11. 10. 2023 Philanthropy

Impact Talks: Women are often the driving force of the decision to help. They are the iniciators of philanthropy

The role of women in philanthropy is important. They often open up overlooked topics, and in addition to money, they also dedicate their time, but little is known about them. That's why we dedicated a discussion evening, Impact Talks, to this topic, symbolically held in the former convent of the Order of Poor Clares.

The faces of philanthropy are predominantly male, as evidenced by well-known names from overseas like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg. However, it is less often mentioned that all three were significantly inspired by women. It was these women who initiated helping and ensured its consistency. 

“Women’s philanthropy is overlooked. It is necessary to strengthen our courage to talk more about these topics. To be engaged, visible, and confident also because of philanthropy,” said Martina Kolesárová, executive director of the Pontis Foundation, at the opening of the sixth informal social evening from the Impact Talks series.

Although famous names were mentioned at the beginning, inspiration does not have to be sought only overseas. There are philanthropists in Slovakia and the Czech Republic as well. 

We do not help to show off. It is a part of humanism. 

Magda Vášáryová

The history of women’s involvement and cooperation dates back to the mid-19th century when the first women’s association was formed in Austria-Hungary. Operating under the original name Živena, it is still active today. Its honorary chairwoman, former diplomat and politician Magda Vášáryová, delved into the past and described the collaboration of Slovak women and business in the form of selling their homemade products at a time when mothers and wives did not own property and had no personal finances. Despite this, they were able to support each other. 

The family climate plays a decisive role  

The more than 150-year-old story of Živena proves that business and philanthropic activities led by women have a solid foundation in Slovakia. Slovak women are not starting from scratch. Along with their advancements in business, their involvement in philanthropy is also developing. 

According to Magda Vášáryová, the foundation for spreading the ideas of help and cooperation is a significant family environment. “The family climate is decisive. I remember how my mother saw a village girl freezing in a thin coat. She opened the wardrobe, took out a beautiful green coat, and gave it to the girl so she wouldn’t be cold. My father was a well-known professor, and I remember that every Sunday, one of his students sat at our table. When you grow up in such a family, you consider it natural,” she recalled examples of helping she witnessed throughout her childhood. She herself continues to help to this day. 

Helping and giving is, after all, easier than earning money. 

Terézia Jacová

At the beginning, it is crucial to admit that we have everything we need for life and can share with others. We must realise that we are wealthy enough to help. And that we don’t help to get into heaven, nor do we do it to feel good and boast about it. We do it because it is part of our humanism. Philanthropy is an aesthetic value of our being,” reminded Magda Vášáryová. 

You can start with small things

Investment manager Terézia Jacová, co-founder of Lumus Investment Collective, is optimistic due to her experiences with women engaged in philanthropy and volunteering. As a 17-year-old, she received a scholarship that allowed her to study abroad. The support she received then, she now gives back to others. She co-manages the foundation that changed her life as a teenager. 

Terézia Jacová helps investors in the startup environment and is engaged in philanthropy.

Initially, Terézia Jacová dedicated her time to students; currently, she helps talented individuals from socially disadvantaged backgrounds with funding for their study expenses. And she is not the only one. “Surveys show that women are the initiators in philanthropy, donating more regularly and consistently than men. And it is not true that only wealthy people can be philanthropists. You can start even with small things,” emphasises Terézia Jacová. According to her, one should choose what is close to their heart. One can either donate time or money, but it is important to maintain continuity. “After all, helping and giving is easier than earning money,” concluded the young Slovak philanthropist.

Inspirations from neighbours 

Previous Impact Talks discussion evenings brought stories of two prominent married couples from the Czech Republic, who support socially beneficial activities through their family foundations. 

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This time as well, a distinguished personality traveled from the Czech Republic. Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová is a co-owner and director of the family company Petrof, whose pianos are played on significant concert stages worldwide. The recipient of Czech Manager of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year awards, she has long supported young talented artists and helps to provide pianos to elementary art schools. 

“I don’t feel like a philanthropist at all. A person repeats what they see in the family. These are the patterns with which you go through life,” she said in a discussion about the role of women in philanthropy. According to her, help is not primarily related to the amount given. “It’s about the willingness to help and maintain continuity. It has to make sense,” said Zuzana Ceralová Petrofová. Thanks to the Pianos to Schools project, students in dozens of Czech art schools practice on new musical instruments. The vision is to expand this initiative to Slovakia as well. 

Impact Talks

Impact Talks is a series of informal discussion-interactive evenings about philanthropic stories, social innovations, and strategic perspectives on helping, brought by the Pontis Foundation since 2020. 

These events, along with the eponymous podcast, popularise philanthropy, break down prejudices, and highlight inspiring examples of people who help.

Who we are

We create strong and meaningful linkages between the corporate, civic and public sectors in our three strategic topics – social innovation, philanthropy and responsible entrepreneurship. We build expertise our expertise in these issues, bring trends, promote long-term impact, and inspire.

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