(WOMENSENEWS)–For a long time girls and women have been getting a minuscule share of the philanthropic pie. When it comes to foundation money, for instance, they get less than 10 percent according to a recent estimate from Women’s Philanthropy Institute.
But that giving gap seems to be closing a bit as philanthropic heroics now make big news, like this week’s announcement that Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan have formed the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to give away most of their personal fortune (through an unusual commercial approach).
Also, in the last couple years Bank of America announced a $10 million contribution to the Elizabeth Street Capital (with Tory Burch) to fund female entrepreneurs. In 2014, Procter and Gamble earmarked $5 million for girls.
Likewise, Apple, which had previously only mentioned its "support" for the National Center for Women and Information Technology, now has publicly announced its gift of $10 million over four years.
And there are similar good deeds by Coca Cola, HandM, General Mills as well as food and confectionary company Mondelez, which aims to help close the financial gender gap for cocoa farmers in Ghana.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking corporations are giving anything close to enough yet, to any groups. Last year, foundations, individuals and corporations donated a whopping $358.38 billion to charities. The portion contributed by corporations: a measly 5 percent. And just a teeny tiny percentage of all that money went to women and girls.
To give credit where it is due, some companies have been giving to girls and women for a long time.
Avon, the New York cosmetics giant, stands out for creating a foundation back in 1955 (!) that is the largest corporate affiliated foundation for women’s issues, and as of 2013, helped raise more than $957 million in over 50 countries for women’s causes.
There are other honorable mentions among cosmetics makers (an obvious fit since their buyers are overwhelmingly female).
French beauty company L’Oréal has funded female scientists for decades. Veuve Cliquot, the French champagne maker, has long had an award for female entrepreneurs, but there’s no money in it.
In 2008, Nike, the Oregon-based sports apparel company, made a bold commitment to The Girl Effect, a global anti-poverty initiative, adding $55 million to the NoVo Foundation’s $45 million.
But once again, we need to push harder because the need is great. After all, women are more likely than men to be among the poor or working poor, suffer violence, encounter discrimination and be denied opportunity in many areas.
The groundbreaking research for Buy Up Index, a U.S.-based app and ratings system that I founded, of more than 140 major companies revealed that nearly one third had no disclosed philanthropy or other commitment to women. Another third didn’t report how much money was spent
Buy Up Index ranks major consumer companies’ commitment to gender equality by evaluating their female leadership, employee policies, marketing and female-focused philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. It includes philanthropy because female shoppers deserve to know whether a company spends on women and girls before they part with their hard-earned dollar, or 77 cents, rather.
4 Crucial Steps
There are things that can be done however to close this giving gap. Here are four steps that can help:
No. 1: Encourage corporations to give more. American individuals donate approximately 2 percent of disposable income to charity, despite economic swings. Compare that to corporations that typically contribute less than 1 percent. If corporations gave more the whole pie would be bigger, along with women’s slice of it. One Percent for the Planet has challenged corporate America to spare more pre-tax profits for charity. The CECP, a coalition of CEOs founded by the late Paul Newman, also urges companies to give more. However, few companies reach that 1 percent benchmark.
No. 2: Add women to decision-making roles. Research from Harvard Business School demonstrated clearly that more female senior managers and directors correlate to greater philanthropic contributions.
No. 3: Improve accountability to stakeholders to enlarge the pot and find causes they support. Avon asked its salesforce about what cause to pursue and the answer was domestic violence, a problem they witnessed on the job that needed fixing. Few companies report to their customers or shareholders about their philanthropic commitments. Recent data from Nielsen indicated that 49 percent of all those polled thought companies should promote gender equality and empower women. If that figure were broken down by gender, it might be even more.
No. 4: Count exactly how much of the total charitable pie goes to women and girls so we can know these numbers. At present, no organization tracks donations to women or centralizes this data. There are hundreds of women’s organizations in the U.S–and even a National Council of Women’s Organizations, an organization of these organizations. But we have no published data on combined giving from corporations. Although no one has bothered counting, we know that women don’t top the list of preferred causes of American giving. Those spots are held by religion, education and human services.
Women wield tremendous consumer power, making the majority of household purchasing decisions; between 73 percent and 85 percent according to estimates. In some categories, such as beauty, feminine products or apparel, women may contribute even more to these companies’ bottom lines. Making its philanthropy to girls and women public, might earn companies additional sales.
It’s not farfetched to assume that women will shop more readily at companies that are dedicated to helping girls and women. But first they need to know which companies are in that category and how much they are giving.
So read the label. Or ask.