Act Global: Tips for Next Gen Donors Looking to Volunteer Abroad

By Deborah Goldstein, principal, Enlightened Philanthropy

According to groundbreaking work by 21/64 and the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University, I can be considered a member of Next Gen Donors. The research focuses on Gen X and Gen Y/Millenials ages 21-40 who will inherit $40 trillion in the coming years.

Like me, you may not be anticipating an inheritance. However, you might share some of the traits found among this cohort:

  1. Are you driven by values, not valuables? Next Gen Donors honor the legacy of their parents and grandparents in their giving, while exploring emerging tools and opportunities.
  2. Are you focused on impact? Next Gen Donors want to see an impact as a result of their philanthropy. They are focused on strategic philanthropy.
  3. Do you give your time, talent, treasure, and ties to causes you are passionate about? Next Gen Donors give at a much deeper level, a very engaged, hands-on level. And they’re willing to bring their network or ties to the table, too.
  4. Are you engaging in philanthropy now? Next Gen Donors are engaging in philanthropy NOW instead of waiting until later in life. In the process, they are crafting their philanthropic identity by engaging in ways that allow them to learn more by seeing and doing.

Hawksbill_Sea_Turtle_(Eretmochelys_imbricata)_(6161757878)In August 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua for two weeks to work with two conservation organizations—the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (or ICAPO-Iniciativa Carey del Pacifico Oriental), and Paso Pacifico. I have been passionate about sea turtle conservation for decades and was finally able to personally rescue sea turtle eggs for protection in a hatchery and release hatchlings safely into the ocean.

For those of us who are Next Gen, experiences like this are critical to our engagement with philanthropy. They help us understand the issues and craft our philanthropic identity in a way that merely writing a check cannot.

Have you been looking for a way to give back and have some fun too?

If so, I urge you to JUST DO IT!

Three Tips for Volunteers:

  1. This is NOT a vacation. The term volunteer “vacation” is a misnomer. You will be lending yourself to the organization to work. This doesn’t mean you won’t have a blast along the way, but you have to remember, you’re there for work and not play.
  2. Be open to how you’ll be helpful. I hadn’t imagined any type of work except for helping rescue turtles. So, when I was asked to put together a brochure that promotes ICAPO’s tours and volunteer opportunities, I realized I had the skills to help the organization in an unexpected way.
  3. Learn the language. When you’re in a remote part of the world, the likelihood of the locals speaking English is slim. While I’d brushed up on my Spanish prior to departure, I couldn’t speak at length with the locals who patrolled the beaches or managed the hatchery. This is one opportunity I feel I missed—being able to really connect with the people with whom I was interacting. Thank goodness for sign language and smiles and laughter AND translators!

By the end of my second week in Nicaragua, I felt fully immersed in the culture and its conservation issues. I left a more emboldened and passionate advocate than I had arrived. I left with the fulfillment of having traveled for a purpose—to learn more about a cause that is important to me and help conserve endangered species. And I left with a desire to travel more often with a purpose.

So, what are you going to do with your dream to help others? The ends of the earth really are your only limit!

1Deborah Goldstein is the principal of Enlightened Philanthropy and is dedicated to guiding the next generation in giving. She advises multi-generational families and youth as they explore the world of philanthropy. She is also a certified 21/64 trainer. More thoughts on her trip to Nicaragua can be found on her blog


Volunteering. It’s never too early to start

What’s the best age to start piano lessons? How about gymnastics or soccer? If you’ve seen toddlers meandering around a soccer field, staring at the sky, you know that some parents think it’s never too early to begin.

volunteeringAs parents and role models, we want to expose our children to all sorts of enriching experiences, and one of the most rewarding is volunteering. There are three powerful reasons I think middle school is an ideal time to introduce kids to the concept of serving others.

Volunteering is an excellent way for middle-school students to learn about their community and themselves. They are mature enough to understand the concept of civic responsibility, the value of helping less fortunate people and the significance of donating time, money and service.

Second, adolescence is typically a time of an intense focus on oneself and peers. It’s a challenging time of self-discovery. Volunteering eases that relentless inward glare by encouraging tweens and teens to connect with people of different ages, experiences, backgrounds and values.

Finally, a solid foundation of volunteer experience that begins in middle school shapes a young volunteer’s view of the world and amazes college admissions officers. One important way to tell a student’s story in an interview or college application is through lessons learned in volunteering and community service.

Jeannie Burlowski (, an expert advisor on college applications that stand out from the pack, offers vital advice about how to approach middle school: “Begin early to create the long record of service and leadership so important for future scholarship applications.” She says the middle school years are not too early to begin keeping a written record of community service hours. If you Google for “community service forms”, you will find dozens of links to record-keeping forms.

And remember that volunteering as a family is also a terrific way to learn about organizations in your community and make them part of your family charitable giving strategy. That strategy can be as simple as a change jar in the kitchen where everyone drops spare coins and bills that are regularly donated to the local homeless shelter.

Here are four on the San Francisco Peninsula that offer volunteer opportunities geared specifically for kids:

The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto is planning its seventh annual Mitzvah Day (to take place on Martin Luther King Day, January 20, 2014). If you have suggestions or want to get involved, please contact Luba Palant at (650) 223-8656 or

My New Red Shoes has a mission all kids can relate to: to provide new clothing and back-to-school shoes for low-income kids. The Burlingame-based non-profit offers a number of service events centered on families, including kids as young as four years old:

Home & Hope (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network) provides homeless families with temporary housing at local churches and synagogues. Families can volunteer to cook and serve dinner at the host site, play with the younger guests and even babysit. Find out more at

There With Care provides fundamental support services to families and children facing critical illness during medical crisis. Volunteer opportunities range from visiting children in the hospital to sorting in-kind donations at the TWC office in Menlo Park. Learn more at

I’d love to hear about how you encourage your children of all ages to volunteer and take part in improving their community. What volunteer work is meaningful to your family, and how do your kids participate?

It’s never too early to start.

070d8d0Emilie Goldman began her career in personal finance in 1993 as an investment analyst. In 2003, she earned the CFP® designation from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Emilie was a partner with Blue Oak Capital in Palo Alto, chief wealth management officer with Sand Hill Advisors in Palo Alto, and a portfolio manager with Hutchinson Capital in Larkspur, CO. She holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and received her undergraduate degree in finance and marketing from the University of Denver. She is a Certified Financial Planner TM professional and a Chartered Financial Analyst. She is a member of the CFA Institute, the Securities Analysts of San Francisco, and the Financial Planning Association.


Prosperity, Sisterhood, and Honeybees

Two years ago, in my work as founder of Honeybee Capital, I was trying to describe investing that is truly connected to the world, to the people, to the products and entities that provide meaning and value to our communities. The language I needed was elusive. I examined terms used in the various “integrated health” indices for economies, but Gross National Happiness, while a great broadening from Gross National Product, did not quite hit the mark. Sustainability is also a wonderful term, but I was aiming to describe something even more than that. A type of investing that is regenerative and renewing, thoughtful and full of (dare I say it?) joy.

Prosperity – that is the word that truly describes what I sought.prosperity_opportunities This is a term with both depth and breadth. Prosperity is defined as “to thrive or succeed in a healthy way.” That little word “healthy” is so important – it nods to a more complete view of success, one that includes physical, mental, emotional, and economic well-being; one that extends beyond the individual to include whole families and whole communities. Another layer of meaning is found in the root words – Latin terms for “hope” and “fortune” are, quite literally, the roots of prosperity. So Prosperity is success, yes – but it’s healthy success, broad-based and full of hope.

It was right around this time that I met Prosperity Catalyst, the nonprofit, and Prosperity Candle, the sister enterprise that serves as product marketing specialist. Siiri Morley, the Executive Director, presented to the Pipeline Fellowship, a women’s angel investor training network, where I was a member. So right from the start, we were united by the idea of women helping other women. Actually, much more than that – women investing in other women, and in their prosperity.


Prosperity Catalyst does not come by its name lightly – it earns that name every day, in the work of all who are connected with the group. The organization trains women to run their own businesses. Prosperity Candle, the sister organization, provides the direct link to the market for the Catalyst’s women to sell their creations, ensuring that all of that training and production is both useful and use-able. With this model, Prosperity links locally-focused training and business leadership to broader global markets. This is not an isolated process of training for training’s sake, but a strategy that melds strategic and tactical. Plus, the candles are so beautiful! Siiri and her team helped me to plan the first-ever corporate gift for Honeybee Capital, a beautiful beeswax candle.

The light from those candles is lovely, steady and clear – but it is nothing compared to another sort of light I see coming from Prosperity Catalyst. The most important element I have come to appreciate in this organization is a subtle one: it’s how their program and the people involved are modeling leadership in a powerful and different way. Siiri and the entire Prosperity Catalyst team demonstrate leadership that is bold and attention-grabbing – while also service-oriented and nuanced. They are effective and efficient – and still deeply human. They are determined and devoted – while embracing flexibility and creativity. This is the kind of leadership I want to see in the world.

For all of these reasons, I am delighted to be able to support Prosperity Catalyst. I hope you will join me.

katherineKatherine Collins is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, and author of the forthcoming book, The Nature of Investing.  After a long and successful career in traditional equity management, Katherine set out to integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world by traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world as guide for investing to add value in an integrated way, beneficial to our portfolios, to our communities, and to our planet.  

See more about Katherine’s work at or follow her on Twitter @honeybeecap.


Our Young Selves: Learning, Serving and Celebrating

With the new school year approaching, I’m thinking about fresh starts—for my 15-year-old daughter and for me. She and her peers seem interested in volunteering, but I wonder if it’s more about building a college résumé than offering community service. A study last year reports that the Millennial generation (roughly ages 18-29) actually volunteers and donates more than any previous one. The trick is connecting a young person to a community need that resonates, prompting a lifetime of service and an enthusiasm for giving back.


The Young Woman’s Guide is a nice start. Aimed at women and girls ages 15-35, YWG provides educational opportunities, partners mentors/mentees, and works on a global scale. I also love, a site devoted to helping those 25 or younger (nearly 2 million at last count) to “kick ass on causes they care about.” (If, like me, you’re “old” by their standards, their Old People FAQ gives us some ageless guidance on how to start volunteering.)

A recent Women 2.0 article underscores the urgency of training young women to give, contribute, and lead. Now at 40% ownership, women are anticipated to launch a full 50% of the 9.72 million new businesses expected in the U.S. by 2018. That’s just five years from now. Maybe my daughter won’t be thinking about finding a job but, rather, becoming one of the many women creating a company of her own.

These are exciting times for women, young and “old” (ahem, over 26).


From a Man’s Perspective: “Catalytic Women Opened My Eyes”

A few months ago, I posed a question to the Catalytic Women LinkedIn forum: What would you tell your friend or colleague about Catalytic Women? Below is the response from a man’s perspective, thanks to guest blogger Eugene Hung.

Here’s what I’d say: Catalytic Women has helped to open my eyes.

I feel sheepish in admitting it, but I have to ‘fess up here. While I’ve been an egalitarian for a long time when it comes to gender issues, supporting girls and women didn’t become a special concern of mine until I became a dad to two daughters. It’s taken on extra intensity in the last year and a half in particular, as a byproduct of my extensive blogging about parenting. It’s during this time that I’ve finally come to see some truths that may be self-evident to most of you, but which were not so clear to me. Interacting with women like you has helped to open my eyes to these truths. I’m talking about things like:

  • There is systemic, mostly subtle but sometimes still overt, suppression of the advancement of women in many vocations and fields of study.
  • Because of this systemic injustice, women generally have to work harder than men to have their efforts and abilities both noticed and appreciated.
  • Women leaders generally get scrutinized and criticized more than their male counterparts.
  • We’re several hundred years away from seeing salary parity, government representational parity, etc., between the sexes.

Catalytic Women has also opened my eyes to greater hope. After all, it takes resources to confront the entrenched injustices of the world. Otherwise, good intentions remain just that – good intentions. Women may know this better than anyone.

So I gain hope, even as I see the fashion and media elites use their deep pockets to impose their definitions of beauty on whole societies. I gain hope, even when I hear how powerful interests, and wealthy seekers of perverted pleasures traffic thousands and thousands of girls and women. I gain hope, even when the news reminds me that extremists in many lands enforce their oppressive views of girls and women via terror and violence. Catalytic Women gives me hope, because you have resources in abundance – financial, intellectual, relational, and spiritual. And you are determined to make your resources count by taking on these and other systemic injustices. You are not just a movement of women who have good intentions; you are women who care and can do something about the crap in our world.

Perhaps what Catalytic Women has most opened my eyes to is the great number of women whose global philanthropic work is overlooked. Until I encountered Catalytic Women and other women like you, I didn’t realize that more media attention is given to men who lead philanthropic and other social justice efforts, than to women. As I think about it now, it hits me that in my own years of partial reliance on the funding of others to advance my own charitable work, that most of my donors were – you guessed it – women.

So many of you have been doing so much to help so many people … not for the glory, but because it’s right and compassionate.  More power to you!

Eugene HungEugene Hung is a writer and blogger whose work can be read at, and

Young Women Funding Social Impact

Catalytic Women gathered in San Francisco in June to hear three experts talk about engaging younger women who are defining their own ways of giving back. While I may not be of this generation, it was such a treat to hear from them and to feel their energy. This is my favoriate audience for our work – the enthusiasm, creativity and optimism is absolutely infectious.

Our panelists were, likewise, three dynamic young women:


Lana Volftsun

Lana made clear some of the obstacles for giving that younger donors face:

  1. Affordability. So many images of “philanthropy” are of older donors, often men, making very large gifts. This is ironic for 3 reasons: women make most giving decisions; the cumulative impact of individuals giving at modest levels now can be so much more significant than a single, large legacy gift; and few of us see ourselves as able to make million dollar donations.
  2. Knowledge. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., thinking about finding the best fit is downright daunting. It can be hard to know where to start.
  3. Impact. We all want to know that our dollars, at whatever level of giving, make a difference. Sounds so simple, but it’s not.
Erin Geiger

Erin Geiger

I’m a big fan of the “dumb question” – I find it opens dialogue by making it OK for others to admit not knowing it all. Erin answered mine: What is the definition of a Millennial? And, as expected, lots of others jumped in to ask their own questions. None were dumb.

Millennials are between 18 and 25 years old. Next Gen seems to have a broader interpretation, including Gen X and Gen Y. Panelists agreed that these latter tags relate more to life experience and association than to quantitative standards.

We heard other illuminating answers to words commonly used in discussing social impact. Not surprisingly, these answers led to some of the vehicles that young women are using to engage as donors and social investors.

  • Microfinance is a platform, a portal, between those of us interested in making smaller gifts (or loans) and those living in poverty without access to banks and traditional financial resources.
  • Crowdfunding is an online platform where many people can support a single project.
  • A giving circle is the reverse: a group where many people work collaboratively to find one or several organizations to support.
  • Impact investing creates both a return on investment (ROI) and a positive social and/or environmental impact.
  • Impact considers a company or organization’s ability to create positive benefits that are social (e.g. provide jobs or affordable housing) or environmental (such as sustainable land use or clean energy).


Leigh Moran

Leigh Moran

Leigh shared Calvert Foundation’s philosophy of changing the way that capital flows: it is not mutually exclusive to raise money from investors and to deploy it for social impact across the global. Their Community Investment Note allows an individual to invest as little as $20 in creating a financial and social return.

One Percent Foundation has the goal of mobilizing Millennials to give just that: 1% of their income. This September they will launch new giving circles – and Catalytic Women is excited to be partnering with them.


Younger donors aren’t the only ones struggling with learning about options for impact and building financial confidence in how to fund change in the world around us. As Leigh put it, one of their goals is for Millennials to see themselves as investors. By offering ways to invest in causes that are a person’s passion, through initiatives like WIN_WIN_RGB_2inches-1Women Investing in Women (WIN-WIN) and Engaging Diaspora Communities, Calvert Foundation is exploring ways to engage some of the largest groups of potential funders: young adults, diaspora communities with a common origin in a geographic region, and women.

Camp Start Up, Kiva’s summer program launched this year in partnership with Independent Means, provides financial education to young adults and inspires social entrepreneurship. At either end of the spectrum – extreme poverty or extreme wealth – it can be difficult to discuss money.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.00.51 AM is the largest network in the U.S. educating and mobilizing teens for social impact. Why wait until we feel that we have enough to give? All the better if we can start that education earlier (or, in my case, help my daughter build her financial confidence and impact).


One participate asked, If an investment can be made in either a nonprofit or for-profit enterprise, what’s the difference between an investment and a donation? As more giirs-logohybrid options become available, this line seems to blur. Perhaps the larger question is, does it matter? Yet the metrics used to evaluate social impact, such as Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) and IRIS, are a good place for us to create awareness about impact in any kind of funding for social change.

Storytelling is a powerful way to engage and create impact. One young woman told of a call from her alma mater telling her she was a VIP among alumni donors. She wondered how this could be, with the modest amount that she gave. Yet others were giving less; to them, she was an example of action and impact.


How can young women fund social impact? Their options are available to us all. Here were some of the many possibilities that emerged from the conversation with our experts:

  1. Invest a small amount and get hooked. Put as little as $20 into a Community Investment Note through Calvert Foundation or take $25 to start a lending team with Kiva.
  2. Tell your story. Even better if you tell your story in your own voice – take a video on your phone and post it to Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. Connect with others around giving. Join a giving circle to meet other women who give, or bring a giving circle – like One Percent Foundation or Catalytic Women’s giving circles – to another group, like a professional network.

Catalytic Women has resources on all the above. Just email me at and we’ll point you in the right direction for making your own, personal impact in your own way.

Gender Lens Investing: Newcomers’ Webinars

It’s confession time and I’m coming clean.  I am completely new to the work of Gender Lens Investing.  (A moment please while I hide my face in shame.)  At this point you may be wondering why I’m suddenly interested and the answer may surprise you.

I recently overheard women discussing hand bags.  Hand bags! Ever wondered who makes these beautiful essentials carried by women everywhere?  I learned that, ironically, something universally used by women (and any number of other consumer goods) can be produced in conditions that are detrimental to women’s well-being.  And I learned that I can choose to spend my consumer (and investment) dollars in a way that supports women. This conversation, and those I been involved in since becoming part of Catalytic Women, has inspired me to want to learn more.


Jennifer John

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer John, Project Manager of Criterion Institute, speak on this topic during our monthly collaborative webinars on gender lens investing.  What’s even better, these webinars focus on newcomers (like myself) and are meant as an entry point into dialogue.  During May’s webinar Jennifer was joined by panelists Siiri Morely, Director of Prosperity Catalyst, and Becky Bailey, Senior Portfolio Manager and Acting Director of Operations of Agora Partnerships.  These three dynamic women provided such a vibrant and informative discussion that I couldn’t help but be inspired.  Below are a few excerpts from May’s discussion.

Jennifer began by defining gender and explaining what it means to invest with a gender lens.  According to Criterion Institute, “Gender is term that refers to your gendered life experience in the social construct that you live.  It is thought more of as ‘gender identity,’ and varies over time and from place to place. Investing with a gender lens involves making investment decisions that support gender equality while seeking positive financial return.” I sensed a definitive message forming here.  Investing with a gender lens -with gender equality as a focus-  makes you a smarter investor.  More importantly, it means “moving trillions versus millions,” of dollars (quoted from Jackie Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer and President of Women Moving Millions).  Wow! Trillions versus millions? Tell me more…

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley

Siiri Morley then went on to speak about her non-profit organization Prosperity Catalyst, and its for-profit social enterprise partner Prosperity Candle.  Their focus is to help women take control of their own economic agency.  Prosperity Catalyst provides an environment where women from poverty can become self-sustaining entrepreneurs.  Prosperity Candle “empowers women to rebuild their lives through candle making.”  Providing women with the resources and tools to take control of their own lives is profound.

Becky Bailey

Becky Bailey

Siiri’s dialogue was an excellent segue into Becky Bailey’s work with Agora Partnerships.  Agora strives to “unleash the potential” of impact entrepreneurs.  To do this Agora provides entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge, networks and capital so they have the tools to solve critical problems in their focus area.   Agora works with entrepreneurs on the ground through accelerator programs in order to affect, and scale, positive change. Genius!

What did I take away from this event?

That I want to invite others to the dialogue, to bring women to the table and most importantly, to think outside the box myself when I consider my own purchasing and investing decisions .  And, of course, to continue my quest for more knowledge on the work of gender lens investing and women funding social impact.

It’s Only Natural


Editor’s Note: A Catalytic Women member shares her thoughts on altruism and skills where women are “natural” leaders. Enjoy!/MH

Chances are you’ve all heard and even embraced as true, a belief in the “survival of the fittest.” What would you think about the theory that humankind’s greatest strength (and indeed survival) is not dependent on one’s individual strength or size, but instead on one’s ability to cooperate, connect and share?

In How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything…in Business (and in Life), (2011), author Dov Seidman cites the work of Dr. Richard Joyce, a professor at the Australian National University and author of The Evolution of Morality. Joyce explains that our morality – defined as the capacity to conceive of social behavior in terms of values – germinated in our earliest caveman and cavewoman ancestors. A caveman who embraced the benefit-of-the-group model not only survived, but thrived as he shared harvests and shelters, cooperating and assisting others. His self-sacrifice for the benefit of the whole engendered trust, prompting others in his tribe to reciprocate.

This altruistic caveman also gained a reproductive advantage: cavewomen, knowing a good thing when they saw it, wanted him for a mate. The result? The propagation of cavebabies imbued with these cooperating, connecting, sharing genes. And biology was not all that this open-armed caveman had in his favor; he also had influence over others who saw and wanted what he had. Those who did as he did received similar rewards including, offspring after offspring (both male and female) “throughout the eons” who were encoded with those same altruistic values.

Tribes, on the other hand, that embraced the benefit-of-the-individual model, did not cooperate, share, or form any sort of organized, cohesive society. As a result, these self-serving individuals and their tribes suffered starvation, exposure to deadly elements, and ultimate elimination.

So what does all this have to do with our lives today? Everything, I’d say.

As mammals and as social beings, we are dependent on others, physically, mentally, and emotionally from the moment we are born. Seidman concludes that “natural altruistism” – as opposed to self-interest – is just that: natural. Given the downturn in the world’s economy, loss of jobs, homes and savings, we may be tempted to curl into ourselves, determined to protect all that we have only to find that that choice doesn’t make us or anyone else feel any better. Why? Because it isn’t natural. If our genes have anything to say about it, there is an alternative: seeking others with whom we align to share our gifts, our abilities and our resources. It’s a natural win-win.

 Untitled2Catalytic Women member, Dana Whitaker, enjoys working with seasoned and emerging leaders and is author of Transforming Lives $40 at a Time, Women + Microfinance: Upending the Status Quo. More about Dana at

Women’s Leadership by Investment: Drop by Drop We Can Fill a Bucket

Editor’s Note: Yesterday we gathered young women funding social impact for a Catalytic Women event. I’m continually energized to see how women in their 20s and 30s either don’t perceive gender barriers or, simply, aren’t deterred by them. Our guest blogger Suzanne Sheuerman offers a terrific step that any woman can take to use her wealth with a gender lens for greater impact. [MH]

As a woman in Corporate America, I have come to realize that women must collaborate to bring about change. As you can guess, the change to which I am referring is related to women and their role in Corporate America. Having been the highest ranking woman in a Fortune 100 company with no real chance of ever becoming the CEO, my story may be relatively typical of a 58-year-old woman. I can get close, but no cigar. In my view, close just isn’t good enough anymore.

After studying the facts, one would come to the rational decision that women at very senior levels of business are vital to operational excellence. A Credit Suisse study conducted in August of 2012 demonstrated that companies with a woman on the board performed better in most metrics than comparable companies. [And Catalyst has done fascinating reports on gender roles, with similar findings.] Having read the article with great interest, I suddenly had an “ah ha” moment: Why can’t we build a “portfolio” of women-led companies?

As I began my research I was (sadly, not) surprised to find there are not even enough women CEO’s in the Fortune 500 screen to create a sector-diverse portfolio. Looking more broadly to the Fortune 1,000, I was able to find more women-led companies.

Then I looked at my definition of “woman-led” and reflected that one woman on a Board is simply not adequate. Why reward that? A woman-led portfolio deserves a more robust standard. So I screened for companies with boards that had three or more women, or were comprised of at least 30% women. Delightfully, I had a very nice list of potential publicly traded companies.

When asked by one of my friends if I had included companies that may not have a woman CEO, but did have “C Level” women at the top, such as a COO or CTO, my answer was an emphatic “no.” I felt the CEO designation for leadership was critical for the purposes of the portfolio I wanted to create, and I just couldn’t find enough women in that role. While there were lots of companies who had women in “second best” roles, in my view they were not as deserving of my investment.

This is my one small step as a woman to support other women. Adding an element to my own investments that includes women-owned companies is my drop in the bucket. It is my personal, happy drop in the bucket that, I hope, we will work together to fill.

As you think about where you can make an impact, I ask you to join me. Think about the companies where you invest as a tool to support women’s leadership. Help fill our bucket.

Suzanne Sheuerman is a First Vice President, Portfolio Management Director and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in San Jose, CA. Formerly she was a Managing Director at Household International where she worked for 18 years. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC, or its affiliates. We are very pleased that Suzanne is a Professional Member of Catalytic Women.

Educational Equity

educational equity

Last month I listened in on a Catalytic Women Strategies & Solutions discussion, and had the pleasure of hearing how three organizations are working with disadvantaged youth to provide educational equity. Many might feel daunted by the task of how best to ensure access to, and success in, college for these kids. Not true! Our expert panelists, Denni Brusseau, Kim Cook and Traci Lanier, spoke about being a step ahead of the shifting needs of students and ,most importantly, about their success in mentoring students through the completion of college.

DenniDenni Brusseau is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bridge the Gap College Prep (BTGCP). This organization pairs caring adults with disadvantaged youth in Marin City, California. Doing so allows BTGCP to provide comprehensive educational support enabling students to both complete high school and graduate from college. Their message – their belief – resonated loud and clear. “Education is the greatest equalizer between bridging the gap between poverty and the affluent.”

Traci Lanier, Vice President of 10,000 Degrees, believes providing exposure, accurate T.Lanierinformation, guidance and support creates change. The goal at 10,000 Degrees is to create college graduates who change the world. In order to encourage their students to give back, they provide a platform for students to pair their stories of need with stories of success. They’ve found that being a catalyst for this exchange, and giving students the chance to tell their story, provides hope.

K.CookKim Cook is Executive Director of the Washington, DC based National College Access Network. NCAN is an umbrella organization with the goal of providing their members with tools and resources to ensure their programs’ success – and their students’ college completion. In order to do this NCAN stays up to date on the evolving needs of students and, in turn, trains others in best practices. NCAN’s members are those organizations serving first generation college graduate students.

What can you do to bridge the gap of educational disparity? How can a modest investment help these programs’ effectiveness? I’ll let the panelists’ suggestions speak for themselves:

Denni – Students are in a stage of fright or flight. Help lower stress and provide a supportive learning environment. This organization provides academic after school program support and pairs caring adults with disadvantaged youth in Marin City, slide010California. Doing so allows BTGCP to provide comprehensive educational support enabling students to both complete high school and graduate from college. Their message – their belief – resonated loud and clear. “Education is the greatest equalizer in bridging the gap between poverty and the affluent.” Here’s what you can make possible: $135 provides one week of after school support for a child; $500 provides one month; $5000 supports a student’s needs for an entire year. For more information go to

Traci – Did you know that students are required to submit a deposit to colleges upon logo-1 being accepted? State Universities in California require a $650 deposit to secure an accepted student’s space. A gift to cover that cost has a very tangible impact. More information is at

Kim – Many organizations doing this good work of empowering communities and logoproviding educational support do not have it in their budget to become a NCAN member! Help underwrite a membership for as little as $250 by going to NCAN’s website