International Women's Day: Women investing in women

Today is International Women's Day and theme for 2024 is 'Inspire inclusion'.

Robin Heller is the Founder and President of The Athena Advisors - a dynamic consulting team driven by a belief in social justice and dedicated to raising the performance and capacity of our mission-driven sector to achieve it.

We asked Robin to share some thoughts not only on how we can make London a better, safer and fairer city of women but also how we can inspire women who wish to invest in bringing these changes about.


Every month, in the corner of a hip, noisy lounge at the Conduit Club in Covent Garden, women gather to talk about how women move money for social good. The Women in Philanthropy group, which The Athena Advisors hosts, attracts all sorts—philanthropists, heads of family offices, fundraising professionals, NGOs execs, and women wanting to become more involved in philanthropy. There is a topic each month—children’s issues, mental health, how AI will affect philanthropy, or even how to talk about money.

One moment recently - January 2024 - stands out for me. The theme was “Funding Needs on our Doorstep,” exploring homelessness and food poverty. We agreed that during the pandemic, through the generosity of foundations, individuals, and corporations, many people contributed to give their fellow Londoners help to survive. During an emergency, where there was a will, philanthropy flourished, in service to the needs of fellow humans in our midst.

A safe, fair, and just city needs such community-based services for women and girls. That requires philanthropy. We have an obligation to one another.
Robin Heller, The Athena Advisors

But even as we are emerging from that terrible time, basic human needs remain profound. The high cost of living has hit women and girls hard, in particular Black and Minoritised women and girls, the disabled, and older women. According to 360 Giving, only 2% of grants recorded in 2021 went to organisations serving women and girls. These crucial organisations provide clients help with food, emergency services, and confidential support in the face of domestic violence. A safe, fair, and just city needs such community-based services for women and girls. That requires philanthropy.

We had the will to help during the pandemic when we saw ourselves as “all in the same boat.” We still are “all in the same boat” - neighbours, colleagues, friends, family in London, in precarious financial and social times. We have an obligation to one another.

Latin American Women's Aid, Dalston - one of the many specialist women's organisations based in London (Photo: The London Community Foundation)

The Women’s Fund for London helps us meet that obligation. The new fund, a creation of The London Community Foundation, puts vital resources into the hands of kay organisations serving London’s women. Such organisations know keenly what is most needed and how to get resources into the right hands in a fast and strategic way.

This is our amazing city of London, with its art, theatre, restaurants, pageantry, and diversity—and yet so many women and families are living on the edge. Many of the organisations that support them on the front lines operate without sufficient reserves to hire enough staff and provide the kind of services a great city deserves. The fund, with a minimum of bureaucracy, moves money into organisations to have a compassionate, immediate impact.

In honour of International Women’s Day, let’s look at our own city and remind ourselves that there is enough—enough money, enough expertise, and enough creativity to ensure that women and girls thrive.