Study Finds 4% of Philanthropic Dollars Earmarked for Girls’, Women’s Programs

By Meg Sommerfeld — May 06, 1992 3 min read

“We have progress, but at a snail’s pace,’' said Jane Ransom, the president of Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy, an affinity group of the council that conducted the study.

In 1990, the 832 foundations included in the study spent $184.05 million for programs that specifically addressed the needs of girls and women--representing 4.1 percent of their $4.47 billion in total grants. The grants made by these philanthropies constituted 57 percent of all awards by the nation’s 32,000 grant-making foundations during the period studied.

The report observes that grants to programs for girls and women have rarely exceeded 4 percent of overall grant-making. It compares this limit to the so-called “glass ceiling’’ in education described in “The A.A.U.W. Report: How Schools Shortchange Girls,’' a study issued earlier this year by the American Association of University Women. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1992.)

Grants targeting girls and women grew from 2.9 percent of overall giving in 1981 to 4.0 percent in 1988. In 1989, these grants peaked at 5.2 percent of the total, but dropped back to 4.1 percent in 1990, the most recent year included in the study. The report states that philanthropic giving on a state-by-state basis to girls’ and women’s activities has remained at 4 percent in recent years.

‘Trickle-Down Effect’ Denied

The report contends that women and girls should receive an increased share of funding because they face greater economic and social disadvantages than men do, while simultaneously benefiting the least from grant-making directed at the general population.

“Women are the poorest citizens of our country,’' the report’s authors write, “yet get the smallest part of the philanthropic pie.’'

Critics of gender-specific grant-making, the report says, “trust that there is an equity principle at work in our society such that law and benefits designated for the ‘public good’ automatically reach the public in representative proportions.’'

But members of the Women and Foundations group dispute this idea. “The trickle-down effect does not work with public funds, [and] it cannot work with private funds,’' argued Stephanie J. Clohesey, a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation who chaired the task force that produced the report.

Among other data cited in support of its contentions, the report notes that:

  • Of the $174.6 million in foundation money given to precollegiate education in 1990, $6.9 million, or 3.9 percent, was given to programs targeting girls.
  • In the human-services sector, foundations allocated 1 percent of dollars that year for programs addressing domestic violence.
  • Foundations designated $5.2 million, or 2.9 percent of their $180 million in medical-research grants in 1990, specifically for studies of girls’ and women’s health issues.

In the area of education, the report recommends that foundations commission studies of gender-related attitudes in the schools they already aid; support sex-equity training for educators; and finance mentoring programs for girls and women.

Staffing Patterns

The study also examined the presence of women and minorities on foundation staffs and boards. Women constitute 57 percent of foundation staff members, and direct 45 percent of foundations, it found.

Among female chief executive officers of foundations, the report says, two-thirds manage organizations with assets of less than $10 million, while 11 percent administer those with assets of $250 million or more.

During the past decade, it says, community foundations increased the percentage of women on their boards from 29 percent to 31 percent, while private foundations increased their proportion from 18 percent to 22 percent. Corporate foundations experienced a smaller increase, from 8.7 percent to 9.2 percent.

According to Ms. Ransom, most of the increases have taken place within a particular group of foundations that have made concerted efforts to diversify their staffs and boards.

“Those that were making progress ... continue to make progress, and those that weren’t doing anything still aren’t doing anything,’' Ms. Ransom said.

Launched in 1977, Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy is a national association of foundation officers that has tracked grants targeting girls and women since 1980.

Copies of the report, “Getting It Done: From Commitment to Action on Funding for Women and Girls,’' can be obtained for $20 each from Women and Foundations/Corporate Philanthropy, 322 Eighth Ave., Room 702, New York, N.Y. 10001.

A version of this article appeared in the May 06, 1992 edition of Education Week as Study Finds 4% of Philanthropic Dollars Earmarked for Girls’, Women’s Programs