Tory Burch On Passing The Economic Torch: ‘Women Should Be As Ambitious As Men’

What’s a billionaire to do with all that disposable income? Why not give it away, start a foundation and help thousands of women along the way.

In May, Spanx founder, aka, modern corset genius Sara Blakely, committed to giving half of her wealth to charity in addition to her foundation and other philanthropic efforts. Her foundation promotes women’s entrepreneurship in many ways.  It has funded an entrepreneurship academy at a Girls School in Atlanta, and provided business training to and grants to women in South Africa.

Fashion designer Tory Burch, who started her foundation, in 2009, to help and mentor women entrepreneurs, has recently partnered with several companies. Her organization helps people get what they need most:  Money.

The foundation provides small business loans ranging from $500 to $50,000.  There’s also mentoring programs in this purse. Burch’s foundation has also partnered with Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network and their Pay It Forward initiative to mobilize successful women business owners and leaders.

As part of the partnership, the Tory Burch Foundation will be a featured as one of the suggested organizations through which women entrepreneurs can pay it forward – offering mentoring and business advice to Tory Burch Foundation mentees. Dell will also become the official technology partner of the Tory Burch Foundation, providing laptops to select women entrepreneurs who are part of the Tory Burch Foundation program.

And it doesn’t stop there. The foundation recently teamed up with Google and Politico to form “Women Rule”  to explore the challenges of female leaders.

It’s en vogue for fashion heavyweights and celebrities to do good, but these two newly minted self-made billionaires are not just giving lip service, but getting down in the trenches and giving others a hand. It’s a hand that can pull up bootstraps.

What’s also key is that these two women billionaires are working for women’s economic power and realize that it is the key to unlocking substantial change.

Blakely made news when she became the first female billionaire to join Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge.

On the website she writes:

Since I was a little girl I have always known I would help women. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would have started with their butts. As it turns out, that was a great place to start!

I have so much gratitude for being a woman in America. I never lose sight that I was born in the right country, at the right time. And, I never lose sight of the fact that there are millions of women around the world who are not dealt the same deck of cards upon their birth. Simply because of their gender, they are not given the same chance I had to create my own success and follow their dreams. It is for those women that I make this pledge.

The headlines touted Blakely as the first female to join Gates’ and Buffett’s pledge, but this highlights another reality: Oftentimes, when it comes to philanthropy and who gets the attention and who fundraisers turn to, it’s men. There’s also a difference in giving patterns between men and women.

Ways of Giving 

“What works for men, doesn’t work for women,” says Debra Mesch, Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

The Institute has been a leader in the research of gender and philanthropy — revealing that women usually are more generous in with their time and money. Women also want to see the impact of their dollars and tend to spread their wealth around.

“They are often the caregivers,” in their families, says Mesch and it translates to different philanthropic behavior when compared to men.

Blakely and Burch stand out because both women are self-made billionaires and their philanthropic efforts reflect the evolving research that suggests a difference between them and women who inherit money.

Mesch also points out,”with gender differences, one is not better, it’s just different.”

As the inheritors of more wealth and the increase in women’s earning power, “We need to raise the consciousness of women’s philanthropy and understand women’s giving,” says Mesch.

Research from the institute also found that:

The IRS reported in the Personal Wealth Tables for 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, that 42.3 percent of the nation’s top 2.29 million wealth holders were women. Top wealth holders are defined as individuals with assets of $2.0 million or more.

There’s also an unflattering stereotype suggesting women are difficult to deal with, but in reality, they asks more questions about how the money is used and they want to see the impact of their donations, she adds.

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