Where’s the beef?: Why are women getting all the gravy?

Hey, Nonprofiteer, here’s my beef:

All of a sudden a number of colleges have received completely anonymous donations in the millions of dollars, which is great–but it turns out all the colleges in question are run by women.  Now, why should something as irrelevant as the gender of the CEO determine who gets support for education?  Aren’t other colleges entitled to the same help?

Signed, Concerned With Merit

Hey, Concerned,

First of all, no one is “entitled” to a gift, as my law professors used to point out when we studied battles over wills and estates: the daughter may be a better person, but that doesn’t mean she “deserves” anything; if the giver intended to benefit the son, that’s the end of the conversation.

Second, and more important, what makes you think the anonymous college donor isn’t concerned about merit?  Maybe s/he thinks women are better stewards of resources than men (per this suggestion in the New York Times’ coverage of the same issue), which certainly is a reasonable posture given that the only sane things being said about the banking crisis are coming from the woman who oversees the TARP program and the woman who runs the FDIC.  (Meanwhile their male counterparts are busy making sure no squash partners or prep-school roommates are discomfited by inconvenient regulation.)

Or maybe s/he thinks colleges which act on their rhetoric about equality for women by hiring one as CEO are more likely to act on their rhetoric about equality for women in treatment of students and faculty.  (As opposed, say, to colleges whose presidents announce that women aren’t any good at science.)

In other words, this gift is all about merit, and about rewarding virtue.  If you find it hard to recognize as such, because the virtue in question is “acknowledging people who are often marginalized, even if we’re the majority,” that just makes the anonymous donor’s point: people still have a hard time with the idea that women matter.

But as it is written, women hold up [more than] half the sky; why shouldn’t good treatment of us be considered important enough to be worth millions?

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