Gary has devoted most of her energies for the past twenty-five
years to helping women with wealth gain not only personal
control over their finances, but also the confidence and
needed to become influential social change agents. An
inheritor who has given the bulk of her wealth away,
is a founder of Resourceful Women, an organization that
has provided financial education to thousands. She also
founded the Women Donors' Network, a national philanthropic
network of close to 90 women with wealth; and the Women's
Funding Network, a network of over 100 community foundations
across the country which fund projects that support women
and girls. She is also the co-author, with Melissa Kohner,
of a new workbook called Inspired
a Giving Plan
, (Chardon Press, 1998). Steve Chase caught
up with Tracy recently during a brief lull between her
In an interview several years ago you said, "I feel
hopeful for the future as I see more and more women using
their money to make a difference in the world." How far
have we come in the last twenty-five years?
When I inherited money in the early 1970s, I didn't
know any other women who were wealthy and shared my values.
The only places to meet other wealthy women were the Junior
League or the country club, neither of which were for
me. Such isolation is a big problem. It is hard to be
powerful about managing and using wealth well in a vacuum.
Isolation just supports the status quo and leaves us trapped
in shame, fear, and denial.
many women still feel alone and in chaos about their financial
lives, the resources available today are astonishing.
Not only are there well-established groups like Resourceful
Women and the Women's Funding Network, there are now national
networks of socially-responsible women investors and entrepreneurs.
There are support groups, conferences, newsletters, books,
and speakers on the unique challenges and opportunities
facing women with wealth. The number of women working
as financial advisors has skyrocketed, and many men in
the field have become increasingly sensitive to the needs
the heart of this unprecedented infrastructure, however,
is still the relationships women can have with each other
when they talk about their dreams, explore the inner and
outer blocks to effective financial management, and learn
skills and set personal and political goals together.
That is what changes lives. I've known hundreds of women
who have transformed their lives in just this way over
the last twenty-five years. Many, many women who once
felt overwhelmed and out of control about their money
and are now earning, investing, spending, and giving in
conscious, calm, and effective ways. Many have gone on
to become organizers, leaders, and mentors for other women.
Even with all these new resources, you've commented
that many women with wealth seem to have hit a plateau
in their growth. What do you mean?
Over the last few decades we have found each other
and learned to use our voices, but we still are not using
our voices fully in the boardroom, at our foundations,
at shareholder meetings, and in our relationships. As
women, we are so used to manifesting other peoples dreams
that once we have gotten some financial control over our
assets, and hired a financial advisor we trust, we often
become distracted. We lose sight of what we could do if
we dreamed big dreams and worked hard to make them happen.
of us are afraid of power. We know what "power-over" looks
like and we know we don't want that, but we still don't
have a full enough picture of what power-from-within or
power-with-others looks like. Without such a vision, we
still balk at taking full charge of our lives. Developing
expertise and strategic focus about our money and energy
is time-consuming. As women, our time is often spread
too thin trying to respond to external demands.
these difficulties, I know that more and more women want
to make a difference. When I used to speak at a local
women's fund, perhaps 50 people showed up. Today, I speak
to hundreds of women at a time. Over ninety percent tell
me that they want to get into socially responsible investing,
or give more to causes they care about, or start businesses
that would treat workers and the Earth with respect. Women
know what is needed. They know that fancier cars, bigger
houses, and extra vacation homes aren't what the world
most needs, or even what they need. However, they often
fall short of who they truly want to be. There is a big
gap between words and deeds here, but it is not hypocrisy.
It is the result of lingering confusion, hopelessness,
What would you say to readers who want to move beyond
this plateau and achieve their full power?
First, I urge you to learn where you stand in the
wealth pyramid and get to know people personally who are
at the base of the pyramid. When several wealthy women
I know went to the UN Conference on Women in Beijing,
they got to see the world in a new way. What they read
about world events in newspapers now had faces attached,
faces of inspiring women organizing for change under very
difficult conditions. Such contacts can give you a visceral
if you really want to move in your life, pull together
a circle of close women friends with whom you can give
and receive encouragement and challenge, and to whom you
can be accountable. I've learned so much from other women
with wealth who are using their financial muscle as business
owners, professionals, volunteers, investors, and philanthropists.
make a date with yourself and find out what you most want
to give to the world. I think it is essential for women
to find some private time in the midst of their busy lives.
I've taken an annual retreat by myself for over fifteen
years now, and it has worked magic in my life. During
these three to five days alone, I revise my personal mission
statement, reflect on the past year, and start thinking
about my goals for the coming year. Mostly, though, I
meditate, give thanks, and leave room for intuitive messages
I can't receive while I'm in activity overdrive!
make sure you get the help you need. If I am known for
only one thing after I die, I want it to be for encouraging
wealthy women with big dreams to hire personal assistants.
Your dreams are your business; don't be afraid to hire
a staff to help you meet your goals. You can provide good
jobs at decent wages and move your dreams closer to fruition.
Such a move is scary for some women. Is it fair to be
a boss? Is it right not to do everything myself? Is my
dream worth the investment? Can I trust the people I hire
with my personal information? In my experience, all these
concerns can be worked out and you can dramatically increase
what you accomplish.
someone had told me twenty-five years ago how influential
I could be in the world, I would not have believed them.
Yet, there is a world of big visions and inner freedom
awaiting us all.
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