Interested in Gender Lens Investing? First Come Out About Your Money Story

Several years ago my friend and colleague Christian McEwen interviewed me for her play, “Legal Tender – Stories of Women and Money.” Think “Vagina Monologues” but about our financial resources.

I shared my life story with Christian and came out. Not as a lesbian. Not as a cancer survivor. Not as a person with a heart condition. Not as a daughter of an alcoholic with mental illness. All of these things were easier to come out about than what I shared with Christian… that I have jumped class. Some people say “working poor” and others say “middle class,” but I call these classes what they are. I was born into the class of “hard knocks” and now I live in the class of “comfort and elegance.”  

Coming out about my money story freed me up to act even more creatively with my money (spending, giving, investing, and sharing). Now, when I ask others to come out about their money story, I do so because I know it helps people manifest their full selves no matter what the environment. But to come out about money in a way that genuinely feels powerful and can make a positive social impact? Here are ways that I have lived and approached this smart idea.

1. Wrap your head and heart around kyriarchy!

Telling your money and power story starts with reflection and knowing where you “fit into” power structures (or not). “Kyriarchy”, a term I learned at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum coined by the feminist theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, looks at intersecting oppressions. Intersectional feminists can relate to the concept of kyriarchy which extends patriarchy to encompass additional structures of oppression and privilege such as racism, ableism, geography, capitalism, etc. Like intersectionality, a concept given to us by Kimberlé Crenshaw, kyriarchy names oppressions including and beyond gender so that we can understand what sociologist Patricia Hill Collins refers to as the “matrix of domination” that influences power and privilege and governs much of our  lives as well as public domains.

“Patriarchy” means “rule of the fathers.” Kyriarchy is even bigger because it combines all of the different kinds of power holders into one interlocking MEGA-system of domination. Both of these systems reinforce the harmful idea that one kind of person should have power over others.

Looking at these axes of privilege and oppression, I see my own societal power rooted in my pale skin and education and maybe my attractiveness, but not my gender, my sexuality, or being raised working class. We hold positions of privilege in some systems and are excluded from and/or harmed by other systems. My privilege as a white educated woman gives me a personal mandate to ask about intentionality and impact in every setting.  

2. Know your values and use them as a source of power! 

While I may not have grown up with money, I did grow up learning self-determination and humor as survival tools. These values have carried me well into adulthood and a successful career that I am proud of. My mom taught me about generosity… how a smile, kind word, or note of encouragement about someone’s work or contributions are invaluable. These things have no price tag. Basketball taught me about practice and hard work, persistence and resiliency, and how to harness the power I felt through the strength and wisdom of my body.  

These are my values which fueled my life and career around women’s sports and leadership.

3. Name the change you want to see in the world!

While building the women’s sports movement in the 90s, we never publicly named our work as disrupting the patriarchal model of society, but that’s exactly what we were doing. We built a fierce set of women leaders, and the work was intersectional. We focused on race, ability, and sexual orientation. Today we see that sport is THE strategy to disrupt the white male leadership paradigm. 96% of women are in the c-suite played organized sports.  

After working with a kick ass team and raising $70 million over 15 years for women and girls, I left the Women’s Sports Foundation to work more broadly on global women’s rights. And for the past ten years, through Imagine Philanthropy, I’ve coached leaders and strengthened teams of organizations doing bold change in the world.

So my life circumstances have changed over time since growing up working class, but my values never changed. My values have shaped and reinforced my purpose and passion as reflected in my CARE story. C is the Challenge you are working on, A is the action you are taking and/or want others to take, R is the results you hope to attain or have had and E is the economic impact the work could or has had.   

I'm working on bringing my expertise in embodied leadership, philanthropy, and impact investing to push women to fully own their money and power. I'm helping by bringing forth data, tools, and resources for women to be courageous, confident, and bold in how they work with their time, talent, and treasure. You can help by naming the gender biases that influence your attitudes about what are appropriate money behaviors for men and women or where and how men and women should or should not show up in leadership. My impact has been felt at every high school, college campus, and recreational league where the women’s sport movement has been well-resourced. I know girls and women bring their embodied selves from the court to the world through the lessons of healthy competition. I imagine a world that honors matriarchal leadership in its own right, separate from patriarchal leadership. I imagine that we have an economy that values care, the arts, and transformational leadership at the intensity that we value brute force and transactional leadership. I imagine a world where businesses put people, planet, and purpose at the same level of influence as profit. 

Can you write your own CARE story? 

4. Use your entire set of resources to disrupt the kyriarchy! 

If you want to disrupt (or trample!) the kyriarchy (and I believe we must!), you need to examine where you invest and spend your “time, talent, and treasure.” People hear me say this and tend to immediately focus on the treasure, but your money is just one part of your time, talent, and treasure. Let’s expand our view of resources, please! 

TIME: In this digital age, time is one of your most important resources. How you use your time reflects your values. Your calendar illustrates what you truly value. I hold time in my calendar for body love (exercise, wellness treatments) as well as connection with smart thinkers and colleagues who mentor and embolden me.

TALENT: Sharing your talents, ideas, and networks with colleagues, nonprofits startups, or small businesses is critical. Every time I coach clients and help them name their roadmap for success or coping strategies for moving through a challenge, my spirit is lifted and my wisdom is enhanced. I push y clients to step up to leadership roles where they can learn and give back. Serving as a leader on the boards of the Women’s Funding Network, Tides, and Women Win has allowed me to share my governance and entrepreneurial knowledge while simultaneously giving me forums to stretch my perspectives and deepen my learning around gender lens grantmaking and investing. 

TREASURE: Making good use of your “treasure” starts by thinking of your spending and consumption. Ask, how much is enough? What do you buy every day/week/month? Depending on where you live, almost every product you purchase and where you purchase it from can be aligned with your values. We can support people, leaders, and companies we believe in by purchasing goods and services that have been sourced, produced, and brought to market with the intention of serving the planet and people holistically. BuyUp Index and Equileap screen companies on their practices of taking care of women. Kiva, IFund Women, and SheEO are all platforms for making targeted contributions to women. Your whole wallet is a powerful tool. Use it with discernment. 

5. Acknowledge fear!

Fear around money, giving, and investing is normal, especially if you grew up without enough money. So many women, interestingly of all class backgrounds, have fear and anxiety around money, not to mention giving and investing. 

Allianz did a study in 2013 showing that 56% of single women and 55% of divorced women worry about becoming a bag lady. This fear even persists with 46% of women of influence (defined by the researchers as having post graduate education, a senior title in a company and income of $57,000 or higher). That would be me! I am absolutely in that category as a “woman of influence,” and yes, I work consistently to counter my financial fears! The good news? Once we take control of our values, then our sense of self and then our money and our quality of life immediately improves.

Ok! Now you have your own money story and can get started thinking seriously about gender lens investing. Please, express your money story! Talking about money helps us take control of our money and the more control (and intentionality) we have over our money, the more possibility we feel around our time, talent, and treasure as a package deal.

My radical intention in sharing these five steps with you is that together, we will move more money and resources to women and girls through gender lens giving and investing.  The kyriarchy is worth disrupting! Know your values and unapologetically share what kind of world you want to live in right now and what kind of world you want to leave to the children. Use all of your resources, and work courageously with your fears!  

Visit my gender lens investing list of resources here.