Excerpt: Angelica Berrie (Global FWN100 '14) on Women and Power

Angelica Berrie

Little girls are seldom encouraged to be strong, assertive, demanding or, God forbid, powerful. Growing up in the Philippines, studying in all-girls convent schools, the nuns did not exactly prepare us to take charge and lead. Marriage was our calling, and obedience was our virtue. Yet, those nuns led these convent girls to the front lines during the People Power Revolution that toppled a dictator.

How did we do it? Armed only with bibles, rosaries and faith, we held hands, knelt down and prayed. In that moment when we found ourselves in front of a tank, I realized that I had the power to change my fate. Overthrowing a dictator by peaceful, even prayerful means, gave me my first taste of power, the power to make a difference.

For most women around the world, the odds are stacked against us. Seventy percent of people living in extreme poverty worldwide are women. Poverty affects women the most and through them, their children. Two thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women, and only one percent of the world's women own land. In a world where women hold up half the sky by doing two thirds of the world's work, we receive only ten percent of the world's salaries. Melinda Gates was right in saying that poverty is sexist. 

In contrast, women in America today control 60 percent of the private wealth. Over the next 30 years, American women are expected to inherit 70 percent of the 41 trillion dollars inter-generational wealth transfers. That's a lot of philanthropic power!

The power of women giving, alone or together, creates potential for disrupting the status quo of philanthropy today. Our impact and voices will shape the future of wealth and giving. We can use that power to alter the fate of women and girls anywhere in the world and change the equation of power in the global sphere.

Power is not a word often used to describe women leaders, even women like the Queen of England, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, or Germany's Prime Minister, Angela Merkel. Yet women throughout history have wielded power. A powerful woman in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, was "a woman at her own commandment," meaning no one commands her.

Feminist scholar Carolyn Heilbrun defined power as "the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter." Women today are exercising that power.

Read the rest of the blogpost on Angelica's blog here