Women often take the decisions about giving away their husbands' or their fathers' money, but they also earn and give away fortunes of their own. Helen Barrett reports.
A quick glance at this year's Sunday Times Giving Index reveals that it is still men who are the serious players when it comes to giving millions of pounds of personal wealth away to charitable causes.
Six of the seven women who are listed are one half of a wealthy couple. Only one woman - Lady Helen Hamlyn - appears in her own right.
Dig beneath the statistics, however, and plenty of anecdotal evidence emerges to suggest that it is often women who take the lead in deciding how and where philanthropic funds are spent.
Donor advisory organisation Philanthropy UK's recent report Women & Philanthropy concludes that men might be the big earners, but their wives and daughters are often involved behind the scenes - running the family trust fund and meeting beneficiaries, for example.
"The problem is that the index is based on who drives wealth, which doesn't necessarily reflect who is giving it away," says Susan Mackenzie, director of Philanthropy UK. "But our own survey of advisers suggests that women are often the decision-makers behind major donations."
A typical example can be found at the number one slot in this year's index. Hedge fund manager Christopher Hohn gave away almost £236m in the last fiscal year, but it is his wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, who runs the fund's charitable foundation.
And in 2007, Lady Helen Hamlyn appeared for the first time in the Giving Index after the death six years earlier of her husband, publisher Lord Hamlyn. According to the index, Lady Hamlyn gave away £4.1m in 2006 through the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
But where are the women who are wealthy in their own right, having made millions without the help of their husbands or fathers? Why are they not giving their money away?
Mackenzie says many independently wealthy women don't make the index because of the way it is compiled. To qualify, people must first appear on the Sunday Times Rich List. Their position on the index is then determined by the percentage of their fortune that they give away, rather than by the actual amount.
"I suspect the compilers haven't really thought about it," she says. "Like any list, rules are required when it's compiled, but that does mean it sometimes misses women."
Take technology entrepreneur Dame Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley. She has given away so much of her wealth - £50m in total - that she no longer qualifies to appear on the Rich List, although eight years ago she was ranked as the 11th richest woman. Other female philanthropists may not appear on the index simply because they have yet to amass the personal fortunes needed to qualify for the Rich List.
Philanthropy UK says women who are wealthy either through their own efforts or inheritance form a group it calls "hidden donors".
To highlight the problem, the Women & Philanthropy report gathered anecdotal evidence from philanthropic advisers and called for more detailed research into how and why wealthy women give and which causes they support.
According to Mackenzie, women develop an emotional connection with a cause in a way that men do not. They also seek out personal links with beneficiaries and will often work as volunteers. This, she says, is because they often have more time to do so, particularly if they are married to wealthy men.
Sheila Hooper, executive director of individual giving at the Charities Aid Foundation, describes the wealthy women who use CAF's services as "serious, focused and with well thought-through ideas on giving".
Outdated and disappointing as it may seem, the majority of female philanthropists still inherit or marry into the type of fortune that has earnt their men a place on the Rich List. But according to Beth Breeze, a researcher at the University of Kent, a new generation of self-made female philanthropists could become significant givers in decades to come.
"As society becomes more equal, things will change," she says. "But most women philanthropists today are in their 50s and 60s, part of a generation that is more likely to take on more conservative gender roles."
Breeze points to the US for fresh hope. There are mutterings across the Atlantic of a new feminine model of philanthropy. According to philanthropy adviser Fern Portnoy, writing last month on the influential PhilanTopic blog, an emerging generation of American female donors are strategic, egalitarian and want to give money together and to their communities.
Hooper predicts that these American women's British sisters will be an emerging force in UK philanthropy. "Business and entrepreneurial women tend to have fewer children than those who don't work, so they often become interested in donating their money," she says.
Wealthy donors are notoriously coy about their charitable giving, whether they are male or female. Often they don't wish to appear to be promoting themselves, or perhaps they fear a slew of unsolicited approaches from charities.
Hooper argues, however, that until self-made women come forward to talk about their philanthropy, it will be difficult for charities to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen to follow in their footsteps.
"They need to be encouraged to be more vocal," says Hooper. "I find that, if you ask them, they talk about 'emotional wealth' - about what they do and how it defines them as women. Then they will do so with great enthusiasm, which is infectious."
Hooper and Mackenzie agree that rigorous academic research is needed into why wealthy women give and which charitable causes they favour.
"What little research we do have is based on very small samples," says Hooper. "Most researchers would shrink in horror from such statistical examples. More research is needed because, although it is the men who give away huge amounts of money and grab space in the media, the influence that women have over charitable donations is just as important."
HOW THE PRESS SEES FEMALE GIVERS
by Beth Breeze, researcher, University of Kent
Philanthropy involves money and morals, so it ought to make great copy for newspapers. Indeed, the number of articles about philanthropy and philanthropists in the UK press has increased by 46 per cent in the past decade.
But for those of us working to increase the profile of philanthropy, the question is not whether it gets past the media gate-keepers, but how it is presented.
I recently analysed every article about philanthropy in UK newspapers in 2006 and found that journalists have a clear preference for certain types of philanthropist: the dead, the local, the American and the male.
Dead donors generally get the best press, because obituaries desist from cynical asides about the intent behind gifts. Local donors don't do too badly, either: they are usually treated as community heroes, especially in the provincial press. And American donors are held up as the yardstick for tightwad Brits. But it is male donors that get both the greatest quantity of, and the most favourable, media coverage.
Fewer than two in 10 philanthropists named in the press in 2006 were female, and the handful of women named were often historical figures rather than contemporary role models. In the 83 per cent of coverage that focused on male donors, five living men - Tom Hunter, Irvine Laidlaw, Tom Farmer, Peter Lampl and Peter Moores - accounted for a quarter of all mentions.
Female givers receive distinctly gendered treatment. When the subject is a male philanthropist, journalists focus on the size of their fortunes, how they made their money and details of their luxury lifestyles. When female philanthropists are mentioned, the focus is often on their looks, their private lives and their family connections.
For example, arts philanthropist Louise McBain is described in print as the "£260m blonde divorcee" who once dated Prince Andrew. Ann Gloag, the founder of Stagecoach, is portrayed as a "Perth-born former nurse" who is now "diminutive, demanding and driven". Others are described as "reformed socialite and former model" (Renu Mehta), "a fabled beauty" (Queen Noor) and "doyenne of the silk-stocking district" (Brooke Astor).
There is still some cultural discomfort about wealthy women, especially those in traditionally male worlds such as finance and manufacturing. Women donors who do win media approval - such as Anita Roddick and Stella McCartney - have often made their money in more 'girly' businesses such as cosmetics and fashion, and female philanthropists also face assumptions that they will support 'feminine' causes, such as breast cancer or ballet.
This lack of cultural affirmation for female philanthropists may well discourage wealthy women from stepping up as donors. Increased media coverage of philanthropy is a positive development, but more even-handed treatment of male and female philanthropists would be even more welcome.
This research is also discussed in the Philanthropy UK report Women & Philanthropy, available at www.philanthropyuk.org.