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For Women It's Better to Give -- and Receive

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The winter holidays are the high season of charitable giving -- as is evident by all the requests you're probably receiving from your alma mater, your place of worship and the causes you care most about. Today I ask you to give thought to the following question: Why do women give?

We give because our philanthropy inspires others. We give because our donations have the power to transform the world around us.

A recent study found that women are as or more likely than men to donate to charitable causes of every stripe, from religious institutions to medical research to community groups. In addition, women give to causes that directly connect to their lives and families.

The women's funding movement, of which Chicago Foundation for Women is a part, reflects this. We strive to bring together communities who see the value of pooling their dollars to support work that recognizes the unique and complex problems women and girls face around the world: disproportionate poverty, violence and illness, limited access to education, nutritious food and health care, and legislative challenges to their rights to seek equal pay, freedom from violence and health information and services. These are global issues as well as local ones, as I see daily through the organizations CFW supports.

So, it's clear the spirit of philanthropy among women has a great power. It's also evident that there is an intense need for this support among underserved populations of women and girls throughout the Chicago area. I wish I could say these factors have resulted in increased funding for women and girls, but that fact remains that the resources available to women and girls organizations remains miniscule at best.

In 1985 when CFW and many other women's funds were created, only 3% of all philanthropic funding, in the U.S. and internationally, went to programs focused on women and girls. For more than half the population, this is a fraction of a piece of the pie. While the women's funding movement has made significant gains since its founding and women's funds worldwide are increasing their giving at a faster rate than foundations as a whole -- the global proportion of funding for women and girls hovers at only 7.5% today. In other words, supporting 51% of the population is still a rare, radical act.

I bring these statistics to your attention now and ask you to consider them as you sort through the stack of appeals clogging your mailbox. I challenge you to be intentional about your investments this holiday season. We women give when we're involved, when we know what an organization or campaign represents and we see our values reflected there.

For myself, I want to do more than give to where there's need. I want to give to where there are solutions. That's the reason I support women and girls, and I hope you do, too.

When you help a girl get a good start -- learning about her body, going to a safe school, trying out new activities and sports -- you create a leader. When you give a young woman the power to decide when and how to have a child, you create a mature and prepared mother. You get the same result helping women across the years, from a young mother in need of job training to a retired woman who wants to keep Congress from slashing Medicare.

Plus, when you invest in a woman, she is more likely than a man is to invest back in her community. She sets an example for her peers, neighbors and coworkers. When you invest in women-led solutions, you see positive ripples across neighborhoods, cities and states. You see national and global attitudes shift. You see change.

Join me in giving with pride, with intention and with hope this holiday season.