FUNDING AREAS: Education, immigration, environment, and policy and advocacy
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Apple Inc., Walt Disney
NET WORTH: $18.5 billion
OVERVIEW: The widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs is known for being a rather private person. As one of the wealthiest women in the world, she has been criticized for doing less in philanthropy than some would like. But similar to her late husband's style of giving, much of Powell Jobs's philanthropy is done under the radar. "If you total up in your mind all of the philanthropic investments that Laurene has made that the public knows about, that is probably a fraction of one percent of what she actually does," her friend and fellow philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen has been quoted as saying.
One area Powell Jobs is well known for is education. Having started an organization that focuses on sending underserved minorities to college in 1997, she has been a champion of education issues for a long time. This interest has led her to become an ardent supporter of immigration reform. Much of her philanthropic work is done through another organization she cofounded called the Emerson Collective, which works with a range of entrepreneurs to advance domestic and international social reform efforts.
BACKGROUND: Powell Jobs grew up in West Milford, New Jersey, and attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergrad, receiving a BS in economics from the Wharton School of Business. She worked at Merrill Lynch and then Goldman Sachs before getting her MBA from Stanford. She married the Apple cofounder and former CEO in 1991 and had three children with him. They were together for 20 years before her husband succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2011 at the age of 56. Powell Jobs subsequently inherited his trust fund, which at the time was worth well over $7 billion.
PHILOSOPHY: Powell Jobs has adopted a philosophy of quiet philanthropy from her late husband that seeks to put the spotlight on the causes, organizations, and individuals she supports rather than herself. "We're really careful about amplifying the great work of others in every way that we can, and we don't like attaching our names to things," Powell Jobs once said in an interview before her husband died. The Emerson Collective — the organization she cofounded as a means of furthering her philanthropic work — is set up as an LLC rather than a 501c3, giving her the ability to make grants, investments, and political donations without having to publicly report them. Although she prefers to remain behind the scenes, she tends to be actively involved in the causes she cares about, sitting on numerous boards of organizations she supports. She also is an active political donor for both causes and candidates, recognizing that a focus on policy and advocacy can help maximize her impact.
EDUCATION: In 1997, Powell Jobs cofounded a nonprofit called College Track. College Track runs extracurricular programs and tutoring services, mostly for underserved minorities who will be the first in their family to go to college and often the first to finish high school. Starting in Palo Alto, College Track has expanded to locations in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Aurora, Colorado. Not only is Powell Jobs the chair of the organization, but she also has an active involvement in providing mentorship to students.
Powell Jobs sits on the boards of several education nonprofits, including Teach for America, the New Schools Venture Fund, and Stand for Children. She is particularly interested in results-driven reform ventures and makes strategic investments, through the Emerson Collective, in organizations and entrepreneurs seeking to improve education outcomes.
Taking these efforts a step further, Powell Jobs launched her own $50 million education initutative in late 2015, known as XQ: The Super School Project, with the stated goal of hosting "an open contest inviting teams to reimagine the American high school..." The competitions hopes to find the brightest ideas, and invest in "five new super schools funded with a share of he $50 million over the next five years."
IMMIGRATION REFORM: Through College Track, Powell Jobs came to see firsthand that there were many bright, enterprising young students who came to the United States illegally at a young age. She helped these students graduate high school, but they were ineligible for citizenship or for state or federal college assistance. She described the situation as "a purgatory that [these children continue to] find themselves in." Powell Jobs said, "It is one of these issues that seems discordant with what our country stands for." So when the DREAM Act was proposed in Congress, Powell Jobs commissioned Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim to produce a 30-minute film entitled The Dream is Now to raise awareness and support for the issue. More publicly vocal on this issue than is normal for her, she has discussed her support in interviews and held screenings for groups of elected officials and at college campuses across the country.
ENVIRONMENT: Powell Jobs sits on the board of Conservation International, an organization that supports environmental science, policy, and fieldwork geared toward protecting resources and creating sustainable development paths. Conservation International has major initiatives addressing food, fresh water, climate change, biodiversity, environmental protection, human health, and human culture.
POLICY & ADVOCACY: In addition to being an outspoken supporter of education reform and the DREAM Act, Powell Jobs occasionally advocates for other policies as well, though she usually prefers to remain behind the scenes. In 2012, she gave $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee and $150,000 toward a California ballot initiative in support of abolishing the death penalty. She is a major supporter of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group created by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to support commonsense gun control legislation and pro-gun-control candidates. She also sits on the board of the New America Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute, and is part of the White House Council for Community Solutions.
LOOKING FORWARD: It's hard to say what causes Powell Jobs may support in the future since she is likely to remain quiet about the bulk of her philanthropic efforts. There is a good chance that she may continue to quietly support efforts her husband donated to, such as the fight against AIDS, and building and capital campaigns for hospitals, particularly at their alma maters. As a former vegan, longtime health-conscious person, and cofounder of a company that produces ready-to-eat organic meals, Powell Jobs may possibly become more involved in nutrition, particularly as it relates to education and the GMO debate. It is also a safe bet that she will continue to expand her education philanthropy and to support progressive policy and advocacy.