For American Business Women’s Day, citizens celebrate women across the United States who lead professional and entrepreneurial lives. As a country where nearly half of the labor force are women, it’s shortsighted to take their contributions for granted. But, for Robert F. Smith and others who celebrate the holiday, it’s one of cultural commitment and applause for the advancement of women in the workplace.
“I watched my mother every month when she was a school teacher,” Robert F. Smith said during his acceptance speech for the 2016 Business Pioneer Award in Baltimore, MD. “[She would] write a 25-dollar check to The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), every month.. because she knew it was her job to educate our children…and to teach them.” Smith’s dedication to promoting that leaders should emphasize gender diversity is represented in his philanthropic work. In 2016, the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President, provided a $48 million grant to the UNCF STEM Scholar Program, launching the Inaugural Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars.
In addition, individual contributions from Smith and Fund II Foundation resulted in a $50 million donation for the Cornell Engineering School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in order to better support students majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering, in addition to supporting African American and female students attending Cornell University’s College of Engineering.
For gaining skills and knowledge to help a company achieve its goals and grow, there is no better time for women to start or expand a business. Women are fast-growing entrepreneurs in the United States, and they now own almost 40% of all small businesses globally. Not only that, but minority women are estimated to own 44% of businesses in the country, well beyond the 20% averaged in 1997. Only time and continued effort will make these realities even more believable and teachable as historical milestones for growth in our nation’s workforce.
Read on to learn more about Smith’s philanthropic endeavors.