I was thrilled when the Dove representative told me how they’d found us.
"We did a Google search for “inspiring women,” she said, and we came up with a blog on your site by Wendy Weaver.
I can’t think of a better Google search I’d like for us to pop up on, since inspiring is really our business.
Our donors and volunteers inspire us, and each other, every day. Our Grantee Partners inspire change in women and girls throughout our region. And those women and girls inspire our staff, board and supporters to continue to give back and grow the powerful wave of women’s philanthropy we’re all creating together.
It feels good any time that this is recognized publicly, even by a search engine.
Dove was looking for inspiring women to invite to be guest columnists on their Campaign for Real Beauty site. They asked me to write a brief reflection on a woman that has inspired me in some way.
I chose to write on a long-term hero of mine, Madame CJ Walker, the first African American woman millionaire, a model of philanthropy and a smart, savvy business woman. She began life as a slave, and ended it a brilliant entrepreneur making the first hair products especially designed for African American women.
As I was writing the piece, which will be posted in the coming weeks on the Dove site, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between women and body image—the very issue Dove is addressing with their site.
And how for many women, their perception of their worth, their beauty, their self-esteem, their bodies, is dictated by an externally imposed sense of what is beautiful—rather than by an internal acceptance of all the quirks and differences that make us all unique.
Yet, there are far fewer external voices dictating notions of what women should do with their money, how they should feel about their money, what they should expect from their money.
Women are to shop, to buy, to consume.
Buy this face cream, this outfit, these shoes, and you’ll look fine, be fine.
The messages that make it an equally powerful expectation that women will save, build wealth, take control of their finances and feel good about their wealth are rather quiet in comparison, keeping women, and particularly young women, focused on youth-saving face creams, rather than on financial savings—which is crucial to economic security and wealth building.
And to building a secure retirement plan.
Because all the face creams in the world don’t actually stop the aging process or the future from coming.
In retirement, women are far more likely to face poverty than men, because older women are far more likely to be unmarried, they live longer on average, and because Social Security doesn’t tend to pay women as much as men, just to name a few reasons.
But whatever the savings goal—be it retirement, a home, a college degree or a car—I wish that women received more messages that inspired them to invest in their own financial futures than they did to invest in losing weight, looking younger or dressing better.
Because there’s nothing more beautiful than a woman in control of her finances and her future.
Phyllis Caldwell is president of The Women’s Foundation.