I recently had the honor of sharing a MENTOR MINUTE dialogue with Jacki Zehner, someone I consider a role model and dear friend. As the President of The Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation, a role she has held for the past 15 years, Jacki funds a wide variety of projects and organizations, with a particular focus on women’s rights, women’s foundations, movement building, and media.
Jacki joined Women Moving Millions (WMM) as a member in 2009, and since 2012 she has served as their Chief Engagement Officer (CEO). WMM is a community of more than 250 members that have collectively given over $1 billion to organizations and programs that focus on females, making WMM the largest philanthropic network in the world of women funding women. Prior to her philanthropic focus, Jacki was a Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, where she was the youngest woman and first female trader to make partner.
In addition to her work with WMM, Jacki serves on a number of boards and advisory committees, including as a Trustee of the Sundance Insitute. She is an active writer, speaker, and consultant on topics relating to women and wealth, philanthropy, and leadership. She is also a featured Influencer on LinkedIn, attracting over 350,000 subscribers to date, and has been recognized for her leadership with many awards, including being recently named to The Economist’s Global Diversity List as a top 50 diversity figure in public life, and Inside Philanthropy’s Most Powerful Women in US Philanthropy.
You can see why I wanted to feature some of her valuable insights! Here’s what we talked about:
E: What is special about this moment in the movement of capital toward women and girls?
J: Never in the history of the world have women had the financial resources they have at this moment to align with their vision and values. Never. In addition, never has there been so much research leading us to the conclusion that if in fact there were gender parity, it would result in a much more safe and prosperous world for everyone. So bring those two facts together and it spells opportunity.
E: What causes are you currently championing?
J: I support a broad array of organizations and projects, but if I were to answer it in the context of which two organizations currently receive my biggest investment of time and money they would be Women Moving Millions and The Sundance Institute. I support WMM because I am a philanthropic movement builder, and their work is exactly that. With Sundance I serve on the board and have always had a passion for films and storytelling. They have a specific focus on supporting women filmmakers which is so important. It is about not only the stories that are told, but who tells them.
E: How has your background as the first female trader to make partner at Goldman Sachs shaped your personal philanthropic strategy and focus?
J: I worked in a very male dominated industry and witnessed first hand the challenges women faced in trying to succeed on Wall Street. At that time, in the mid and late 1990s, we were just beginning to create programs to address the unique needs of women and minorities. I got very active in those efforts and it sparked this interest in supporting women’s inclusion and leadership more broadly.
E: You’ve compiled the most comprehensive set of research on investing in women and girls. What themes from those findings stand out?
J: Yes indeed I have. I am research obsessed and have read and aggregated over 300 studies that each, in their own way, make the case for supporting gender equality. The general theme is that a more gender balanced world is likely to result in better outcomes in all areas of our society — civil, political, and business. What makes me slightly insane is how anyone can look at the numbers, whether it be in violence against women, lack of political participation, lack of access to capital and so on and not say, Houston, we have a problem! Gender inequality is a big problem.
E: Explain the value of mentors and women supporting women from your experience.
J: From the earliest days of Goldman Sachs I had amazing women mentors, and men too, that supported me on this journey to use my time, treasure, and talent to make a difference in the world.
There is no way I could do what I do without constantly being inspired by women that are doing the same. That is another reason why I love WMM so much. I have met so many women that I would have never otherwise met that share such a deep commitment using their resources in the same way I am using mine. One of my favorite words is community. Community. Community. Community.
MENTOR MINUTE is a series of interviews with inspiring people in Elizabeth’s network whose work and/or story she seeks to highlight.