Women & Wealth Redefined, Reunited…

By Christine Mathieu, Money Coach-Wealth Intuitive, Author That Money Girl

Ever since I chose to transition from being a traditional financial adviser to becoming a Money Coach-Wealth Intuitive, I have experienced, both personally and professionally, a profound shift in the meaning of “wealth.”

blog1Did you know that the original definition of “wealth,” back in the 13th century, was happiness, joy, and well-being? Wealth was once known as an emotion or a state of being. I find that refreshing and affirming, for there are many individuals who currently define wealth as owning a great amount of physical possessions, luxuries, or cash. I have also found that when one places one’s focus squarely on generating physical wealth, such negative attitudes as judgments, scarcity, and non-fulfillment form.

When I was a traditional financial adviser, I spent the greater part of my day focused on accumulating physical wealth and advising my clients on achieving the same. Was I successful in that endeavor? Most certainly—I generated a healthy income and could easily afford the things I wanted, and then some. But it wasn’t until I lost it all in an abusive marriage and the ensuing divorce and bankruptcy that I began to realize what it truly means to be “wealthy.”

My journey in rediscovering wealth while guiding other women to do the same has allowed me a glimpse into the new Wealth Paradigm. When it comes to managing money, career, and family, women do it from the inside-out. Thoughts, feelings, and actions begin from the heart. Whether you are looking to give or invest your money, time or creativity, alignment with purpose and spiritual fulfillment comes first. Women know that it’s not about what they will receive in return for their generosity because they know that to give IS to receive. Giving and receiving are, in fact, one truth. To give wealth is to be wealth(y).

As a woman today, how would you define “wealth”? For me, I know I am wealthy when I am in alignment, sharing my gifts and knowledge. You see, being “rich” isn’t always quantified by dollars and cents. It’s about generating sustainable dividends by first feeding the soul. As for money and the physical stuff—that’s a happy side-effect!

Christine head shot 2012Christine Mathieu is the Founder & CEO of the Mathieu Center for Financial Wholeness. She is the “Rich Life” columnist for the Buffalo Magazine and author of “From Wisdom to Wealth.” Christine spent 20 years as a traditional Financial Adviser and she believes it’s now her turn to help other women realize their true wealth potential as she has. 

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Empowering Women: The Story No One Knows

gpi_reporters_at_work_2013By Suzanne Skees

San Jose, CA: Dusk settles early on an autumn evening this month. It descends slowly in layers of orange and purple over tree-lined office parks in Silicon Valley, where tech stars never sleep and the rest of us dream of getting by. Inside Cisco Systems Building #10, a small group gathers to talk about their efforts, both here and abroad, to end poverty by connecting women with education, healthcare, and jobs; small-business ownership, activist journalism, and political office.

“California has the highest poverty rate in the country,” proclaims a woman in her twenties. “It takes three full-time minimum-wage jobs for a single parent of two children just to get by in this state.”

1.4 billion people on this planet live in ultra poverty,” adds a man in his thirties. The group brings nonprofits and funders in a conversation hosted by Catalytic Women, a network of small- to high-net-worth changemakers working to “disrupt” philanthropy via crowdfunding, collaborating, and grassroots partnerships. “Studies have shown,” says Catalytic Women’s founder Melanie Hamburger, “that when you give women a chance they reinvest in education, family, and the community.”

You may have heard the statistics. You may have heard Hillary Clinton’s bold claim that empowering women is key to any country’s economic and military stability:

“There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic lives of our countries: Greater political stability. Fewer military conflicts. More food. More educational opportunity for children,” Clinton said. “By harnessing the economic potential of all women, we boost opportunity for all people.”

Maybe you’ve hear of exciting projects led by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof (Half the Sky), Nike (The Girl Effect), Oprah and Angelina and Melinda: organizations and women of world-renowned power are reaching a hand back to pull humankind forward through gender equality and opportunity.

2What no one knows, though, is the story I got to hear from the back of the room in the Cisco cafeteria. As the sky grew thick and dark outside floor-to-ceiling windows and inside, fluorescent lights blared on five ordinary people who shared their extraordinary stories.

  • Cassie Chandler runs a healthcare program for 5.4 million microfinance clients in 24 countries for Freedom from Hunger. She’s seen whole communities change when women gain access to adult education, financial management, and family healthcare. She’s used to training local partners on the ground, particularly in Latin America—Cassie’s niche—but tonight, she talks about how Nandini in rural India transformed herself from a struggling small farmer who bought seeds through a loan shark, to a trained pharmacy vendor and village educator whom her neighbors trust enough to call “Dr. Mom.”
  • Kimberly Ellis works within a 14-state network to get more Democratic women elected into office via Emerge California. Having graduated from the program she now leads, Kimberly also serves as commissioner for community development in Richmond, CA. She believes many civic problems could be solved through balanced political gender representation (currently 25%), and that all families could benefit significantly through equal-pay salaries (currently ranging from 77 cents on the dollar to 64 cents for Black and 55 cents for Latina women). Simply put, she just wants parity. “If you don’t have a seat at the table,” Kimberly quips, “you’re probably on the menu.”
  • Steve Schwartz cofounded a nonprofit that creates jobs for ultra-poor women in India. “Handouts don’t work,” he says, “because what our clients want is long-term, sustainable, dignified employment. He says in just over two years, Upaya Social Ventures has helped three businesses (dairy farming, weaving, and domestic labor) create 506 jobs; and they’ve made a very public pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative to double their numbers in the next year. Steve served in the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa with his wife and walked the city slums and country paths in India with the women he now considers his reason for being. He shows a picture of an employee, Poonam, spinning thread from tussar silk. Poonam’s family tripled their income and jumped from one to three meals a day when she got her new—permanent—job. “Poonam learned the fine art of silk weaving from her grandmother, who learned it from her grandmother,” Steve tells us. “Now she’s got a reliable income stream at a fair wage.”
  • Brynne Speizer’s mission with Opportunity Fund is to connect California’s working poor with access to savings, loans, and business and financial training. Rattling off statistics on poverty and unemployment, she halts mid-sentence. “Doesn’t it make you mad?! It makes me mad, that in this beautiful place where we live, life is so hard for millions of families.” She talks about two clients who inspired her: Kiara, an East Palo Alto student who opened a savings account and socked away $6,000 to help realize her dream of attending Wesleyan College; and Tina, a restaurant owner famous for her barbecue who almost lost everything in the Great Recession. She took out a loan (average small business = $7,000) and is now cooking up a storm. “All these women need is access,” Brynne stresses.
  • Cristi Hegranes landed her dream job as an international journalist in Nepal, but it only took her two weeks to realize she was all wrong for the job. “Local women had everything I didn’t,” she said, “except access to a major publishing outlet.” She created the Global Press Institute to train and employ women to write quality investigative, activist features. Currently, Cristi manages 26 news bureaus and employs 135 women, and she’s building revenue by distributing their stories through such outlets as National Public Radio and Reuters. Cristi talks about Rwandan reporters Gloriose  and Noella, whose award-winning series on sexual predators has influenced new legislation there. Here with Cristi is one of her first employees (2009) and the embodiment of her ambition—Manori of Sri Lanka, who just got promoted from reporter to regional editor for Asia. “We’ve asked, and 98% of the women who’ve been through our training program report feeling empowered as a result.” And the percentage employed by GPI?—100.

1My family and I feel incredibly lucky to be the wind beneath the wings of 29 organizations working to create equal opportunity for all, in the U.S. and around the world. Join us by getting to know our world-changing partners at Skees Family Foundation. Whatever your gender, log onto Catalytic Women, join a local event or giving circle, and share your story. Let’s talk about what ordinary folks can do. And let’s take up more space and volume than the corner of a corporate cafeteria: Between us, we could have stories to fill a coliseum.

SuzanneSuzanne Skees works in international development as director of the Skees Family Foundation, which supports innovative self-help programs in the U.S. and 37 developing countries in education, enterprise, health, infrastructure, and peace.  Writing for online and print media, Skees shares stories of what can happen when students and survivors, entrepreneurs and families, receive tools they need to build a life of choice from such organizations as Dayton Christian Center,Dayton International Peace MuseumFreedom from Hunger, Jamii Bora, Karimu,PBMR Hub Center for Chicago Youth, Summer SearchThe Ihangane Project, The School Fund, Summer Search, Upaya Social VenturesV-Day, and Vittana.

Defying Expectations

Last month my organization, Global Press Institute (GPI), had the honor of being showcased at a Catalytic Women event on women’s economic empowerment. Something that Melanie said to the audience that night really struck me: everyone in the room could do something to make a difference. Everyone – no matter what your level of income or wealth – could be a philanthropist. sample-image-blogWhat really resonated with me about this message was its fundamental similarity to a lesson I learned in Nepal ten years ago.

After a few weeks in the country as a foreign correspondent, I realized I was the wrong person to be covering the Nepali civil war. I had just two things that “qualified” me to report on this country I knew so little about: a Master’s degree in journalism and a credible news platform. Yet the local women around me had everything else that I lacked in order to tell important, powerful stories: access, language, context, and trust.

When I met Pratima, the community matriarch of a small village in Eastern Nepal, I handed her my pen and asked her to write the story of her community. That moment was not only the birth of GPI, an organization dedicated to training and employing women in the developing world to report on their local communities. It was also an inspiring life lesson about how the roles we have come to expect for ourselves are often dramatically and silently dictated by the force of history – in other words, by the way things have been.

Isn’t it obvious that a local woman with knowledge of her community would be better poised to report on it than a foreigner parachuted in for a few weeks? And yet the entire model of international journalism has been built around the use of foreign correspondents.

Likewise, it is obvious that we do not need high-paying jobs or sizable fortunes in order to be thoughtful, generous, and impactful givers. Just because we have always thought of philanthropy as the purview of the wealthy doesn’t preclude us from making a difference with our resources.

If you wonder whether this is really possible, consider that each GPI news story (25% of which lead to demonstrable social impact, such as changing laws) costs on average between $100 and $200 to produce. We and other organizations are able to use modest donations to create significant impact on the world.

The lesson here is that we can access certain roles and opportunities in life, even if that means bucking the way things have traditionally been done. After all, if a former sex worker, or a member of the Dalit (“untouchable”) caste, or a woman with a fourth grade education, can become an award-winning professional journalist, then each of us can, in our own ways, become philanthropists.

cmhheadshotCristi Hegranes landed her dream job as an international journalist in Nepal, but it only took her two weeks to realize she was all wrong for the job. “Local women had everything I didn’t,” she said, “except access to a major publishing outlet.” She created the Global Press Institute to train and employ women to write quality investigative, professional features. Currently, Cristi manages 26 news bureaus and employs 135 women, and she’s building revenue by distributing their stories through such outlets as National Public Radio and Reuters. Cristi talks about Rwandan reporters Ritha Bumwe, whose article on sexual predators has influenced new legislation there. Here with Cristi is her first Sri Lankan employee (soon after their 2006 launch) and the embodiment of her ambition—Manori of Sri Lanka, who just got promoted from reporter to regional editor for Asia. “We’ve asked, and 98% of the women who’ve been through our training program report feeling empowered as a result.” And the percentage employed by GPI?—100. 

Want to Build Your Startup Skills? Pitch and Pitch In

If you’re looking to develop your startup leadership skills, try volunteering for a non-profit or attending a pitch conference. 

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Having spent most of my career in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, I can tell you that there isn’t much reward for risk-taking. Two of the smartest things I ever did to build my leadership were: go to a pitch conference and volunteer.

Six months ago, I attended Launch. It changed my perspective on everything about my work. Specifically, it made me more focused on profitability and more fearless about playing with the boys. (Sorry to admit it, but seeing them get up there and struggle with pitches made it seem a lot more accessible to someone like me, a working woman new to startup culture.)

Last weekend, I got to walk the talk. I pitched an idea at SF Startup Weekend Women’s Edition. Out of 41 pitches and 14 finalists, our team came in third (with a product to offer impact investing to young professionals). The experience was crazy and awesome – totally out of my comfort zone. I went into it not really knowing anything about the process; at Launch I’d only seen the final result of what happens when you join a team of strangers for 36 hours to make a dream tangible.

What was so special about this Startup Weekend? For one, it focused on women entrepreneurs. And, it created a space where we could be in the majority, doing something that we do so well naturally – collaborate and problem-solve. It also made me think about another ecosystem that has been central to my career success: nonprofits.

Nonprofits offer a safe place for women to build leadership skills. The U.S. Dept. of Labor says that in 2012, “women continued to volunteer at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics.”

Let’s face it, we like to roll up our sleeves, get involved, and give back. Yet there’s another, more personal, reason for women to volunteer – it builds leadership skills that can launch our careers, especially in male-dominated professions.

No one tries to solve big problems on limited resources like a nonprofit. Volunteering – especially on a committee or board – is a great training ground for public speaking, budgeting, project management, and sales and relationship building (skills key to fundraising). Points of Light Foundation (which also has a Civic Incubator – how cool is that?) and VolunteerMatch list thousands of opportunities to get involved.

Women bring unique skills to the table. We knew that even before Lean In. If you’re not getting the leadership opportunities you want at work, get them by volunteering. And then bring them back to your company.

Your success may depend on it.

By Melanie Hamburger (CEO & Founder, Catalytic Women)

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This article was originally posted on Women 2.0 on September 20, 2013.