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Why Educate Women about the Power of Money

Beth Sirull

Beth Sirull, CEO of JCFSD

Beth Sirull says that it’s important to educate women about the power of money, whether it be philanthropic money, spending money, or investment dollars. How you earn it, spend it, or give it away is very powerful. It’s becoming even more important because today 45 percent of American millionaires are women and by the year 2030, two-thirds of U.S. wealth will be under the control of women. We are expected to inherit 70 percent of the $41 trillion of intergenerational wealth that will transfer over the next several years. Beth says that women are more generous than men, but they need to understand how they can use the power of money to support women and help solve critical issues in our world.

Beth is President and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation in San Diego, California. Under her leadership, JCFSD has become San Diego’s largest philanthropic funder, granting $100 million annually with 70% going to secular causes. Her work is the perfect fit as Beth said that she was raised to help people. Her Jewish mother said that the only thing she needed to remember about being Jewish is that they were once enslaved in Egypt, then they were freed to make sure no one else ever experiences a similar fate. So when Beth searched for work that aligned with her values, she found work to help the low income people in San Francisco through investments in “underestimated communities.” She says that if people in these communities are given access to capital and mentorship that other communities take for granted, they will thrive.

At JCFSD, Beth helps donors and investors find their passion so they can direct their dollars toward the issues that matter most to them. Not all philanthropists and investors are Jewish and many do not even live in San Diego. She describes the foundation like a philanthropic bank that manages the assets so they can build to their capacity. She says that at the foundation they say, “We believe in the power of every individual. And collectively, we can change the world.” Personally, Beth feels poverty and homelessness are unacceptable. She says, “We have an obligation as a society to ensure that we’re able to provide human dignity and a level of living for every member of society.”

How Women Can Support Other Women with the Power of Money

Beth has a special interest in trying to support women because she feels that if women don’t support women, no one is going to look out for us. She describes many ways we can do that with our investing and buying decision, and suggests asking your financial adviser if there are any funds that have a gender lens on them. Do the companies employ women at the management level? She admits that many companies have lots of women in lower positions, but few have women on their boards or at the top levels. It benefits both the investor and supports women to have women in top leadership, because they are shown to be more profitable and successful. There are even new funds that specifically benefit women. She mentioned one in particular that is investing in companies innovating around women’s reproductive health. Beth points out that we are a demand-driven society. If we start to ask “where are the women making these decisions,” investment managers will start to hire them. That’s how we can empower each other with the power of money.

Create a Women’s Empowerment Loan Fund

Beth is excited about the success of a recent fund they created to enable donors to invest in a women’s empowerment loan fund. They set it up to pay a small bit of interest, then a return of the capital with the purpose of lending money to underestimated or low-income women entrepreneurs, especially women of color. She said that once she announced it, it began to fill very quickly. She suggests that other communities try to establish their own and encourages anyone interested to contact her for more information about how to launch it in their area. Beth’s e-mail is beth@jcfsandiego.org.

Listen to this interview for more information about how women can make a difference with the power of money. We can all create social change with the decisions we make, but first we must acknowledge our power and learn ways we can wield it to support others, help solve critical issues in our world and lift women up to create the world we all want to live in. Check out the Jewish Community Foundation in San Diego’s website for more ideas.

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