Changing the World One Cause at a Time

“By recognizing our power and creating a peaceful revolution, we are creating a way of giving that means peace, justice, sustainability and equality for all, because we are the generations of women that the world has been waiting for,” philanthropist and author Sondra Shaw-Hardy told a luncheon audience at the 10th Biennial Forum on Philanthropy on November 2 at Union South.

“Things have never been so good for us, and the world has never needed us more,” she said.

Her presentation was a centerpiece of “Gender, Generations and Giving,” the Biennial Forum that is the signature event for the Women’s Philanthropy Council (WPC) of the University of Wisconsin Foundation. The WPC, founded in 1988, pioneered new national standards for women as philanthropists, and it is the first major-gift organization for women at a co-ed institution of higher education, said Martha Taylor, UW Foundation vice president.

In her keynote address, Shaw-Hardy quoted Clare Gaudiani, a professor at New York University: “American women are living the best and healthiest lives that any women have ever lived anywhere and at any time. We are the generations of women that the world has been waiting for, and we should do more than soak up the good life to make up for what past generations did to make our lives what they are.”

Shaw-Hardy noted that, no matter the generation, “our perspective as women is formed by our life experiences as daughters, mothers, grandmothers, workers, community leaders. We offer a vital perspective on the world’s greatest social and economic problems. We are the closest to society’s needs. Our generations of women know what the solutions are.”

She spoke of how women now control or own more than 50 percent of the nation’s wealth, are enrolled in higher education in larger numbers than men and are taking control of finances, whether earned, married or inherited, and thus taking control of their lives.

“There will be an intergenerational transfer of wealth over the next 20 years of around $41 trillion, and women outlive men by seven years,” she said. “As a result of these choices and these means, women are leading and transforming philanthropy, shaping the future of philanthropy.”

Shaw-Hardy credited the Women’s Philanthropy Council with being a leader in that movement and a shining light for women making a difference in their communities and world.

Earlier in the day’s events, three generations of philanthropists — current UW-Madison senior Holly Hartung, Louise Silberman (’83 BS Human Ecology), Diane Ballweg (’85 BM L&S) and Signe Cooper (’43, ’48 BS Nursing) — shared insights about how and why they give.

Four women deans – Dean of Students Lori Berquam, School of Human Ecology Dean Robin Douthitt, School of Pharmacy Dean Jeanette Roberts and School of Education Dean Julie Underwood – shared insights on the challenges higher education is facing. The panel was moderated by Judith Ward, education consultant and wife of Interim Chancellor David Ward.

Nancy Borghesi, WPC chair, introduced Douglass Henderson and Margaret Harrigan as winners of the council’s 2011 Champion Awards.

The awards recognize UW-Madison faculty and staff members who have made a difference for women on campus. Henderson is a UW-Madison professor of engineering physics and faculty director of the College of Engineering‘s Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program. Harrigan is a senior policy and planning analyst in the University’s Office of Academic Planning & Analysis.

Henderson was selected for his role with the GERS, where through his recruitment efforts and ongoing mentorship, UW-Madison now graduates the highest percentage of women-of-color PhDs among the nation’s top 20 engineering programs. Harrigan was honored for her work on behalf of women faculty and staff, particularly her role as the key analytical mind behind UW-Madison’s gender pay-equity studies.

Each could designate a $5,000 grant to a UW-Madison program. Henderson, who was honored by President Barack Obama earlier this year with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering Mentoring, directed his grant to the GERS program. Harrigan designated her grant to academic staff professional development.