Giving similarities outweigh differences in men and women entrepreneurs

When it comes to giving behaviors, entrepreneurship narrows the gender gap—but there are a few ways men and women still differ.

In our report, Entrepreneurs as Philanthropists, we examined how entrepreneurs approach philanthropy and the characteristics typical of the business-owning philanthropist. We found them to be generous with both their time and their money—reporting higher rates of charitable giving than their non-entrepreneur peers. But we also know that men and women tend to manage charitable giving differently. We want to know: how does philanthropy change at the intersection of gender and entrepreneurship?

Here, we take a deeper look at entrepreneurs with larger businesses—those with $1 million or more in revenue. We find a few key differences in men and women’s philanthropic interests and motivations—and explore what the numerous similarities say about how an entrepreneurial mindset affects giving.

Men and women entrepreneurs approach philanthropy in similar ways

When comparing men and women generally, there are clear differences in their attitudes and behaviors around charitable giving, with women tending to be more engaged in philanthropic activity. For example, in a recent survey 91 percent of high-net worth women reported giving to charity in 2018, compared to 87 percent of high-net worth men. Similarly, 56 percent of the women surveyed said that they spent time volunteering—compared to 41 percent of men.1 The motivations for giving that men and women report also vary—with women tending to have an approach to philanthropy that is motivated by empathy as compared with men.2

However, when focusing solely on entrepreneurs, any differences between men and women largely fade. Men and women entrepreneurs behave similarly—giving similar amounts to charity and spending similar amounts of time volunteering. They are also largely even in their attitudes and values relevant to giving and the way in which they incorporate giving into their personal identities.

These many similarities demonstrate the powerful role that the entrepreneurial mindset plays in philanthropy—seemingly a more significant influence than the individual’s gender. The attitudes and values that make a person a successful entrepreneur exert a strong influence over the way they understand the world and their role in addressing some of the issues they care about.

Graphic showing similarities between male and female entrepreneurs regarding philanthropy. For example, male entrepreneurs have a median annual donation of $7,056, while women entrepreneurs have a similar median annual donation of $6,974.

Three key differences between male and female entrepreneurs

While men and women entrepreneurs tend to behave similarly regarding charitable giving, there are a few ways that the groups vary. 

Men and women report different motivations for some giving behaviors, like planned legacy giving

While they achieve similar outcomes with their giving behaviors, male and female entrepreneurs tend to approach giving with different goals in mind. For example, men and women are almost equally likely to say that they’d like to leave money to charity after they’re gone, but their motivations for doing so vary. Two thirds of women mention a specific cause they would like to support, compared to only one third of men. In contrast, 44 percent of men say that they want to leave a legacy or make an impact, compared to only a quarter of women.

This variation reflects trends typical of men and women, generally. Women, who tend to create more emotional connections to and engagement with the causes they support, differ from men, who are more likely to give from a more strategic mindset and be focused on impact and the personal benefits of giving.

Graphic showing that similar percentages of men and women entrepreneurs wish to leave money to charity after they’re gone, but they have different motivations for doing so.

Women entrepreneurs value volunteering as a way to develop leadership skills; men are more likely to see it as a reputation boost

Men and women entrepreneurs spend similar amounts of time volunteering, and they are largely even on their reasons for doing so. When considering some of the professional benefits of volunteering, similar rates of men and women say that it is an opportunity for networking outside their companies (40 percent vs. 35 percent, respectively) and for learning new professional skills (36 percent vs. 40 percent).

However, men and women diverge on how they value other aspects. Traditionally, it has been less common for women to hold positions of power in professional settings, but they are quickly closing the gap. More women entrepreneurs seem to be using their philanthropic activities as a way to practice skills needed to occupy these positions—with almost half of female entrepreneurs saying that they value volunteering as a way to develop their leadership skills, compared to only 31 percent of men.

Graphic showing that men and women entrepreneurs spend similar amounts of time volunteering, but value different professional benefits of doing so.

Women entrepreneurs are less knowledgeable about some advanced giving strategies

A slightly higher percentage of women entrepreneurs say they are planning to exit their business in the next five years, but they are significantly less likely than their male counterparts to be aware of a key strategy that could help them maximize their charitable giving—and their tax benefit. Seventy-nine percent of male entrepreneurs said they are aware that they can donate private equity directly to charity—compared to only 60 percent of female entrepreneurs.

This disparity could leave a significant number of women entrepreneurs at a disadvantage as they approach this momentous financial decision. These entrepreneurs have an opportunity to learn more about available tax strategies and make a smarter financial decision—both for their personal tax situation and for the charities they support. And their advisors have an opportunity to bring more advanced planning techniques to their female clients to help them make more effective and strategic decisions.

Graphic showing that similar percentages of men and women entrepreneurs plan to exit their business in the next five years, but fewer women are aware that they could donate private equity from their business to charity to potentially eliminate capital gains tax.

Conclusion

With a close examination of the data, slight variations in philanthropic motivation and knowledge emerge between male and female entrepreneurs—but the nuances are somewhat overshadowed by the strong similarities between the groups. Any differences in behavior that we generally see between men and women are largely negated when focused solely on entrepreneurs—resulting in men and women entrepreneurs approaching philanthropy in comparable and consistent ways. This indicates that the attitudes and motivations that align with becoming a successful entrepreneur are more influential than gender in the way a person approaches philanthropy. It’s safe to say that regardless of gender, entrepreneurs will continue to make an outsized impact on the causes they support.

Methodology

Artemis Strategy Group, an independent research firm, conducted a research study on behalf of Fidelity Charitable to profile entrepreneurs and their values, behaviors and attitudes related to charitable giving. 3,000 adults in the U.S. were surveyed in 2018, including 708 current or former business owners. Unless otherwise noted, all results presented in this analysis focus on a subset of 301 entrepreneurs whose businesses generate $1 million or more in annual revenue. Respondents donate to charities and claimed itemized charitable deductions on their tax returns.

1 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, 2018.
2 Fidelity Charitable, “Women and Giving,” 2016.

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