Women have long been the driving force behind giving decisions in many households, but their philanthropic opportunities are on the rise as they come to control a larger share of wealth. Women are already responsible for more than a third of all wealth in North America—or $35 trillion—a number that is only expected to rise. And as women build on this momentum, they will increasingly be in a position to make an even greater impact on the world through philanthropy.
But while women have been making strides toward financial equity in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it serious economic impacts—which had a disproportionate effect on women. Between February 2020 and February 2021, a net 2.3 million women left the workforce, compared to 1.8 million men. This significant economic setback could have ripple effects for some time to come.
While it is too early to understand the full impact that the crisis could have on the way women engage in philanthropy in the long-term, our data shows that women are more committed than ever to their efforts to improve the world. But what are the specific attitudes and behaviors that women bring to the table regarding philanthropy? And how did the pandemic influence their approach to giving?
To understand how women are engaging in philanthropy today, we conducted an initial survey of 3,055 charitable individuals in March 2020. We then conducted a subsequent survey of nearly 1,000 individuals in January 2021 to detect any shifts in donor attitudes and behaviors related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other events of 2020. What emerges is a picture of women’s giving that is fueled by empathy—in addition to revealing the opportunity areas for women to continue to hone their approach and implement more sophisticated giving strategies