Philanthropy’s Most Powerful Women 2017

In 2017, we saw the power of women grow in society like never before, and their influence in philanthropy continued to increase simultaneously. The following four women were standouts in the philanthropy community.

Melinda Gates, Co-Founder,  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Forbes writes that Gates continues her run as the most powerful woman in philanthropy as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her laser focus on health is having a real impact as she showed in the foundation’s first “Goalkeepers” report which presented hard metrics behind the giving. Maternal deaths in Ethiopia are down 57% since 1990 thanks, in part, to foundation efforts to get more mothers to give birth in health care facilities.

Alexandra Cohen, Co-Founder, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation

Alex is the wife of the controversial hedge funder Steve Cohen, who commands one of the largest fortunes in finance. The Cohens focus mainly on healthcare and education, with the arts as another major interest. All signs point to continued increases. Forbes explains that while the couple is quite private, Alex is a key figure in their giving, with a backstory that helps explain why: She grew up in a low-income New York neighborhood.

Jennifer Buffett, Co-Founder, The NoVo Foundation

According to Inside Philanthropy, The NoVo Foundation that Jennifer Buffett leads may not rank among the largest foundations in the U.S., but it is one of the biggest family foundations led by a woman and it gives at a very substantial level: $56.7 million in grants in 2012 alone. And it’s only up from there, given that Warren Buffett has pledged shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to NoVo that will ultimately total several billion dollars.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, Chair, The Wellcome Trust

Established in 1936 at the behest of pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust is now one of the biggest medical trusts in the world. The trust continues to tackle the globe’s biggest health problems, including working on a vaccine for Ebola and a potential cure for three tropical diseases. The trust announced that it’ll donate over $1 billion in 2017-18.

Female heads of nonprofits usually make less than their male counterparts. GuideStar’s 2017 Nonprofit Compensation Report found that male CEOs make 21% more than female CEOs of organizations with budgets of $50 million or more. With that in mind, it is even more important to acknowledge Melinda Gates, Alexandra Cohen, Jennifer Buffett and Eliza Manningham-Buller as 2017’s most powerful women philanthropists.