Today’s Hot Topic in Philanthropy: Women’s Economic Empowerment

One of President Barack Obama’s most lauded initiatives was the launch of “My Brother’s Keeper (MBK)” in 2014. The MBK Alliance dedicates itself to addressing persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and other minorities, while assisting this population in reaching their full potential. An honorable initiative indeed, but what is being done to address the same issues affecting young women of color? Fortunately, foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the NoVo Foundation are taking the steps necessary to support women in areas that include educational and economic empowerment.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $80 million to address the lack of comprehensive data necessary to improve the lives of women around the world. The Gates Foundation’s gift will help advance the data necessary to support gender parity, especially in developing countries.

Similarly, the NoVo Foundation founded in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett (son of Warren Buffett), will generously invest $90 million to support young women of color over a 7-year period. It is taking a unique approach in advancing women’s rights: in the beginning stages, the Foundation will go into communities, both rural and urban, and speak directly with young women of color about the challenges they encounter. Armed with this information, the foundation will then determine the necessary actions to improve the lives of young women of color.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) describes women’s economic empowerment as the ability to increase their own economic opportunities. ICRW has determined that women’s economic empowerment is THE singular-most important determinant in reaching gender equality. Research has shown that empowering women financially benefits society as a whole in that it significantly reduces poverty, while boosting economic prosperity for entire communities. Additionally, gender equality produces healthier societies (i.e., economically empowered women are less vulnerable to domestic violence and HIV infection).

In 2015, Invest in Others recognized financial advisor Stacy Francis as a finalist for the Catalyst Award for her work helping women achieve financial independence. Stacy is the CEO of Francis Financial and Founder of Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit organization that brings financial planning information to women of all ages, ethnicities, and income levels. It has helped more than 12,000 women since 2002 through its programming and events (all free of charge). The programs and resources include a Financial Helpline, weekly webinars, in-person seminars, blog entries, and weekly newsletters, all of which discuss topics related to budgeting, debt management, and retirement planning.

Currently, Stacy continues her service to Savvy Ladies as Board Chair and generous supporter. She has made frequent appearances in the press, including CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, FOX, PBS, and USA Today, where she promotes Savvy Ladies’ mission of delivering financial literacy to all women.

Tyson Ray is another financial advisor involved in helping women break the cycle of poverty. In 2014, he was awarded the Global Community Impact Award by Invest in Others. Tyson is the Founder and Board Member of Children’s World Impact, a nonprofit whose mission is to make a significant impact on the lives of orphans and widows in Africa and Haiti. In Ghana, Children’s World Impact built a well, a bakery, and a water processing plant. Not only do these instruments allow women and children to bottle their own water and produce their own bread and butter, but it also allows them to make a sustainable income by selling those products at local markets. Additionally, he organized the building of a new school which will educate over 100 preschoolers and kindergartners.

Currently, Tyson is using the charitable donation won from Invest in Others to continue his work in Ghana. Most recently, he organized over 900 volunteers to package and send over 150,000 meals to Africa.

Organizations such the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and the NoVo Foundation are leading the way in the effort to empower women financially around the world, but there are many individuals and smaller organizations working hard in similar efforts. At Invest in Others, we’re delighted to celebrate distinguished individuals such as Stacy Francis and Tyson Ray for their significant work behalf of women around the world.

This year marks our 10th year awarding the charitable work of advisors and financial firms. It is our strong belief that through recognition, we promote philanthropy and encourage others to get involved. This year’s Gala will take place on Thursday, September 29th at Cipriani 42nd Street where we will continue to celebrate the incredible ways that advisors and firms give back their communities.