sharing women’s wealth
My work demonstrates that women truly flourish when we share the wealth: our ideas, energy and time as well as our money. A recent experience has made me more positive than ever that this sharing of wealth is the only thing that has the power to turn the economy around—in fact, I believe that it will change the world.
It has been one year since The Dermalogica Foundation launched our global women’s microlending platform, joinFITE. As I look back on this first year of joinFITE, the most surprising lesson I have uncovered is a new appreciation for the women I see and work with every day.
At first, we thought we were doing something for “other” women by founding joinFITE. Other women, over there, far, far away, in the vast reaches of Southeast Asia and Africa.
While our initiative does enable women in these areas to create a business, and to establish their own economic independence and all of the benefits which accompany it, the greatest impact of this experience is not about being over there: it is about being right here.
I have met a few of the women who have started or expanded their businesses through a microloan from joinFITE, in partnership with Kiva. And what I observe is that they don’t simply start a revenue-center: they create a community when they start a business. What lies at the heart of this community? Other women.
In societies where women’s resources are severely limited, women depend upon the support of other women. In cultures where women’s rights are suppressed, the same is true—even if this community exists underground. Because women have been historically excluded from mainstream power, we have learned to do business communally, collectively and cooperatively, especially in the face of brutality and injustice.
I often quote Madeline Albright, who adapted a quote attributed to Dante,
As a woman who started a business of my own 25 years ago, I learned that no one really accomplishes anything alone. What made Dermalogica successful is what makes the impossible suddenly possible in the microlending case-studies of joinFITE: the buy-in of other women.
Women succeed and thrive by connecting. With this in mind, I am inspired to take a page from the enterprising women who almost literally make gold from straw, in some of the harshest political and societal environments of earth. Women in these places are accustomed to sharing hard work, sharing loss, and sharing grief. Yet when presented with an opportunity, they share this opportunity as well. This is how knowledge, skill, access, wealth and resources of all kinds grow exponentially among women.
These days, we read about the phenomenon called “philanthropy fatigue”. The pressures of our own economic challenges make many of us feel less generous, and we may have a harder time than ever relating to people on the other side of the world, whose faces we will never see, whose voices we will never hear. Our charitable instincts may be harder to summon than usual, because we’re worried about our bills, our debts, and our own futures.
To this I say, fine. So let’s relate to the women whose faces we do see, and whose voices we do hear—the women in our cities, our communities, our lives. I’m challenging every woman I know to share the wealth. Yes, we all possess wealth, although it may not be in the bank.
Every woman has skills to share, and wisdom to impart. These assets—which I define as wealth– may be sold, bartered, or given as a gift. The sharing of this wealth may take the form of tutoring, teaching, supporting, assisting, listening or intervening in some way to support a woman in need. It requires engagement and participation, but it is not selfless. When all women do this, the collective good benefits all. It’s a brain-trust, but it is also what I call a “heart-trust”, and affects our quality of life as women in powerful, often unexpected ways.
It is the responsibility of every woman to seek opportunities to share her wealth with other women. You may not, but I believe that Ms. Albright and Dante are correct—and that’s a reservation no woman really wants to keep.