1,020 private
foundations in the U.S. gave 5.2 percent of their funding dollars specifically to women
and girls (The National Council for Research on Women 1995, ix).12 This represents a
slight increase since 1987 when women received 3.4 percent of the philanthropic pie
(Lott 1994,158). In 1989 the Grants Index, a publication of the Foundation Center,
reported that foundations gave a record 5.2 percent of funding to women and girls,
only to fall to 4.1 percent the following year (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, vi). This drop occurred in spite of a 76 percent increase in the
number of foundations analyzed in the Grants Index (Women and Foundations/
11 Even this number improved upon the 1975 statistic, in which less than one half of one percent of all
grants were clearly identified as improving the status of women and girls (Women and Foundations/
Corporate Philanthropy 1992, i).
12 Of 68,495 grants totaling $5.6 billion, 4,162 grants, or 6.1 percent, were earmarked for women and
girls, which means that less than $291 million was designated for programs for females out of the total
$5.6 billion awarded. Local and regional analyses in Boston, Chicago, Minnesota and Michigan, for
instance, show that the dollar amount that actually reaches women and girls is less (The National
Council for Research on Women 1995, ix).
Corporate Philanthropy 1992,4).13 About one-third of foundations surveyed in 1990
made no grants to programs targeting girls and women (The Feminist Majority
Foundation 1991, 4). In the last 20 years, two to four percent of institutional
philanthropic dollars have targeted women and girls (Odendahl 1994, 305). Women
and girls of color received about four percent of grants to females in 1989, according to
a sample of 2,700 foundation grants to this population (The Feminist Majority
Foundation 1991, 1).
The portion of funding for womens needs can best be seen by analyzing giving
to specific womens causes. Take health, for instance. Despite agitation of feminist
organizations for more attention to womens health needs, research on womens health
issues remains underfunded. In 1990, funding for organizations working on womens
diseases totaled $751,000, or 1.4 percent of total giving, and 2.8 percent of all mental
health funding was designated for womens programs (Women and Foundations/
Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 6). Thirteen percent of the 1987 research budget of the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest U.S. source of funds for medical
research, addressed womens health issues, and only 1.8 percent of the budget
supported research in obstetrics and gynecology (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, 2).14 In 1991, the NIH Office of Research on Women was
established with a budget of $1.5 million, two-tenths of one percent of the total NIH
13 That set of foundations increased from 472 to 832, and the number of the largest foundations tripled
from 100 to 300. One factor that contributed to the decline in funding between 1989 and 1990 was that
the Grants Index raised the minimum size of grants included in the volume from $5,000 to $10,000.
Many womens groups receive the smaller grants. Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy
continue to use this Foundation Center data despite its limits because it represents the only means
available for monitoring philanthropys giving to women and girls (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, 5).
14 Citing a report by NIHs Advisory Committee on Womens Issues.
budget of $8.3 billion (The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991, 2). Such organizations
do not recognize the need to devote resources to womens health issues.
The National Cancer Institute provides another example of underfunding for
womens health. Though breast cancer strikes one in nine U.S. women, research on
the disease is allocated only 5.2 percent of the 1991 National Cancer Institutes $1.7
billion research budget (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 3). An
estimated five percent of funding for cancer research was spent on breast cancer in
1992 (National Council for Research on Women 1995, x).
Philanthropy also slights womens health issues by funding major studies that
exclude women. Studies of heart disease, the leading killer of American women, often
fail to incorporate women. The Physicians Health Study of aspirin as a preventative
treatment for heart disease included 22,071 men and no women, and the Mr. Fit
study of lifestyle and the development of coronary heart disease included 15,000 men
and no women (Women and Foundations/ Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 3). The
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute also exemplifies this tendency. It carried out a
$150 million, ten-year study on cholesterol and heart disease in men only (The Feminist
Majority Foundation 1991,2).
Much foundation giving also overlooks womens health needs; only 2.9 percent
of foundation funding for medical research was designated for womens health in 1990
(Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, v). Of $180 million for
medical research, foundations earmarked just 2.9 percent for research on womens
health (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 3).
Of all dollars earmarked for womens health, most are channeled to
reproductive health causes. These included abortion services,15 family planning clinics,
fertility treatments and birthing centers.16 In 1990, reproductive health received about
$40 million, or roughly 82 percent of all dollars channeled toward womens health
(Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 7).
Another crucial funding area for women is education. The Department of
Education estimates that for every dollar of financial aid that men receive, female
students receive 68 cents in work/study earnings, 73 cents in grants, and 84 cents in
loans. The Association of American Colleges Project on the Status and Education of
women estimates that women get less financial aid than men at both the undergraduate
and graduate levels, and that aid given to women is more often in the form of loans than
scholarships (Feminist Majority Foundation 1991). Also, of $299 million dedicated to
graduate and professional education, $2 million, less than one percent, was targeted
at women. And womens adult education programs, which are essential to lifting
women out of poverty, received the largest percentage (7.5 percent) of education
funding for women, but the sum was $756,000 (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, 9). Philanthropy neglects womens specific educational needs as
much as it does their health needs.
Low-income womens services represents another important funding area to
investigate. Housing programs targeted to women received just $1.1 million in
15 Determining the amount of funding for abortion services is difficult because though general support
to some family planning clinics pays for abortion services, three grants totaling $101,000 were
identifiable as abortion grants.
16 This $40 million figure does not include reproductive rights work, which received $3 million in
1990 (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 6).
foundation dollars in 1987, though federal funding for low-income housing was being
slashed. Women and children constitute three-fourths of the nations poor, but the
percentage of funding for food and nutrition for women and children equals less than
four percent (The National Council for Research on Women 1995, ix). Furthermore,
only 8.6 percent of funding for employment programs, 7.5 percent of adult continuing
education programs, and 3.2 percent of food and nutrition programs targeted women
and girls in 1990 (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, vi). Giving
programs designed to assist low-income people will ultimately fail without special
consideration to this special segment of the poor population; a segment that current
philanthropy often overlooks.
Services for women who have been abused are similarly underfunded. With
regard to victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence, the United Way allots $11
million per year nationwide to victims sheltersone half of one percent of its national
budget (The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991, 3).17 Other mainstream philanthropies
similarly designate less than one percent of their giving for mental health programs for
rape victims (National Council for Research on Women 1995, x). Human service
funding in the U.S. that supports domestic violence programs hovers at about one
percent, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (The National
Council for Research on Women 1995, ix). Furthermore, although women of color
suffer most severely from poverty, limited economic opportunity, health problems and
violence, $12 million, or just four percent of total 1990 funding for women and girls,
17 Nationally there are four times more shelters for animals than there are for beaten women (The
Feminist Majority Foundation 1991, 3).
was earmarked for minority women (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy
Girls programs are often relegated to the bottom of the funding agenda. In
1990, four percent of the funds for elementary and secondary education programs, two
percent of those for recreation and sports, .5 percent for student services, and 25
percent of funds for youth development were earmarked for girls (Women and
Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, v). In the same year foundations gave $174
million for elementary and secondary education, but $6 million (3.9 percent) to special
programs for girls (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992,9). Of total
funding by all foundations in 1990, $251 million went for internships, fellowships,
scholarships and other forms of aid. Programs designed for young women received
just five percent of that amount, or $12.6 million (Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy 1992, 11).
The dearth of support for girls programs can also be seen in comparisons of
giving to girls groups relative to gifts to boys organizations. In 1990, the United Way
gave the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) $39 million more than the
Young Womens Christian Association (YWCA). The Boy Scouts received $32 million
more than the Girl Scouts from United Way affiliates. Allocations for Boys Clubs (now
called Boys and Girls Clubs) and Girls Clubs (now called Girls, Inc.) exemplify an
even larger discrepancy, with Girls, Inc. being outfunded seven to one (The Feminist
Majority Foundation 1992, 1). However, these statistics compare the boys and girls
clubs as if they are equally-sized organizations, and do not seem to take into
consideration that the YMCA may be a more substantial agency than the YWCA, for
instance. In that case, the YMCA would be justified in receiving more than the YWCA
because it would provide more and larger programs, and would be likely to request
more money. If these boys groups are substantially larger than their comparable girls
groups, these statistics may be questionable. Nevertheless, a straight comparison of
funding for boys versus girls clubs remains important in that it documents the greater
support available for boys networks compared to those for girls, which boosts
arguments for the need to support girls programs.
Though the numbers demonstrate that American philanthropy is largely
overlooking womens and girls needs, underfunding educational, health, and social
service agencies for women, the numbers are not without their critics. Researchers such
as the National Council for Research on Women admit that despite significant advances
in independent sector research in the last decade, it is difficult to standardize data
collected from federal and state agencies and even harder to track data that yield more
complex analyses for private philanthropy.
Others claim that the figures above do not come close to describing the amount
of funding that reaches women and girls. Yes, absolutely, more funding is going to
women and girls than these figures show, said Loren Renz of the Foundation Center.
Non-specified funds do reach women and girls, and 72 percent of the grants in 1990
reported to our Grants Index were non-specified as to population group. But, she
added, the index can make no assumptions about a funders intentions, so can only
reflect as grants to women and girls those grants specifically targeted to them (Women
and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 5). Still others who question these
numbers point out that funding for men and boys barely exceeds one percent (National
Council for Research on Women 1995, x). Critics also charge that women and girls
receive their share of grants simply because they are 52 percent of the population.
These analysts argue that benefits for the public good will reach the public in
representative proportions, and therefore that grants specifically for women and girls
are redundant (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992).
Womens advocates acknowledge these criticisms, but cling to their
interpretations of the problem. As the National Council for Research on Women (1995,
xii) concludes, The available data may not be all that is necessary to make an airtight
case proving discrimination, but the numbers do indicate clear, unmistakable patterns of
disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement even with regard to so-called universal
giving. Funders contend that general giving impacts women and girls and minorities
just as it impacts men and boys and whites. But as the next section will show, this is
not necessarily the case.
4.3. Barriers to Funding for Women and Girls
Weve already done women, Women and girls no longer need a special
focus, The womens movement has been successful. These are some of the reasons
funders give for not targeting women and girls in their giving. The problem of the
funding gap between females and males ranges from notions that the increases in giving
to women have solved the problem of underfunding, to ideas that general giving
dollars reach women and girls to the same extent that they reach men and boys. This
section will explore these misperceptions, and how some women in philanthropy are
trying to correct them.
Some blame deep-rooted sexism for the underfunding of womens programs.
We are facing a very powerful sexism that underlies all of this, said Molly Mead,
associate director of the Lincoln Filene Center of Tufts University. The fundamental
dynamic is institutionalized sexism (National Council for Research on Women 1996,
7). The National Council for Research on Women (1995,4) concurs. Sexism and
universal denial of the need for programs specifically benefiting women and girls are
major obstacles to funding. Some, like Robert Bothwell, director of the National
Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, believe sexism has a chilling effect on giving
to womens causes. Scuttlebutt indicates that some corporations are rewriting their
grantmaking guidelines to more easily allow them to say no to womens rights and
other progressive nonprofits (qtd. in The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991, 6). This
conspiracy theory, that men purposely withhold funds from womens groups
because people in power never relinquish it, and men have a stake in keeping women
marginalized, has its proponents, but many believe the problem has more complicated
The tendency of mainstream philanthropic organizations to give scattershot
grants rather than committing to long-term projects also acts against giving for females.
Traditional philanthropy holds that once a cause has been funded, a new project must
be sought. But many womens problems, such as domestic violence or health issues,
require a marathon commitment that agencies are not in the habit of providing (Grigsby
Bates 1989). This tendency explains why womens issues that once were fundable,
now are nottheyve been done.
The relative newness of many womens organizations also complicates fund-
raising. These agencies compete for support with established agencies and a sea of
other needy groups. Some say that womens groups should link with older, better-
known agencies to draw upon their good names and records (Slaughter 1990).
Furthermore, because many grants are based on what recipients have been given in the
past, traditional gender biases perpetuate (The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991).
Lack of attention to womens and girls needs also is not surprising given the
dominance of men on nonprofit boards.18 Therefore, women have less representation in
how resources should be assigned. Also, funders claim that if they are too politically
correct in their giving, they will eliminate all but a few programs (Women and
But perhaps the most pervasive and troubling reason for not targeting women
and girls in giving is that funders see programs serving these populations as
exclusionary or self-serving. Grantmakers say they do not want to fund special
interest groups. Womens issues are still seen as optional; they have not yet been seen
as important to national social issues. As Mead explained, There are many foundations
that care passionately about poverty or violence in their communities. Yet the minute
you bring up the issue of women, its suddenly seen as a tangential or political issue
(National Council for Research on Women 1996, 7). One funder illustrated this view.
Our focus is literacy. We dont fund women (cited in Women and Foundations/
Corporate Philanthropy 1992,1). Such a statement shows the lack of attention to the
special needs of females within broad programs.
Tangential to the notion that womens issues are exclusionary is the idea that the
womens movement has succeeded and therefore grants to women and girls are
unnecessary. Many funders responding to a Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy survey expressed this view. We do not identify, as a separate category,
18 Another source of disproportionate funding for women and girls is individual donations. The
Independent Sector, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., found that most individual donations, the
bulk of philanthropic giving, come from older white men with above average incomes and education.
Such donors tend to favor more conservative groups and those offering greater benefit to men and boys
than to women and girls (The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991).
giving programs for women and girls.... one funder said. It is possible that we have
made grants that would fall into this category. However, that fact would be
incidental... Another said, Our foundation does not give to women-related
organizations. Thats not its purpose. And, Were no longer involved in womens
issues (cited in Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992, 1). Such
comments underscore the reluctance of funders to recognize the needs of women when
forwarding a social cause. Many granters believe that the success of the womens
movement has removed the need to support services for this population.
Thus, womens issues are slighted in favor of more broad giving. Women
want to support womens issues, but men say it would be unfair to give just to
women. I want my dollars to help everyone, they say (National Council for Research
on Women 1995, 9). This attitude may be behind much of the underfunding of
womens educational and health programs, for instance. As one foundation executive
explained, If a proposal came in labeled womens health, it wouldnt have a good
chance of being funded. It would have a much better chance as access to health care,
or maternal/infant health (Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy 1992,
12). Many claim that having women mentioned as an organizations focus is the kiss
of death for successful fund-raising (National Council for Research on Women 1995,
x). Grantmakers have yet to acknowledge that broad philanthropic purposes are best
forwarded with attention to gender, as the next section will demonstrate.
4.4. Universal Funding and the Needs of Women and Girls
Most funders are not uncaring or insensitive to womens needs, but merely
assume their programs reach this population regardless of whether they have analyzed
if this is the case. All our grants benefit both women and men (or youth) remains a
common refrain, as does We already fund women as part of our funding initiatives
(National Council for Research on Women 1995, x). The Foundation Center finds that
over 90 percent of foundation dollars in 1993 went to generic programs. This
tendency arises partly because beneficiary groups were assumed and not named, and
also because funders intentionally avoid granting money to organizations or programs
that explicitly target gender (National Council for Research on Women 1995, x). The
national controversy over affirmative action programs will likely perpetuate this
preference, as targeting women or minorities comes to be seen as reverse
A survey of the 1997 Foundation 1000, published by the Foundation Center,
verifies this notion that grantmakers believe their broad giving reaches males and
females equally. The manner in which the Foundation 1000 calculates grants for certain
populations also exemplifies this tendency to assume, for instance, that a grant for
youth impacts males and females the same. In their data, a grant for minority youth
By this reckoning of the populations reached by grants, women and girls fare
very well in nonprofit giving. The Foundation Directory for 1996, also printed by the
Foundation Center, lists the top 100 foundations in the country according to total
assets. My study concentrated on the top 25.19 Most of these foundations listed women
and girls among their top three grant recipients. The only foundations not listing
women and girls among their top three recipients were the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
(women and girls received the fifth most grant dollars); the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation (women and girls ranked eighth among their recipients); Pew Charitable
Trusts (women and girls ranked sixth); Lilly Endowment Inc. (women and girls were
eighth); Annenberg Foundation (women and girls ranked fourth); Robert W. Woodruff
Foundation (women and girls were fifth); The Duke Endowment (women and girls
were fourth); the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (women and girls ranked fifth);
Annie E. Casey Foundation (women and girls were the fifth largest population
targeted); and the Starr Foundation (women and girls ranked fifth).
Overall, these foundations estimated that women and girls benefited from
approximately five percent of their philanthropic dollars ($118 million of a total of $2.2
billion, according to this edition of The Foundation Directory and 9.7 percent of their
grants, consistent with the statistics of womens funding researchers.20 Unlike these
researchers, however, the top 20 national funders estimate that men and boys fared
worse than females. The Foundation Center estimates that women and girls received
approximately just over $118 million, while males received around $12 million,
19 The top foundations in 1994/95 by assets were, in order of decreasing assets: Ford Foundation; W.K.
Kellogg Foundation; J. Paul Getty Trust; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Pew Charitable Trusts;
Lilly Endowment; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Rockefeller Foundation; Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation; Robert W. Woodruff Foundation; David and Lucile Packard Foundation;
Kresge Foundation; Annenberg Foundation; Duke Endowment; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation;
Carnegie Corporation of New York; McKnight Foundation; Richard King Mellon Foundation; Annie
E. Casey Foundation; Starr Foundation (Foundation Center 1996, 1).
20 The J. Paul Getty Trust is eliminated from this calculation because it is an operating foundation, and
therefore does not give grants.
meaning that women received over $100 million more than men. The most generous
foundation to women was the Ford Foundation, who estimated that $50 million
benefited women and girls, and about $2 million benefited males. Only one foundation,
Lilly Endowment, reported supporting men and boys more than women and girls, with
15 grants versus 7 grants, and approximately $938,828 compared to $782,185, a
difference of eight grants and $156,643.
These numbers sound optimistic for females. Most of the grants awarded and
counted as benefiting women, however, were grants to broad programs or groups that
may disproportionately assist men and boys. Therefore, these raw numbers can be
deceiving. In other words, $118 million, or five percent of giving, did not go expressly
to programs targeting women and girls, or to programs that impacted women and girls
the same as men and boys. There is no guarantee that the funders considered womens
specific needs when they awarded the grant. This reluctance to consider womens
needs can best be seen through an example, such as through the Ford Foundation.
Fords largest grant to women and girls ($1.5 million) went to the Management
Assistance Group of Washington, D.C., for a capacity-building initiative to address
organizational development needs of rights and social justice program grantees. This
was a broad gift that Ford assumed would impact females and males equally, but
egalitarianism may not be the case, if the Group assisted predominantly male-run
organizations, for example. It also cannot be assumed that the grant met womens
particular needs. To assure that womens needs were met, Ford would have had to
assess the diversity of Management Assistance Group grantees, to see if women held
decision-making roles in these organizations. Ford may have done so, but assuming
they did may be assuming too much.
Another high grant of $1.5 million went to Manpower Demonstration Research
Corporation of New York City, for an industrial challenge fund for educational
research projects. The egalitarian goals of this project may not have been realized,
considering evidence that women can be slighted in funding for research and education.
While these programs may have been designed with women specifically in mind, this
cannot be assumed. Evidence suggests that programs that sound egalitarian sometimes
allow males to set the priorities. Therefore, these two large grants, while possibly
impacting females, may have impacted males more fully, or let males set the pace.
My study also looked at the top ten Colorado foundations in terms of assets.21
The largest Colorado foundation, Colorado Trust, had no grants listed for either girls
and women or boys .and men. Several other foundations listed no giving for men and
boys, such as General Service Foundation, Monfort Charitable Foundation and
Needmor Fund. Overall, the statistics for giving for females versus males reflects the
discrepancy of national foundations. Giving for girls and women was about twice that
for men and boys. Females received seven percent of grants (approximately $3.2
million of about $47.6 million given by Colorado foundations) slightly higher than the
national average; men and boys received three percent of funding (approximately $1.3
million of $47.6 million donated statewide). Boys benefited from two percent of grants
(23 of 1,272 reported) while girls benefited from seven percent of gifts (91 of 1,272
21 This study focused on the top ten Colorado foundations in the interest of consistency. After this
cutoff not all the foundations appeared in the 1997 Foundation WOO. These ten foundations, according
to the 1995 Colorado Grants Guide, in order of decreasing assets for the last year reported, are: Colorado
Trust; El Pomar Foundation; Boettcher Foundation; Gates Foundation; Adolph Coors Foundation;
Johnson (Helen and Arthur) Foundation; General Service Foundation; Needmor Fund; and Buell
(Temple Hoyne) Foundation (27).
reported). These numbers indicate a statewide giving difference of 68 grants and $1.9
million in favor of females.
Again, however, assuming broad giving reaches women and girls is assuming
too much, according to researchers such as Women and Foundations/Corporate
Philanthropy (1992, i). Unfortunately, the numbers that describe the realities of our
society simply dont support this optimistic, trickle-down notion they write. Funders
must purposefully ensure that their gifts equally reach the populations they aim to help.
No philanthropic program can be effective in the long-run without addressing womens
needs, Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy (1992, 1) continues.
Projects that are gender-blindthat is, designed without identifying and incorporating
gender aspects explicitly into the project design processrisk missing opportunities for
increasing their effectiveness and may have negative effects on women. Bryan agreed
that taking males as the norm does not mean that women will be impacted, she
I think most people in this field (of funding for women) feel that women
and girls have some specific needs because our society has always taken
the male as the norm. It would be the same for men if we had taken
women as the norm. There would be men saying we have some needs for
some different programs or approaches. (Bryan 1997)
Funders need to recognize womens special needs and build targeted approaches.
Specific examples of national problems illustrate how possible solutions can
miss their mark by not considering the needs of females. Homelessness is one example;
a grant for a homeless shelter, for instance, would seem to help men and women
equally. But shelters serving men and women do not necessarily reach homeless
women, because one criterion for shelter is that a person be living on the street, and
women often will live in a car or with friends to avoid this situation (Women and
Philanthropy 1996a, 4). This tendency leads the National Council for Research on
women (1995, xi) to conclude that, All too often, when problems are specific to
women and girls, traditional generic funding programs miss their mark. To help
homeless people, especially the homeless women and children who are the fastest
growing segment of the population, the specific situations of this population must be
acknowledged. Failure to do so risks making ineffective grants. This example also
shows the need for grants specifically for women, such as a shelter for homeless
Funders may also assume that if they give to a childrens organization, they will
equally reach boys and girls, but this is not necessarily true. At Big Brothers/Big
Sisters, for instance, of the 60,000 youths that the organizations served in 1990,
45,000 were boys, so 25 percent of those served were girls, although far more Big
Sisters volunteered than Big Brothers. Similarly, in 1990 the United Way funded 553
Boys and Girls Clubs, but 70 percent of the young people served by these clubs are
boys (The Feminist Majority Foundation 1991,2). Yet another example comes from a
national survey of programs for girls by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The survey
found that 40 of 112 programs actually provided separate time and space for girls.
Many of these programs, however, amount to girls watching boys play sports
(National Council for Research on Women 1996, 1). The foundation also noted that
many programs focusing on areas such as economic development, health and violence,
are geared toward mens and boys needs, not the needs of women and girls (cited in
The National Council for Research on Women 1995). Thus funders cannot assume
their broad grants reach all unless they inspect programs specifically for their impact
on women and girls.
Other examples also illustrate the need to target women and girls. Guidelines
developed for self-help projects for low-income housing, for instance, will not be
effective if they fail to address related issues that are female-specific, such as single-
parent families, child care, domestic violence, illiteracy, child abuse and teenage
pregnancy. Similarly, unless a science recruitment project targets girls and addresses
the obstacles that hamper womens success in science careers, any grant to increase
enrollment and retention of inner-city high school youth in science will little benefit
girls (National Council for Research on Women 1995).
These examples show that giving to neutral causes often overlooks womens
needs. As the National Network of Womens Funds (1993, 4) argues, funding must
target women and girls in order to change the conditions that keep them from reaching
their full potential. The specific concerns that women and girls face are ignored by
general grants to broad populations. Gender-specific funding will foster change
because it wont overlook the realities of womens lives. Women are beginning to
recognize the necessity for responsive philanthropy. To this end, many women take the
initiative to make funders recognize womens needs.
4.5. Women Helping Women
In 1992, Denver philanthropist and millionaire Swanee Hunt sponsored a
Million Dollar Day to raise money for Bill Clintons political campaign. She called
some of Denvers wealthiest women and persuaded them to give more than they had
ever given before. They donated in part because they believed that Clinton shared their
concern for social issues. But they also gave to support two women they admired-
Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore. Sporting a Vote for Hillarys Husband button on
her jacket, Hunt told the Rocky Mountain News that women donated to the campaign
because of how they feel about Hillary and Tipper as role models. This is the first time
weve got a first lady who could be president, she said.22
The Million Dollar Day was but one example of the growing number of women
who are becoming aware of womens issues and of their power to effect change for
themselves, following in the footsteps of female social reformers 100 years before.
This is the moment in time for the womens movement and the womens funding
movement, said Jo Moore, an active volunteer and contributor to the Chicago
Foundation for Women (qtd. in Shaw and Taylor 1995, 57-8). Annual donations to
womens funds have increased from $12.6 million in 1991 to $15.4 million in 1992, an
increase of 22 percent, according to the National Network of Womens Funds (Shaw
and Taylor 1995, 20).23 Various elements have combined to make women more
interested in funding for women.
Scholars say women are motivated to give by societal injustice toward women
and girls, as Shaw and Taylor (1995, 89) explain:
Many women have felt the sting of inequality and prejudice. Because of
this, they want to make things better, not only for the less fortunate but
22 Jones, Rebecca. 1992. Big giver expects liberal return. Rocky Mountain News. 6 Dec. 1992, 27.
The 1992 presidential race saw many new female political contributors, mainly baby boomers under the
age of 45 who were willing to use their money for social change, and to fund womens issues like
child care and family leave (Shaw and Taylor 1995).
23 Jewish women are particularly strong supporters of womens groups. Womens roles and issues are
now a crucial consideration for Jewish philanthropists both in terms of fund-raising and voluntarism,
Barry Kosmin (1995,46) writes. The emerging generation of young [Jewish] career women finds the
traditional old boys club and its practices alienating (48). The womens division of the Milwaukee
Jewish Federation raises about $2 million annually, and the womens division of the Miami Jewish
Federation raises about $7 million per year. When Jewish women give to Jewish organizations, they
want their dollars earmarked for womens issues (Shaw and Taylor 1995). And when they give, they
give big. Though less than 20 percent of elderly Jewish women are childless, they donate 80 percent of
major endowment gifts from women (Kosmin 1995, 50).
also for the girls and young women behind them. They do not want
their daughters to have to go through the difficulties and struggles that
they did. 4
Female donors like to see their money go for institutional change, which explains why
nonprofits that work for change for women have proliferated in the past ten years (Von
Schlegell and Hickey 1993).
Womens education is a strong pull for womens dollars. In 1992, 40 percent
of the 20 institutions and universities rated highest in alumni support per student were
womens colleges. In addition, the first three liberal arts colleges to raise over $100
million were womens collegesSmith, Wellesley and Mount Holyoke. Two womens
colleges (Smith and Wellesley) in the last two years ranked first and second in total
support among all liberal arts colleges. They raised the most money, had the highest
percentage of giving, and got the largest gifts (Shaw and Taylor 1995,17). Womens
education is a popular cause among Jewish women as well. These women are three
times more likely than other white women to graduate from college and four times more
likely to earn postgraduate degrees (Kosmin 1995, 46).
But some women remain reluctant to give to womens causes, as Moore
explained, because they are taught to be giving and that doing something for themselves
is selfish. Women tell us all the time that they think its selfish to have a fund that
gives money only to women and girls. But no one else is giving to them, and no one
else is suffering more (qtd. in Shaw and Taylor 1995, 59). Focusing on their own
needs goes against womens socialization, so they have as much difficulty supporting
womens issues today as they did 100 years ago. Women also learn throughout their 24
24 A member of one of Shaw and Taylors focus groups echoed this sentiment. I think there is a ton
of injustice. Im interested not only in correcting that but also in making other people aware of it (qtd.
in Shaw and Taylor 1995, 89).