The Unexpected Challenges of Philanthropic Women

By Jeff Wing   |   November 17, 2023

Philanthropists are frequently viewed as privileged individuals who donate large sums of money to charity. However, the reality is more complex – particularly when the giver is a woman.

It goes without saying that women are often overlooked as leaders. The societal pressures facing women are formidable, especially the expectations placed upon philanthropic women that many men in similar positions don’t face.

Gabriella Taylor knows something about these pressures. Having experienced a traumatic early life, Taylor set out on a global adventure, guided at first by her own healing. This journey led her into the fields of Psychology, Spirituality, and Neuroscience, resulting in a strong conviction to use her skills and experience to help others. Taylor is today a much sought-after coach whose work could be described as truly life-changing, in that she helps women experience greater fulfillment – from the inside out.

Womanhood remains rife with double standards. A philanthropic woman sometimes has to navigate a thicket of second-guesses, insecurities, and isolation. This is where Gabriella Taylor comes in. And right on time.

Q: You occupy a particular niche in the philanthropic space. Can you summarize it for us?

A: My role is rather unconventional. For over 25 years I’ve been providing highly-specialized coaching services, specifically for female philanthropists and nonprofit founders. Given the many challenges we face on this planet, I believe these women are positioned to make real change in our world – to truly use their resources for good. Often, though, they lack support.

What are the challenges facing women philanthropists and why do they need support?

Challenges are many. For instance, their wealth may become an inadvertent barrier between themselves and others, resulting in trust issues and feelings of isolation, or the perceived need for extra vigilance to “keep it all together.” However, all humans are connected by our need for belonging, understanding, and emotional safety; needs that are seldom met or even acknowledged. The woman entrepreneur may struggle with worrying that her wealth and self-worth are inextricably linked; wondering “…am I loved for who I am beyond my financial status?” Women tend to be naturally generous, but can be taken advantage of. Being smart, educated, and rich doesn’t mean that there aren’t emotional needs or struggles that may get in the way of being fulfilled.

How are you able to address these issues?

Here’s an example. “Lisa” came to me as a 58-year-old woman who inherited a substantial trust in her 20s. She had already been divorced three times, with each ex demanding excessive spousal support in lengthy legal battles. She had three financially dependent adult children and a litany of professionals on retainer whose services (and motives) were questionable. She funded a large nonprofit, yet the donations were mismanaged. She was being taken advantage of across the board, with no idea how to protect herself… or her wealth. She didn’t know who to trust. She struggled with emotional eating. She sought solace from Chardonnay.

Over the course of three years, I helped her build a whole new network of support. She reduced the number of people on retainer, keeping those that were trustworthy. She grew stronger – more assertive, more clear on her values. Her anxiety decreased and her emotional eating and drinking subsided. She partnered with an organization that’s doing phenomenal work. She’s happily remarried. She’s experiencing greater fulfillment in nearly every area of her life.

I support these women in developing confidence, establishing boundaries while forming healthy relationships, in being kinder to themselves, and feeling more connected. As a result, they tend to become more expansive in their generosity. They give back from a place of strength and clarity, rather than obligation. There’s also a component of reclaiming money as an instrument for positive change, versus its being a symbol of better than/less than.

What’s important about the contributions women in philanthropy make?

When clear about their innermost values, women tend to invest in initiatives that are life-changing and impactful, which shapes our culture for the better. I’m not suggesting these women are better able to create social change than others. My client base, though, is principally women who create positive change through philanthropy.

What gets in the way of the philanthropic woman having clarity on her values?

As women, we’re conditioned to think our value comes from our ability to manage other people’s perceptions of us. The multibillion dollar beauty industry reinforces this. We’re taught “If I’m attractive, pleasing, smart, and capable… in your eyes… then I’m powerful.” We’re seldom conscious of how these messages influence our daily choices, attitudes, and impulses, which can create enormous pressure and stress, impacting our overall health. As philanthropic entrepreneurs, these women may be behind incredible causes, but secretly struggle. The stressors that keep them up at night can result in anxiety and depression, all the while feeling uncomfortable – even selfish – for focusing on their own personal needs. It’s common to face opposition when addressing old systems with new ideas. There is relentless pushback from the old power structure that doesn’t want things to change, and wants to continue defining us as small, quiet, and well-behaved. Needless to say, that can be a real obstacle.

How did you become the coach and thought leader you are today?

Early on, I experienced eating disorders, time in mental institutions, repeated sexual abuse. After a near-fatal overdose at 17, I came out of the coma and had an ‘awakening.’ Something deep within urged me to go on a pilgrimage. I bought a one-way ticket to Spain and spent several years living in ashrams, monasteries, and communes around the world. I traveled through 37 different countries, volunteering for wonderful nonprofit organizations. This began my lifelong calling of helping others.

You’re not ideating in this role; you’re giving from your own experiences of loss and reclamation!

Yes! I understand what it takes to transform pain into strength. Plus, my training in Coaching Psychology and Relational Neuroscience enables me to facilitate genuine change in the brain through a very specific, experiential approach which releases limiting beliefs, heals past hurts, and taps into inner wisdom, strength, and emotional resilience. I offer a highly specialized boutique coaching practice here in Montecito and work with a small handful of extraordinary women. Whether it’s quieting the inner critic who struggles with self-doubt, coaching women in learning effective communication and leadership, or helping them in building healthy, strong relationships, the support is crucial.

Your support must yield amazing results as these women release what was holding them back from full engagement with the giving mission.

Absolutely!Think of each of these women as big, beautiful trees with large, generous canopies. Many seek the tree, picking the fruit, sheltering in the shade – yet rarely is anyone focused on nourishing the tree’s roots, whose robust health is necessary for the tree to stand strong. I see my work as tending to their roots, providing nutrients for their soil – whether it be emotional support, discovering their purpose, working through inner obstacles, or bringing good ideas to life. Consider this: when women are valued and supported, we become powerful catalysts for transformation, contributing to a kinder world through our influence. Isn’t this something we all would benefit from?