Putting Your Purse Where Your Principles Are

Swanee Hunt sings
the Mother Goose ditty, "The king was in the counting house counting
out his money; the queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey," to
describe the gendered roles about money she learned at the knee of her
Texas oil magnate father. Her sister, Helen LaKelly Hunt,
talks about how her father brought her husband into his business
because in the 1950's it never occurred to him to hire his daughters.

How they went from that beginning to seed and lead the Women Moving Millions
campaign which has thus far raised $176 million in $1 million+ gifts
for women's funds and organizations across the country reflects a
journey often taken by women of wealth who want to use their money for
worthy purposes. Indeed, while well-heeled men often go into politics
or start businesses, women are more likely to start social movements or
fund charities. 

But Women Moving Millions is a new twist on this common theme. "We're not funding charity," declares Chris Grumm, president of the Women's Funding Network,
the funding collaborative that has provided the structure through which
the Women Moving Millions funds have been raised and distributed,
"We're funding change." She says that networks and collaboration
represent the ways women work, including how they feel most comfortable
doing philanthropy.

Grumm points out that many of the organizations that receive these funds are advocacy organizations or do both service and advocacy.


Hunt adds, "We see ourselves transforming gender roles as we're
transforming the amount of money going to women and girls. We’re
funding women’s voice in society. Women are the strategic way to fund
in the future."

But empowering women through nonprofit
organizations isn’t the only way women to day are leading strategically
with their purses.

Philanthropy to Business
Michelle Robson is one philanthropist and community leader who turned businesswoman to solve a systemic problem that affected her personally. Robson, who lives in Phoenix AZ, suffered in silence with a variety of severe health problems
for over a year after a hysterectomy, yet found that despite her more
than ample resources she couldn’t get the information and proper care
that she needed. A big part of the problem was that she felt helpless
within the medical system and had to learn for herself how to question
medical professionals, find sources of accurate and complete
information, evaluate alternatives for her unique circumstance, and
advocate for her own needs. Her experience fueled a passion for making
sure other women can get unbiased information about health; she put her
purse where her principles are to the tune of investing $8 million to
start up the women’ s health information website EmpowHer.com
She’s put together a team of leading medical experts along with media
and technology experts to help her expand her vision of “improving
women’s health one woman at a time.”

Nor has Robson been
reluctant to take on the powerful to make sure women’s health isn’t
subject to censorship. During National Women’s Health Week last week,
she withdrew her funding and sponsorship from the Women’s Health Expo
& Conference being organized by the Governor’s Office for Children,
Youth, and Families after Governor Jan Brewer exclude the preventive
health information provided by Planned Parenthood Arizona and condom
information and distribution by a county health department HIV/AIDS
program. “Women’s health shouldn’t be a political football,” she says.

Business to Philanthropy
Thanks to advances women have made in the last four decades, women younger women like Jackie Zehner 
have made it in the formerly boys-only world of finance. She was the
youngest woman, and first female trader, to be invited into the
partnership of Goldman Sachs. After leaving the firm in 2002, she
became a

Jackie Zehner with Lilly Ledbetter--two leaders for women's financial security


Founding Partner of Circle Financial Group, a private wealth management operation. Zehner
is now a frequent media commentator on women’s leadership and success
in the workplace, and their relationship to wealth, investing, and
social change. She’s a venture capital investor in women-owned startup
firms through the angel investor group Golden Seeds. Her Purse Pundit Blog
shares her knowledge and her enthusiasm for both the business and
philanthropic worlds and is a contributor the Women Moving Millions

All these women exemplify leadership through the
power of their purses and why so many women feel the urgency of women’s
economic power to achieving full equality not just for themselves but
also to rebalance the economy and the culture as a whole.

Helen Hunt observed at a Women Moving Millions briefing for media
recently, “Something isn't working in the world.” To which her sister
responded in that sweet-tart Texas voice, “That's because it wasn't
Lehmann Sisters. But a new form is arising.”