Interview by Lex Schroeder
On September 16-17th in Austin, leading thinkers in gender lens philanthropy and investing and a broad spectrum of gender equity leaders and activists across many different fields will gather for “Women and Money: Making Money Moves that Matter.” In May 2019, on the heels of similar conferences aimed to promote gender lens investing, among other things, I spoke with organizers Tuti B. Scott and Marianne Schnall about their intentions and hopes for this event.
LEX SCHROEDER: Which gatherings have you attended that have changed the way you think about your own work?
TUTI SCOTT: For me, it was the Criterion Institute’s Convergence gathering on gender lens investing in 2013. Also, the work I did with the Women’s Sports Foundation had a whole different purpose, but I so enjoyed WSF’s summits and convenings. Convergence was about bringing together people who approached gender lens investing from many different angles. I love when people wear multiple hats, which is what we all do anyway, but it was good to name this upfront. It’s exciting! There’s not a lot of homogeneous thinking this way.
With WSF and Criterion—and this is true with the work that I’ve done with organizations in board retreats—the goal is to create a group experience that has momentum and energy. It’s about galvanizing people and seeing what happens as a result of having intentional smaller conversations where people discuss creating a desired output or outcome.
MARIANNE SCHNALL: The first event I ever did was when Gloria Steinem held a salon on the state of feminism as a fundraiser for my organization at her home. It was a small, intimate gathering with just a few speakers, but it was a powerful coming together around a shared cause… I still hear about connections made that night that led to all kinds of important allegiances.
Another event that had an impact on me was a strategy session that I brought together on The Future of Women’s Leadership hosted by Ruth Ann Harnisch and facilitated by Marie Wilson and Stephanie Berger. I had been thinking through what to do with the platform of my book What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? and developing my initial ideas for What Will It Take. I brought together influential leaders from across various sectors of women’s leadership (media, politics, funding, corporate and more) to help inform my plans and discuss what was needed to advance women’s leadership.
Again, so many valuable strategies and ideas came out of that event, including an expressed desire for more connection, collaboration, and both sector-specific and cross-sector gatherings and initiatives. There’s a misconception that women and women’s organizations are competitive and don’t want to work together, which I don’t find to be true—I just think there are not enough opportunities. Sometimes it just takes facilitating an event really differently, which is what Tuti and I are trying to do with Women & Money.
SCHROEDER: What does “making money moves that matter” mean to each of you?
SCHNALL: I believe that money is this force that has been underutilized in the ways that it can be most powerful and is most needed. There is enormous, untapped potential to use money to advance a multitude of worthy causes, as well as support and uplift underserved and marginalized communities.
You don’t have to be hugely wealthy to move your money in a meaningful way either. As a consumer, I think about how products are made. I think about whether or not they are environmentally-friendly or I’m supporting a women-owned or women-friendly business. Whether you’re a philanthropist giving to women’s organizations or an investor or entrepreneur, there is power in using your money to support causes that align with your values.
I also think women often have a difficult relationship with money, not only in terms of facing external inequities like lack of equal pay and lack of access to capital for our ventures, but also internally, in terms of knowing our own worth. We struggle to ask for the money that we need and deserve for our jobs and ventures and realize that our money is our power. Using money strategically and in an activist way is a message we need to get out there.
SCOTT: I want women to stop being on the sidelines of money. We dismiss ourselves or we’ve been dismissed by the financial world, not to speak of the toxic masculinity that exists inside finance. Finance hasn’t catered to women or welcomed women in its ranks or as clients. “Making money moves that matter” is also about trying to lift up the conversation about inclusion in finance. What does this really look like?
I try to look at things at the individual, cultural, and systemic levels and ask what changes can I make. How can I help make change on cultural level through media or make change through systems change work? With this event, I’m asking, who are the people who have been inside financial systems of power who are willing to take risks and/or be vulnerable about their own relationship with money? I’m looking at every aspect of money, from investing and learning about gender lens investing to prosperity work, to thinking more about where we spend our money. There are so many more tools now that allow us to be much more proactive about the decisions we make as consumers as well.
SCHROEDER: What’s the benefit of bringing seemingly disparate groups together at this event? “Women & Money” also doesn’t seem like your typical conference. People will listen to speakers, but everyone will work together in an activist way, too, right?
SCHNALL: This approach is aligned with the mission of What Will It Take, which is to be a type of connective tissue across movements and to facilitate dialogue, collaboration, and impactful calls to action. The fact that we so often are not having conversations together takes away from what I think our collective power can be. There’s also a desire to have cross-sector conversations and break out of silos. We should be sharing tools and ideas and be learning from and supporting each other.
SCOTT: The group that is coming together does have shared goals. Everyone wants to advance women in leadership and address urgent issues around gender justice and gender-based violence. We want women to be more comfortable with money. We want to ensure that there’s better and more sustainable products and services made for women across the full spectrum of race and identity. We’re using money as a tool to do bigger things.
I think the women’s movement needs as many galvanizing moments as possible. Money and power are embedded in the thread of most of the issues that we want to make an impact on. We have to address that intersection. People are hungry to learn more about money and I think are waking up to the idea that we can be more holistic in our approach. There aren’t as many silos now within finance, philanthropy, investing, and spending. It’s about saving, spending, giving, and investing with a gender lens.
SCHROEDER: Tuti, I know Tracy Gray from The 22 Fund and We Are Enough is co-facilitating. Why did you want to work with Tracy on this event?
SCOTT: I saw Tracy moderate a panel at the United States of Women with leaders who were mobilizing money in many different ways. These were women of color who have broken down barriers while working inside the system who, in some cases, were also building nonprofits to raise attention to issues that women of color specifically experience. I don’t have Tracy’s expertise in finance and investing, and I have deep respect for her. I can only imagine what her career has been like inside the system of finance. I wanted to work with someone who was embedded in finance who brought a different lens to the work. Tracy has a social justice lens around changing the culture and system around women being funded and how they’re funded.
SCHROEDER: Marianne, can you say a bit more about What Will It Take Movements? The larger strategy?
SCHNALL: After writing What Will It Take to Make a Woman President?, I saw the opportunity to have an online community and platform that would serve as a hub for the many voices and organizations that are out there advancing women’s leadership. Not just in politics, but across all industries—finance, media, sports, business, and more. I also wanted to organize in-person events to foster new dialogue and connections. WWIT focuses on coalition building and networking, and we host a wide range of important and timely dialogues. People leave WWIT events with clear takeaways and tools that live on. At this time of heightened awareness and interest in all of these issues, we are trying to harness people’s energy and connect people to resources and further actions they can take.
SCHROEDER: Tuti, how are you choosing speakers and facilitators for this event?
SCOTT: I’m intentionally inviting people to tell stories of their money journeys. Feeling more comfortable, confident, and courageous with matching their money moves with their values. Most everyone who is coming as a conversation starter has either built an investing company or an investment platform for women to learn more about money based on their values. Or, they have been a donor who has gone from just thinking of their philanthropy to also thinking about their investments and/or how to do angel investing with a gender lens.
We’re showcasing the knowledge of people across the continuum—as activists, leaders of donor networks, people running charitable groups and investing firms. We’re being intentional about noticing what people’s orientation to the work is, too. We want to make sure that the conversation is not driven by the traditional look or space of money, which is white men in New York.
SCHROEDER: Why have you partnered together on this event? And what’s unique about it?
SCHNALL: Tuti and I have been working together in meaningful ways for years. I know that Tuti is a brilliant visionary. When I wrote that piece for Forbes, “The Rising Activism in Women’s Philanthropy” and it got so much positive feedback, I knew What Will It Take needed to do an event around women and money. I looked to Tuti because if I’m going to do an event that’s not in my area of expertise, I know I need to partner with somebody who knows the space deeply.
I don’t want to duplicate work, and I want to work with others to do thoughtful work that can really move the needle. We want this event to serve the highest good. Tuti shares many of the same commitments I do, in terms of being overtly feminist and intersectional. We each have a commitment to diversity and coming forward to offer something to the whole while we know we are learning, too.
SCOTT: What’s unique about this event? For me, I’ve been of the mindset that everyone in philanthropy is an investor, and people need to own that our money is part of our social investing, whether we’re giving it away or putting it in our portfolio or a fund or a venture capital initiative. After being in philanthropy for a couple decades, I help people make this shift towards moving all of their money with intention.
SCHROEDER: Last question. It seems like when brilliant men speak about shifts in philanthropy or investing or the intersection of money and social justice, they are heard. If you’re a woman, it’s still just harder to get heard, even when the work is brilliant. Do you agree?
SCOTT: Yes, it has been abysmal for decades. Until we shift who controls media it’s going to remain the same.
SCHNALL: It’s why we need more women in leadership positions in media and telling women’s stories. But there is a shift happening because women are rising up to use their voices in all kinds of ways. So that may have been true in the past, but I think that women are demanding to have their voices heard and be seated at the tables where decisions are made. Women are going to make sure that we’re a rightful part of the stewardship of the planet from here on in!
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