Skip to main content Skip to the main navigation
Indiana University
  • People
  •  
  •  

Office of the First Lady

"Women's Leadership: Women's Philanthropy"

Remarks by First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie at the Hazelett Women in Leadership Forum
Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence
Indiana Historical Society
Indianapolis, Indiana
October 9, 2012

Thank you, Phil. It’s wonderful to be here tonight to bring greetings to all of you on behalf of Indiana University. I’m particularly pleased that my husband and IU’s 18th president, Michael McRobbie, is with us tonight. It is also a true honor to open this annual event that celebrates Susie Hazelett, a woman who exemplified courage and vision, and who inspired men and women alike to become leaders who can make a difference. Now more than ever, we need to understand the dynamics of good leadership.

We are in an age where every sector is challenged by problems of daunting complexity and global impact, where trust in public and private institutions alike is on the decline, and where the wisdom of the past may not always address the technology rich, flattened world of the 21st century. In such a world, the work that the Tobias Center does is vital to increasing our understanding of effective, transformative leadership. Through the Hazelett Forum, the Center is also doing particularly crucial work to ensure that we see diversity in our role models.

Great leaders do have characteristics in common. As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, good leaders must have the strength to face criticism and opposition with confidence, to be optimistic about the future, and to have a passionate commitment to their beliefs and to the potential for change. But within these attributes lies a vast range of possibilities for how they are expressed and, of course, to what ends. The more we see leaders of all kinds—certainly both genders but also in all walks of life—the more we can be certain that the ways in which we make progress will reflect the range of interests present in today's world. And the more likely we are to inspire the next generation of leaders.

I am delighted that Marianne Glick is here tonight to inspire all of us, and that she will speak on the topic of philanthropy and leadership. It’s quite perfect that we are sitting in a place that Marianne’s parents, Eugene and Marilyn Glick, made possible through their philanthropy. Michael and I were honored to be able to spend time with Gene and Marilyn in the past few years, including Michael awarding an honorary degree to Marilyn, and to hear directly about how their life experiences motivated their charitable giving and their commitment to the city of Indianapolis. It is clear that their daughter is following in their footsteps, to the great good fortune of all of us.

Philanthropy and leadership are deeply connected. Both are motivated by, and motivate others around, a vision for a better future. They are about change, impact, and progress. Philanthropy is also deeply connected to women’s leadership. Many of you have probably seen the research showing that once factors like age, income, education, and so forth are held constant, women give more than men, in some cases nearly twice as much. Perhaps you were surprised by this, as many people are. The word “philanthropist” often conjures up a male face, and one that is making big, headline-grabbing gifts in the many millions of dollars, or getting his name on a beautiful new building.

The fact is that women give differently than men, and their giving has different motivations—not better or worse, just different. Women tend to be egalitarian, spreading their gifts over a variety of organizations and causes rather than targeting one or two. Women are more likely to seek a deeper connection with the organizations to which they give and to demand accountability, rather than just putting their name on things. And they tend towards collective giving, to value the power of networks to amplify their own contributions.

We know all this because of the ground-breaking research into women’s giving patterns that is being done at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy, soon to be the new School of Philanthropy—the world’s first! Given that we are in an era where many nonprofits are more dependent than ever on private philanthropy, this work is extremely timely in helping those organizations maximize that support.

At the IU Foundation, we are working to do just that. Two years ago last June, we inaugurated the Women’s Philanthropy Council of Indiana University, a 36-member group that works to educate, through outreach and example, alumnae and women friends of IU about their own capacity to make a difference in the future of Indiana University. The Council also functions as a giving group, and last spring allocated over $100,000 to eight innovative programs on five IU campuses. Since the Council’s inception, its members have raised over $1 million in new money for IU. The Council, along with several interrelated programs, is charting a new course for the Foundation in how to capture the energy in our alumnae community in service of IU.

I have to add that it’s one of our members, David Jacobs (yes, we have two men on the Council) who has made it possible for us to give each of you a copy of “The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World, and How to Reach Them.” The book was co-written by a member of the WPI’s Advisory Council, Lisa Witter. Please do pick one up!

In a sense, however, the WPC is simply carrying on with an ages-old tradition of women’s leadership in voluntary support. From Colonial times forward, women have found an outlet for their otherwise untapped intellectual and organizational capacities in charitable work. Well into the 20th century, cut off from the worlds of business and politics, women used voluntary associations to exercise public influence and to shape American concepts of community responsibility.

As the historian Kathleen McCarthy has said, “Female philanthropy has served…as the means through which American women…have made a lasting imprint on social and institutional reforms, professionalization, legislation, and even the Constitution itself.” Women were the founding forces behind organizations we take for granted in our lives today, such as the American Red Cross. They have led the development of whole areas of human endeavor, such as the discipline and practice of social work. They have been in the forefront of educational support.

Our speaker tonight is certainly following in the footsteps of women before her, but more importantly, as an example of leadership in action, she is charting a new path forward for the organizations she serves.

On behalf of Indiana University, I congratulate the Hazelett Forum and the Tobias Center for their steadfast and critically important advocacy for equity and excellence in leadership at all levels, and for inviting Marianne Glick to speak to us tonight.

Welcome to tonight’s forum.