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The increase in private wealth held by women has led to a notable rise in female philanthropists in recent years. As reported by the Economist, women’s wealth rose from $34trn to $51trn between 2010 and 2015. This impressive increase of 50% in just five years indicates a change in the distribution of wealth between genders. In turn, this change in the face of private wealth has led to growth in philanthropic efforts by women investors.

Management literature has recognised the difference in leadership styles between genders since as early as the 1980s. Women have typically had a reputation for being more cooperative in work teams. Female leaders are usually more collaborative and less hierarchal than men, placing a higher value on enhancing the self-worth of employees. It seems that similar characteristically sympathetic behaviour may apply when women donate to philanthropic causes.

Statistics by Forbes indicate that female philanthropists give an average of 3.5% of their wealth away; twice as much as their male counterparts. Empirical studies suggest that women are more likely to act prosocial than men; more frequently, their actions are voluntarily intended to benefit others.

According to behavioural experiments, this tendency towards prosocial behaviour is due to a difference in how male and female brains process information. Women experience a stronger reward signal when acting in a prosocial manner, whereas for men, this reward signal is typically experienced during selfish behaviour. It is hoped that philanthropic causes can only benefit as more women have more money to spend.

Ego-system to Ecosystem

Although still a small percentage of philanthropists, women behave more interactively, and it is hoped that philanthropy will evolve as such. Giving circles are a good indication that collaborative giving is the way forward for female philanthropists. Differing in cause, structure and membership demographic, the first giving circles had a common theme: giving circles were predominantly founded by women for the benefit of women members.

Investment in Women and Girls

Although there are no official statistics, anecdotal evidence suggests that female philanthropists are more likely to support the cause of girls and women. Joey Horn, Managing Director of investment company Oak Management AS, is a philanthropist involved in causes relating to education and women. Similarly, Women Moving Millions is a global philanthropic community dedicated to ending gender inequality by bringing together investors to fund large-scale investment in female causes.

Philanthropy is Not Separate from Investment

Sustainable investment in the form of environmental or social goals rather than just financial backing seems to particularly appeal to women investors. It is hoped that the rise in female philanthropists will amplify the impact of giving and reinvent the face of philanthropy.