KERA Airing: Women, Wealth and Giving
KERA Airing: New Ways of Transitioning the Homeless

Giving charitable donations is the focus of today’s episode on women and philanthropy.  The Boom generation may be one of the most talked about cohorts in history. Born between 1946 and 1964, (though some experts, such as William Strauss and Neil Howe, state 1943 to 1960) they changed the social landscape.

Panelists include:

After World War 11, American couples married in unprecedented numbers. In the next several years the US experienced a birth explosion, 78 million baby boomers were born. This generation became one of the most polled, analyzed, interviewed and criticized generations ever. Who they are, what they want and how they have influenced America continues to be news today. The references, beliefs, values, and convictions of our society have been largely shaped by boomers. They control the wealth, direct governments, businesses and the social and political policy of America. Today the producers of most TV shows and movies are boomers.  Our technology wizards, from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs are boomers. The President of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, as well as the President of the United States, Barack Obama- yes- they are boomers. As is Hilary Clinton and our first lady, Michelle Obama. And the list goes on.

Every hour 330 baby boomers turn 60 years of age and 50.8% of these are women. Retirement is fast approaching for many in this group, although the economy in the last couple of years has changed this expectation somewhat. There is much that ties this generation together, not the least of which was the advent and influence of television. In 1948, 172,000 US households had TV sets. In 1952 that figure had jumped to 15,000,000. Music, news, lifestyle and politics greatly influenced this generation, much of it watched on our TV sets.

This was the generation of flower power and free love, civil rights and women’s rights, marches, protests and picketing, the Beatles, Motown and Woodstock, Haight Ashbury, sex, drugs and rock and roll.  The outcome was a free-wheeling, free-spirited, individualistic group, of activists and idealists, oriented to social causes and who absolutely believed in their capacity to change the world. Not just their capacity, but their mandate to. From President Kennedy’s, Ted Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King’s assassinations to Nixon, Watergate, oil embargoes and high divorce rates, it was a generation raised not to trust anyone over 30.

Yet this activism and skepticism was channeled into an idealism that made the boomer want to change society for the better, most especially since they as a collective group had formed much of the damage. It is of the good as well as the history, that Women, Wealth and Giving focuses. The television program airing this Sunday talks about a small part of the of the research undertaken by Margaret May Damen and myself, that chronicles, through extensive research and interviews, the Boom generation and what they want today.

The resulting work of the same title focuses on the Boomer woman, and how she has turned her idealism toward a new frontier philanthropy. Our research showed that Americans are the most generous group on the planet. In fact more Americans  give charitable donations than vote. In 2008, even when the economy took a downturn, Americans gave over $307 billion dollars tin charitable donations. And of this group it is women who are the most generous. Management guru Tom Peters says, “women are the largest national economy on Earth.” The Harvard Business Review, September 2009 issue backed this up, “As a market women represent a bigger market opportunity than China and India combined.”

Women today control 60% of the wealth in the US, initiate 74% of all new business startups and employ 13,000,000 people.

An economic force to be reckoned with, they are opening up their purses and giving charitable donations that systemically impact society, and as program guest Becky Sykes, President and CEO of the Dallas Women’s Foundation states, “most especially to women and children’s issues.” Currently there are approximately 175 women’s foundations in the US, with the Dallas Women’s Foundation the largest in asset size.

Jim Falk, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas Ft. Worth, says,

“Women do sometimes have a different objective.  A man I recently met with for fund raising for the WACDFW was interested and talked about networking. On the other hand, a woman I met with later that day asked and talked about, how can I make a difference, in this society? It really crystallized the difference for me.”

And as Margaret mentions: “It’s not about conspicuous consumption anymore. Women are rewriting the rules for a caring society.” I believe, that more than in any other venue, the achievement of financial independence, the freedom to decide the use of money, has made women equal partners in the decisions to save the worlds we have created. The “power of the purse” is the power to rewrite the rules for a caring society, not only through its use in philanthropic endeavors but also in how money is invested in the financial and business institutions that control our capitalist system. The “power of the purse” has an exponential advantage as women unite, network and agree on the importance of particular causes.

As one of our book interviewees, Dallas boomer, Brenda Pejovich said,

“By increasing our participation in the competition for ideas, women will continue to contribute to a better society. It’s our checks that influence and it’s never been more important to open our wallets and give.”

Her sentiments are echoed by Marilyn Wechter, a Clayton, Missouri boomer and psychologist, who tells us,

“We are experiencing a paradigm shift that well may change our lives forever. This new world has us moving from consumption to collaboration and we’re staring to realize what’s really important- and recognize how little it takes to make us feel valued.”

In the aftermath of the financial debacle, credit crisis and government mishap of the last couple of years, Women, Wealth and Giving offers more than hope; it offers a philanthropic business strategy to direct all of our, men and women’s philanthropic initiatives to put us back on course.

Thank you for joining us as we talk about things that matter… with people who care.

Niki Nicastro McCuistion, Co-author of Women, Wealth and Giving


1821 – 05.02.10

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KERA Airing: Women, Wealth and Giving
KERA Airing: New Ways of Transitioning the Homeless