The Gender Gap in Giving
By Kristen Seeber
Women’s Fund of Smith County
Growing up in my family, the girls outnumbered the boys. My dad and older brother never stood a chance against my mom, my two younger sisters and me – all strong personalities. Our house was the hub for Girl Scout projects, drill team choreography and slumber parties. Thankfully for my brother, his bedroom was in the basement, so he could escape the drama when it became too much for him. Often, my dad would retreat downstairs with him for some peace and quiet.
Fast forward to my own home as a young mom, and I was the one outnumbered. My husband and two sons took over my carefully polished wood floors and turned them into a basketball court, a bowling lane or hockey rink. Gone were tea parties at the kitchen table for which I played dress-up as a little girl and, in their place, were poker games and Fiki football.
Make no mistake, there are vast differences between boys and girls, men and women – some we understand and even cherish, others we may never comprehend. It’s interesting, however, to pay attention to the distinctions and learn from them about uniqueness. If we’re wise, we will listen carefully to the sound of each voice, for there are subtleties yearning to be heard.
More and more research is being done to advance the understanding of the complex role gender plays in influencing how and why women and men give. Recent studies at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have found consistently that women and men give differently. Overall, women are more likely to give, and to give more, than men in similar situations. In one study, baby-boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than their male counterparts. Further, women in the top 25% of permanent income gave 156% more than men in that same category.
Though women tend to have fewer available resources as they age, evidence shows they give more than their male peers at virtually all income levels. The research goes on to indicate that such differences can be attributed to the way men and women are socialized regarding caring, self-sacrifice and the well-being of others. According to the study, another possible reason that women give more than men is the difference in attitudes toward money. Money may represent power or prestige to men, while women tend to look at money in terms of personal security, freedom or a way to achieve goals. A 2013 U.S. Trust survey on women and wealth found that “women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that giving to charity is the most satisfying aspect of having wealth.”
Women are nurturers and are motivated by causes that fulfill that instinct. As members of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, we are following our instincts and view our collective philanthropic efforts as an investment – a commitment to change lives and impact our community. We may not all be wealthy women, but we hold great wealth in common.
Donor education is key for all of us to understand the power of philanthropy and how to engage women and men as donors. A meaningful part of the giving experience is celebrating – celebrating the joy of philanthropy and even the nuances of charitable decision making.
It’s what we share, not what separates us, that fills the space between. Every strong man was once a brave boy, and every strong woman was once a brave girl. Giving strength and courage to others shows we are all on this journey of life together.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County, a collective giving circle whose grant awards benefit women and children in our community. In keeping with its mission to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as catalyst for positive change, the Women’s Fund also provides education and leadership opportunities to its over 200 members. Please visit www.womensfundsc.org for more information.