Women to Watch: MacKenzie Scott

It was once said, “Here’s to strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” In the spirit of that quote, and strong, powerful women everywhere, we have created a “Women to Watch” blog article series. Each month, we focus on one woman who is making waves, whether it be furthering society, elevating the notation of art, or starting an empire from the ground up. In August 2021, we celebrate MacKenzie Scott. While first making headlines as the ex-wife of Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, Scott has certainly made a name for herself, just not in the internet sales industry. Instead, she is an author and noted philanthropist, donating much of her income to nonprofit organizations. From 2019 to 2020, she went from not making Forbes “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women List” to being listed as 67th. And, with all she has contributed in 2021, it is not much of a stretch to say that she will make the list again, if not inch higher.

MacKenzie Scott Through the Years

Born in San Francisco, California, Scott aspired to be a novelist first and foremost. In fact, she started writing in earnest at the young age of six, finishing a 142-page chapter book titled, “The Book Worm.” She attended Princeton University, graduating in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in creative writing. While there, she studied under Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and was even lucky enough to be her research assistant.

After graduation, she became a research associate at D.E. Shaw in New York where she met her former husband. The pair were married soon after meeting and moved to Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle, she helped Bezos get Amazon off the ground. She was the company’s accountant and negotiated their first freight contract. Today, Bezos and Scott share four children together, and she remains in Seattle with her current husband, Dan Jewett. She also was able to live her dream, publishing two novels. Scott’s first novel, “The Testing of Luther Albright,” was even reviewed by Morrison, who said it be “a rarity: a sophisticated novel that breaks and swells the heart.”

Making Waves With Philanthropy

For decades, Mackenzie Scott received limited media attention. However, in 2019, all that changed — and it was not simply because Bezos transferred 25% of his Amazon stake to Scott. It is mostly because she has put that Amazon money to work — for other people.

Indeed, her name is now mostly synonymous with philanthropy. In May 2019, Scott signed the Giving Pledge, making her one of the select few philanthropists, Bill Gates and Robert F. Smith included, who have committed to donating at least half of their wealth over their lifetimes.

Additionally, in 2020, Scott donated more than $4 billion dollars to nonprofit organizations in just four short months. A number of the organizations were community development financial institutions, which are financial institutions that benefit underserved communities, while all of the donations were focused on furthering COVID-19 relief, gender equity, and establishments like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HBCU Howard University alone received $40 million. To date, Scott’s gift is the largest gift from a single donor in the school’s history.

By the end of 2020, Scott had announced nearly $6 billion in gifts, donating to more than 500 nonprofits. In fact, Scott’s philanthropic giving in 2020 was so great that it was enough to create a year-over-year gain in the overall amount that individual Americans gave to charity.

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” wrote Scott. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

Concerned with the money made by the high elite, Scott continued to make an impact in 2021 by donating billions of dollars to hundreds more worthy organizations, many of them being charities and racial equity causes. Just like in 2020, Scott and her advisors spent time identifying “high-impact” organizations, coming up with 286 in the first quarter of 2021 alone. When announcing the gifts, Scott stated the following:

“I want to de-emphasize privileged voices and cede focus to others, yet I know some media stories will focus on wealth. The headline I would wish for this post is ‘286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear.’”

Some of the many institutions that received support from Scott in 2021 include the University of Central Florida, the University of Texas: San Antonio, The BOMO Project, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Maine Expansion Arts Fund.

More Women to Watch: Hope Smith

With how much Mackenzie Scott has done in the last two years, the world is eager to see what she does next. However, there are a lot more women to watch, many of whom will be covered in our Women to Watch articles series. Until next month, check out a little about Hope Smith. Like Scott, Hope, along with her husband, Robert F. Smith, have been making headlines for their philanthropic endeavors. Hope even donates profits from MUTHA™, a luxury skincare company she built from the ground up, to organizations near and dear to her heart.

Learn more about Hope’s philanthropic efforts. And stay tuned next month for another woman to watch.