By Rosa Madera Núñez, Founder, Empatthy

Every year, in different countries, new groups of women organise themselves to finance social initiatives. Their objectives are to improve the living conditions of other women and girls and create networks of innovation and entrepreneurship in areas as diverse as education, culture, the environment or technology. Although there are no official statistics on the percentage of women dedicated to philanthropy worldwide, female philanthropy is increasing. According to Charities Aid Foundation, “with numerous female entrepreneurs emerging and more intergenerational wealth transfers going to daughters, rather than just sons, around 10%  of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) globally are now women”. 

Female philanthropy is a new form of organising that is much more supportive and co-responsible. According to a study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana, women are generally more likely to donate than men, and their motivations are based on empathy for others rather than self-interest. Their research shows that women are more generous, cooperative and connected to the problems of their peers than men.

Sondra Hardy, founder and president of Women’s Giving Circles International, explains why women give using the framework of the 6 C’s: to create something in response to a human need; to change things for the better; to commit their time and money to their cause; to connect with the organisation and to see the faces of those receiving their gifts; to collaborate with other women in their giving; and to celebrate their giving with others and to have fun with their giving. 

The role of female philanthropy

Female philanthropy is at a disadvantage. It is recognised that women’s initiatives do not have sufficient funds to carry out their proposed objectives, however laudable they may be. Since women entrepreneurs have a more difficult time obtaining financing than men, Women Moving Millions started their own movement in 2007 that gathers 340 individuals that each make a $1 million commitment to supporting initiatives that benefit women and girls. This was a turning point for female philanthropy, and since 2007, it has inspired members to commit more than $600 million to organisations and initiatives that seek solutions to the problems of women and girls around the world. 

Philanthropy is not only about giving money but about using the resources that people have at their disposal and applying them to improve the world. Based on my 15 years of experience in the non-profit sector, women tend to get more deeply involved in social projects. One of the greatest inputs that female philanthropy has brought forward is seeing our work as systemic work. Philanthropy tends to work in silos; some work with the elderly, others with early childhood, others protect the environment. But if you work with the environment, you may see that it intersects with the needs of children or the elderly, housing and health. In this sense, systemic work has better results, and female philanthropy has incorporated this system change vision, seeing things less as a mere delivery of resources and focusing more on the concept of collaboration.

In any project or programme, when you put on the gender lens, the perspective changes. This practice consists of considering the influence of gender and the impacts on people of all genders at various stages of the philanthropic process. Applying a gender lens in a foundation often involves two essential components: granting to organisations that empower women and girls and work for gender equity, and ‘mainstreaming’ a gender-aware approach throughout the organisation; that is, adapting internal, grantmaking and investment practices to reduce gender bias and support gender equality.

The situation in Latin America

Progress has been made, but inequality still exists, and Latin America and the Caribbean are a cruel expression of it. Large foundations in Latin America tend to dedicate a small percentage of their resources to support initiatives of women and girls; their policies and programmes generally do not have a gender lens, and women, despite being the leading activists in many situations, are almost absent in the decisions of philanthropic organisations. Powerful women philanthropists continue to be a minority and have no public visibility. Large foundations are starting to understand the importance of including a gender lens, but there is still work to be done.   

The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted existing inequalities among vulnerable groups such as girls and women. According to UN Women, women have been the most affected by Covid-19 as many of them work in the service and retail sector or unregulated industries like domestic work. Female philanthropy wants to change this reality and give girls the possibility to become whatever they want. When we go to rural communities with Empatthy’s projects, we continue to meet girls who say they would love to be engineers but do not consider it an option because it is ‘not something for women’.  And this makes sense because they have no references. It is necessary to open their world so that they see that women are capable of much more. 

However, women have the capacity to create change. On the one hand, they face everyday problems in their communities, but on the other, they imagine more just, inclusive, friendly and prosperous societies together with other women. An example of this is giving circles. Giving circles are a very participatory way to help, formed when individuals come together and pool their dollars, decide together where to give the money (and other resources such as volunteer time), and learn about their community and philanthropy. It is a growing movement led primarily by women. As Philanthropy Woman mentions, “it’s no accident that giving circles are heavily female, and women of colour are involved in giving circles at much higher rates than they are in traditional modes of philanthropic giving”. 

Although there is still no hard data on the effect of working with women and girls, those who have begun to do so already speak of the multiplier effect that it has because women work in systems and networks. This means that when you support a woman or a girl, you're supporting the community she lives in. When you help a woman rise, we all shine. 


Rosa Madera Núñez, Founder, Empatthy

Rosa is a lawyer from the University of Oviedo with a Master in European Law, Master in Public Administration and a Corporate Governance program for non-profit companies, cooperatives and social institutions. She was previously the Executive Director of the Ibañez Atkinson Foundation and the Business Relations Director of the Family Companies Association. She has more than 20 years of international experience in managerial positions paired with a high degree of social vocation.

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