the Good with the Bad
my father died while I was in my twenties, I "inherited"
a small nonprofit that he had founded and managed for
years. The purpose of this project is
to send insulin to indigent diabetics in Nicaragua,
and El Salvador.
For many people in these countries a bottle of insulin
costs a week's salary, so the organization has provided
over 80,000 vials of the medicine for free. My father
visited our project sites every year. As the new president
of the board, I'm making my first trip this summer. This
part of my father's legacy has been a blessing.
with his financial estate has been more difficult. While
my dad seemed like a good money manager, he was actually
a sea of ambivalence about money. He told my step-mother
and me that he had done a meticulous job setting up a
living trust, but he died with only an old will buried
in his very disorganized papers. He also did nothing to
prepare me for the size of my inheritance. He had, in
fact, repeatedly told me not to expect much of my grandparents'
money. Yet, it turned out that there was more than enough
to support me comfortably for the rest of my life. I've
bought a great house and have recently put $65,000 into
remodeling my kitchen. This is a far cry from what I expected
to be able to do, having worked so long in the non-profit
possible my father didn't even know how much he had, or
perhaps he told me there wasn't much money left so I would
feel the heat of necessity under my feet, work hard at
school, and find a good job to support myself. I know
he never felt comfortable about living off the inheritance.
He once opened up and told me how living on his inheritance
had dragged on him emotionally and he didn't want that
for me. That's the closest thing to financial advice I
ever got from him.
what was I supposed to do? In the absence of adequate
preparation, my father's sudden death thrust me into the
world of stock brokers, estate attorneys, and bank officers.
Somebody forgot to tell them that sexism was dead. I was
soon surrounded by older white men who would take my elbow,
walk me to the elevator, ask about my wedding plans, and
tell me they would take care of everything. It actually
took two years and several thousands of dollars to straighten
out my father's estate. During that time, I realized that
I needed to get a grip on my finances.
husband was a big help in all this. He took a shine to
managing money and enjoyed learning right along side of
me, but he never tried to take over. I replaced my Dad's
old money manager and fired his attorney. I got on-line
and learned how to track my new investments and bank accounts
myself. I took classes on financial management, read books
on socially responsible investing, joined a support group
for wealthy women in their twenties, and started asking
my new broker and accountant any stupid question I could
mom was a big feminist and I grew up believing in women's
equality and competence, but this confidence never extended
to money. My husband had to show me how to balance a checkbook.
I look back on this now and am shocked. If and when I
have kids, I'll start their financial education early,
always tell them the truth, and make sure they know where
to find the living trust, the safety deposit box, the
combination to the fireproof-safe, and our attorney's
- anonymous author
mother and father came from elite families in China. My
paternal grandfather was a provincial governor before
the Communist Revolution, and my maternal grandfather
was the chief technical engineer for the national railroad.
In my family, the Confucian values of hard work and responsibility
for self, family, community, and country were handed down
from generation to generation.
until just a few years ago, I had thought all Chinese
immigrant families treated daughters as equals to sons
and supported them to become financially independent.
I have since met Chinese women who had to fight their
families to go to college and business school and who
would never receive money from their families to help
start a business because such investment was reserved
for sons. These women were simply expected to marry men
who could support them.
was our family different? It turns out that after the
Chinese Revolution most of our relatives had either committed
suicide or been killed by the new government. For these
tragic reasons my parents found themselves alone in Japan
with no family pressures about how they should rear their
children. Also, because my parents had lost everything
as refugees and had both worked to rebuild financially,
they felt one's station in life was uncertain enough that
all their children should learn how to be financially
that's exactly what I did. In the 1970's, when I graduated
from Stanford Business School and became a corporate executive,
women held only 5 percent of those positions. I felt like
a pioneer, and my husband and I enjoyed an accomplished,
fast-lane, two-career, corporate life with expensive vacations
as our necessary pressure-valve. Not until we adopted
two children did I begin to question our lifestyle and
wonder how I might leave a better world for them.
teamed up with my friend Leslie, who had trained me in
investment banking, and together we dreamed up the idea
of creating a Women's Equity Mutual Fund. This was to
be a no-load mutual fund with two goals: first, create
a low-risk, solid return fund that would invite women
of all backgrounds to invest and build up their assets.
Second, be a force for changing women's status in the
workplace. We wanted to use the clout of the combined
investments to talk to company managers, vote proxy statements,
and give recognition to outstanding companies who had
improved their treatment of women in the workplace. This
was the 1990's, and women still held only 5 percent of
corporate executive positions. We set out to help change
being an entrepreneur was much riskier than being a corporate
professional, and Leslie and I had many panicked, sleepless
nights. We each invested over $300,000 in the project
and uncounted hours of work. But five years later the
Women's Equity Mutual Fund has become well-established
and shows great promise in achieving our goals.
I am launching a new international project to help women
receive loan money for very small "micro-enterprise" businesses.
It's a complicated process involving lots of lawyers and
creating a financial vehicle that will give investors
returns above those of the money market. The Bank of America
did a feasibility study and they believe that my idea
might just work. I know it will.
- anonymous author
in Marriage (and Divorce)
divorce is always hard on children, but my marital break-up
landed me on national television and got me featured in
Fortune magazine. The public exposure was very tough on
my grown kids. Yet, I felt I had to speak out when my
husband offered me eight million dollars
as a divorce settlement. I knew that our shared marital
assets were closer to 100 million dollars.
I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a lot of people in the
audience couldn't believe that I wasn't satisfied with
eight million dollars, or that I had launched a much publicized
court battle for half of our family's net worth. Oprah
played to her audience a bit and teased me by reading
from my court papers that my clothes budget was $10,000
was not your typical stay-at-home Mom. I was a top-level
corporate wife, the woman behind the financially successful
man. Yet, when I married my ex-husband, and promised to be his
partner for richer or poorer, we only had $2,500 between
us--a far cry from the assets we were able to build up
together over 32 years of marriage. In the early years
I supported him by working as a school teacher while he
went to Harvard Business School. Later, as he rose up
the corporate ladder to become a CEO, I helped
him succeed by managing our domestic affairs, raising
the children, and hosting his colleagues and clients at
social events both at home and on our numerous business
trips around the world.
was basically the CEO of the domestic corporation. I ran
the household, took care of the many social ties necessary
for my husband's success so that he could go out and work
very hard at what he was good at. Each place we moved,
I established new community contacts through our church
and local charities. In such a life, spending $10,000
a month is pretty much just making sure you have the proper
work clothes. It never occurred to me that we
weren't full partners, or that what I provided our family
would be seen as any less valuable than his financial
women in Oprah's audience could understand that. When
I asked, "If marriage isn't a partnership between equals,
then why get married?," they started nodding. It began
to click in everybody's mind. This should be true whether
your marital assets are several million or a few thousand
dollars. When I started talking about the unfairness of
divorce laws and the family court system, they knew from
their own experience I was right.
reason I've fought my husband in court, the reason I go
on shows like Oprah's, and the reason I started the Institute
for Equality in Marriage is to inspire all women to stick
up for themselves in marriage and divorce. My ex-husband
probably blames this all on the trips I've taken on the
Outward Bound Program. You can develop a lot of self-esteem
scaling canyon walls in Utah or rafting wild rivers--especially
with a supportive group of companions who respect and
value you. One of the basic tenets of Outward Bound is
that you can do things you never thought were possible.
It seems my marriage couldn't adapt to the more self-reliant,
my ex-husband ended our marriage, I was faced with the choice of
just accepting his settlement offer or trusting my faith
in God and myself, and finding the emotional resources
to say no to being devalued. This is still so hard for
women to do, yet it is essential. You've got to keep your
wits about you in the face of divorce or death. You've
got to gather the knowledge and support you need. I don't
know how I would have responded fifteen years ago, but
by two years ago I was ready to stick up for myself and
for the principle of marriage as an equal partnership.
As hard as the divorce has been on my daughters, I think
this, ultimately, is the best gift I can give them.
- anonymous author
Bucks, and Romance
Solomon is a journalist and the cofounder (with Marian
Moore) of "Babes with Bucks," a series of workshops to
help women with wealth explore the relationship between
money and romantic love. She is interviewed here by Anne
How did you get interested in the themes explored
in your workshops?
Before my husband and I got married, I confessed to
Marian my anxieties about creating a life with a man who
was a struggling artist. I was totally in love. But, the
money...how could it work if I had more than he did? Marian,
who was happily married to a man with less money, winked
and said, "Oh, let me get together some babes with bucks.
We'll tell you ALL about it!"
gathering changed my life. As we sat in a circle, each
woman told the story of how she had worked out money issues
with her partner. One woman had given her husband a chunk
of cash and he turned it into a larger fortune than the
one she inherited. Another woman, married for thirty years,
always shared money equally with her husband. Another
woman had a prenuptial with her long time live-in-partner
the explicit agreements gave them both a sense of clarity
and comfort. The stories went on. These women, all in
long standing relationships, were some of the most fulfilled
and productive people I knew. They gave me the courage
to bypass my childhood conditioning and marry the man
So, you were given a different message about money
Growing up, I heard plenty of comments about men I
should "watch out for." My father's accountant once pulled
me aside and said, "Now Linda, don't ever let a man get
his hands on your money!" The most powerful message was
from the pervasive and unspoken model of my parents' marriage.
My father was more than an ordinary breadwinner--he built
a fortune doing work he loved. My stay-at-home mother
seemed like a queen, someone with all the freedom in the
watching my parents' marriage dissolve when I was in my
20's didn't rid me of this idealized image. I just couldn't
get it out of my head that Daddies go off to work every
morning, pounding their chest and shouting, "I'm a man!,"
while Mommies stay home and do volunteer work or become
artists or whatever they please. My head knew better,
but the belief remained that earning money was a statement
of a man's love; that his commitment to me was suspect
if he wasn't going to support me financially. I was nearly
40 before I could listen to my heart and marry Bhaskar.
Yet aren't there dangers for women with wealth? I
have heard true horror stories of spouses who are out-of-control
spenders, wild risk-takers in the stock market, or chronically
immobilized about being "kept"-- a situation that may
be particularly hard for men.
I hear that partners of wealthy lesbians can have
self-esteem issues, too. But hey, rich or poor, man or
woman, you need to assess people's character carefully
before you commit to them and, even then, keep your eyes
open. Lots of men who marry women with wealth go through
a period of struggling with their self-worth. The question
is, do they pull themselves out of it or not? This is
not just an inheritors' issue; the percentage of women
who earn more than their spouses has grown dramatically
over the last two decades.
I had to ask myself: Do I want to be married to a human
being I love, or to my money? So many of the world's problems
come down to greed. And if we women with wealth look at
ourselves with total honesty, sometimes that's at the
heart of fears about marrying someone with less money:
the wish to have more, the wish not to share what we have.
Now that you and Bhaskar have been married three-and-a-half
years and have a child together, what have you learned?
I've learned to laugh at the Prince Charming fantasies
that still linger in my head. When I'm feeling anxious
or resentful about Bhaskar not being a big breadwinner,
I know its time to address my own unrealized potentials.
The more I develop my own financial competence--the ability
to "Daddy myself"--the less I need to project that onto
advice to other women sitting on the fence? Go for it,
Man Building On A Female Legacy
the early days of the Noyes Foundation, the women in the
family have been the most influential players. The older
men in my family didn't see it that way, of course. They
claimed foundation investments as their fiefdom and joked
over martinis about the "give-away girls" because my grandmother,
mother, and great aunts were in charge of picking recipients
for the student scholarship program established by my
women were not content to sit around the pool choosing
between applicants. They had their own ideas. The first
shift came when they moved from supporting individual
students to supporting historically black colleges. They
then expanded into supporting projects on teenage pregnancy,
sustainable agriculture, health issues, social justice,
and protecting biodiversity. Today, the foundation funds
in the areas of environmental justice and reproductive
rights and health. As my Great Aunt Edith always said,
"Never set your guidelines too strictly. Leave a little
wiggle room for the promising project you hadn't thought
a time when wealthy women were not supposed to work, these
women set up an office for the foundation, hired support
staff, and began inviting a diverse group of knowledgeable
social activists to join the board. From their own experience,
they recognized the need to include excluded voices, so
they worked hard to involve low income people and people
of color on the board to provide a perspective that they
couldn't. Ultimately, they also broke down the Berlin
Wall that has long separated the foundation's investments
from its giving mission. They turned to investment managers
who respected women's financial intelligence and shared
the goal of harnessing the power of our investments to
support our social mission.
a boy, I learned to respect the work of the "give-away
girls" and wanted to become one of them. I remember my
mom going off to New York for foundation board meetings
when I was little. The foundation seemed like a fascinating,
mysterious place where important things happened. When
I was thirteen I started to think that I might like to
become involved someday. That summer my mother took me
on a cross-country trip to California and I accompanied
her on some site visits along the way.
particularly remember our stop in Kansas at a sustainable
agriculture center where the foundation had just given
a grant. The Director walked us around the grounds talking
about the dangers of pesticides and the Institute's work
to change how food is grown in this country. I was hooked.
Now, as the current board chair of the foundation, I work
hard to build on the legacy that these two generations
of women created, and I turn to them often for advice
- anonymous author
course there are costs to being outspoken as a woman with
wealth. Public criticism is the least of it--I've learned
to live with that. The hardest is when my family feels
hurt. The day the
did a huge spread
about me as the new head of Harvard's Women and Public
Policy program with a story which included a half-page photo
of my smiling face and naming my assets at $400 million, my
son was taunted at school. "Your mother, she's so rich!"
He and I talked about ways to respond besides in anger
or shame. He laughed when I suggested yelling back, "It's
true... and she makes the BEST oatmeal!"
not going to hold back just to protect him. He'll figure
out how to come to terms with it, if not this time or
next time, then fifty times from now, and I'll be there
to help him. I remind myself that children around the
world have burdens that never touch my children. I tell
my son, "Everyone's got hard things to deal with; this
other day I was on a panel at Radcliffe with some other
wealthy women, and an audience member asked, "Do you think
people suck up to you for your money?" The other panelists
demurred, "No...I would never stand for that... people
accept me as I am..." I said, "Are you kidding? Anyone
in fundraising has a whole file on each of us! Our interests
and activities are listed in their computer, and they
just had a strategy meeting about how to get in with us.
Do you think they'll ever say, `Frankly, Miss, that
color suit doesn't flatter you.'"
what can you do? Listen to what they want money for, and
decide yes or no. Know your funding priorities, so you
aren't thrown into confusion. Whenever someone is nice
to me, a little voice in the back of my mind wonders,
"Do they like me, or want something from me?" But I've
raised money. The reality is, relationships aren't black
and white; you can't divide actions into neat categories.
People can want my money and connections AND like me for
to these attitudes and accepting wealth has been a long
painful process for me. In my 20's, I immersed myself
in issues of social justice by studying liberation and
feminist theology in seminary. I was drawn to St. Francis,
the son of a wealthy merchant who turned to absolute poverty.
How, then, could I admit my wealth to myself?
was a huge task, one I could never have done without my
sister. At one point, she said, "Let's bring a number
of women with wealth to the ranch, and really talk." That
gathering was a turning point.
time, after much soul-searching, I decided not to take
St. Francis' path. I decided that instead of saying, "I
wash my hands of this wicked money," I would try to gain
as much control as I could over what I had. While still
cautious about the seductive comforts of wealth and the
human propensity for self-delusion and rationalization,
I decided to befriend money and use it, much as I use
my smile, my voice, my intelligence, and any other helpful
attribute I have. Helen and I started the Hunt Alternative
Fund and I began raising funds for the Colorado Women's
Foundation. I've been channeling money towards good things
of the things money brings is notice. If I speak highly
of an organization while being interviewed, the publicity
may be as good as $25,000 for that group. You can only
have that leverage if you're willing to take on a public
persona. As ambassador to Austria, I was able to help
broker Bosnian peace negotiations. I could never do that
know many women who can spend $1200 on a suit, but can't
yet give that much to an organization they care about.
You see, the suit is still within the acceptable role
for women, to be a decoration. What holds women with wealth
back may not be specific fears, but rather identity incongruities.
If you're a man, being wealthy makes you more of man.
But for a women? We're taught women and power don't fit.
That's why we need to hear more about women using wealth
wisely, so we have models that challenge us to take our
money and parlay it into power.
- anonymous author
always had a deep sense of mission. I grew up listening
to my father talk about business at the dining room table.
He loved running his manufacturing firm and was a deeply
happy man. My mother was an active community leader and
volunteer and she loved and talked about her work too.
Growing up, I picked up the desire to blend the worlds
of business and service into a single path - my path.
of the choices I have made seemed crazy to my loved ones
at the time. Against the wishes of my parents, I quit
the graduate program at Harvard in 1965 and moved into
the predominately black Boston neighborhood of Roxbury.
There, as the only white person on staff, I helped start
a black-owned weekly newspaper that is still publishing
today. Later in the early 1970s, I tried and failed to
start a national working women's magazine. Such experiences
have made me pretty fearless. I've risked and won, and
risked and lost. In either case, I've grown.
I finally realized that my women's magazine had collapsed,
and all the time and money I had invested in it were lost,
I crawled into bed and threw the covers over myself for
three days. When I got up, a job fell into my lap helping
some friends start Shore Bank, the nation's first community
development bank, where I later became vice-president.
Lesson one, we always rise from the ashes. I look back
on this failure now in an even deeper way.
remember sitting one night five years later combing my
daughter's hair, and just cherishing being a mother. If
my magazine project had been successful, I would have
been too busy to have children. I never would have known
this quiet joy, or even known what I was missing! Thus
I learned that higher forces are at work. We don't even
know the meaning of what we are experiencing. Here what
I thought was my greatest failure led directly to my greatest
I missed most of the conditioning that immobilizes women
with money. Yet, after I joined Chicago's Harris Bank,
the problem became very real to me. Sixty-five percent
of our trust customers were women, and most of them felt
disempowered by the money in their lives. Some felt so
out of control that they worried they would end up as
bag ladies. In an effort to address these fears, I called
twelve of Chicago's wealthiest women and worked with them
to create a ten-week financial management course that
the bank could offer its female clients. It was only publicized
by the founders' word of mouth, but eventually 1,000 women
went through the program.
was worried that some of the husbands would object. In
the 1980's, wealthy women were still not encouraged to
manage their own funds, and some of the women in our classes
were married to some of the titans of business in Chicago.
Yet the time must have been right because the program
work got me interested in the power of networks where
people can get to know each other, help each other grow,
and inspire change. More and more, I used my spare time
to launch business networks committed to ethical investing
and women's economic empowerment. Besides being on the
founding board of the Social Venture Network, I also founded
three networks of leading business women, including the
Committee of 200, two hundred of America's top women business
owners. There was tension, of course, between the time
requirements of my work at the bank and the time I needed
to nurture these networks.
worked since I was 14, I decided in 1990 that I needed
some time off and I took a month's vacation in Hawaii,
at my mother's place, to just shut up and listen to the
ocean waves and my own intuition. I didn't do anything
but sleep, swim, walk, and eat my mother's good cooking.
My mother and I barely talked and I stayed away from the
phone. Without any agenda, I reflected on my life and
felt a prompting to take my work up a notch, to really
answer my personal calling.
kept imagining my unborn grandchildren asking me what
did I do in the struggle for sustainability? I did not
want to answer lamely than that I didn't know how bad
it was. I do know. We live in a runaway global economy
that is wiping out the capacity of the Earth to sustain
us and its many other creatures. We need to take the risks
of working for change right now, particularly those of
us with wealth. Our potential to be wise stewards is profound.
We are among the people on this planet who have the strongest
capacity to help create a globally-accountable economy.
The question is, will we do it?
next question for me was what is my unique niche? What
is my best contribution to this effort in light of my
personal skills, contacts, and history? Over the next
six months, the answer became clearer. I am great at organizing
peer networks and associations of business people who
have the power to make considerable change around the
world. I decided to leave Harris Bank and start my own
business which organizes the
Business Leadership Network to help leaders use business
to solve social problems.
first launched the Investors' Circle for Social Venture
Capital, and is now launching networks for the poorest
business leaders in the world--in eastern Nigeria--and
for the richest business leaders in the world--for the
State of the World Forum. The company also helped the
Rudolph Steiner Foundation create a network for their
major donors to encourage more "venture philanthropy."
This truly is my path.
- anonymous author
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