“Actually, Papa, I’m in charge,” declared my four-year-old niece this summer to her grandfather.  He was attempting to instruct her in the rules of a simple game, but May obviously felt she needed no such coaching.  Add to the scenario the fact that her opponents in the game were her two older brothers, and her announcement becomes even more impressive.

Okay, not to overstate the significance of a small child’s offhand remark, but I couldn’t help but think of little May as I participated in two wonderful women’s events last week.  The first was a grant awards luncheon hosted by our Wake County Women’s Giving Network, whose mission statement reads “to maximize women’s leadership in philanthropy by engaging and educating our membership, increasing charitable contributions, and strengthening the Wake County community through the impact of collective giving.”  With their grants of $130,000 to three area charities, they are certainly doing all that and more!

The second event was the North Carolina Governor’s Conference on Women, which drew 1,500 women to Raleigh for a day-long dialogue on women’s issues.  Among the day’s events was a ceremony honoring the leadership of five powerful women who have truly taken charge to make a difference.  Notable among the honorees were Copey Hanes of Winston-Salem, who helped found and support a number of significant North Carolina arts institutions; and Sandra Levine of Charlotte, another of the state’s leading female philanthropists. 

Yes, taking charge of a summer card game may seem trivial in light of these accomplishments.  But a hopeful aunt might be forgiven for seeing in the self-esteem of a young girl an even brighter future where women are harnessing their philanthropy in ever-bolder and transformative ways. 

We know that women today are frequently out-giving their male counterparts, and that they are increasingly using their own assets to do this.  In the next fifty years, May and her contemporaries are likely to end up controlling a large portion of the nation’s wealth, due in part to the projected intergenerational transfer of wealth and the fact that women typically outlive men by a number of years.

Taking charge will also mean taking responsibility, of course.  Truly effective giving requires careful learning, a wealth of goodwill in addition to dollars, and an impassioned determination to make a difference.  I am delighted to report that all three were much in evidence during the two events I attended last week.

May has years to go and much to learn before she is truly in charge.  But it’s good to know that she will benefit from the wisdom and passion of women who are paving a smooth path for her even today.

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