Among the many impressive women I interviewed for No Excuses, Jacki Zehner stands out. The youngest woman and first female trader to become a partner at Goldman Sachs in 1996, Zehner is a founding partner of Circle Financial Group. She matches her business acumen and success with her strong commitment to philanthropy, including the Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions groups that focus on women and girls.
But Jacki Zehner doesn’t stop with making and giving money; she’s on a mission to gain gender parity in the financial industry where women in leadership roles have traditionally been few, and to encourage women to invest their money in ways that help other women get a fair shake in the business world. We both spoke at the Women’s Funding Network conference in New York in April. I was honored when she subsequently quoted my belief that “power unused is power useless” in her blog.
I had a chance to talk with Zehner about her latest endeavors to advance women through financial power. Here’s what she had to say:
GF: Women have obviously always worked–whether at home or in the paid workforce, but our work has not always been valued accordingly. Now that we are 50% of the paid workforce, what are the most important one or two things women should do in your opinion to make sure their work is valued at the same financial level as men’s work, individually or collectively?
JZ: Though we are now over 50% of the workforce, we are still the vast majority in lower paid jobs without benefits and make on average only 80% of the male wage. Women at all economic levels have to become more active players to create a better collective financial future. How they can do that varies dramatically – from organizing locally to advocate for change, to funding organizations that fight for our rights in courts, to at the most senior level women CEOS and executives taking the lead in their organizations to finally, truly, drive for talented women to be represented in critical mass. (30%) We have power, we are just not fully using it. (No excuses…right Gloria??)
GF: How can women use their increasing philanthropic capabilities to further society’s valuing of women and women’s work? If the women’s philanthropic group that you co-chair, Women Moving Millions, is doing anything specifically to further this, please tell me.
JZ: Many Women Moving Million donors are working with, and funding organizations, that seek to advance women’s rights and opportunities in the work place, the challenge is how do we work collectively for greater impact. I hope over time we do that in three ways. First we are a community of women who are connected. Who know people and we need to be asking challenging questions, providing business and governmental leaders with compelling facts, and work with them to identify win/win solutions that lead to positive outcomes for all. Second, I would hope we use our multiple voices, and WMM platform, to educate the public at large as to why workplace equality is so fundamental to economic stability and growth. This will be through strong a strong multi-media presence and partnerships. Last I hope we help to bring new funders, individual, foundation and corporate, to the table and work collaboratively and strategically with our NGO partners to set goals, create strategies, implement, and measure our success.
GF: What main message do you want women to take away from the panel on investing with a gender lens that you led at the Women’s Funding Network recently?
JZ: The panel introduced a new frame to think about how we use our money to drive positive change. I think most people GIVE to organizations that share their values or work for causes they care about. Why do we not spend and invest our money with the same lens? Would you give money to an NGO that works to keep women out of the leadership positions? I hope not. Yet we buy products, particularly financial products, from companies that have virtually no women in leadership or on their boards. We need to stop doing that and buy products and services from companies that provide equal access and opportunity for women and embrace the values of diversity. Further we need to seek out companies that do embrace our values AND of course provide us with a great service or product. The takeaway – put your money where your values are.
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