Women in Business Q&A: Jean Shafiroff

Jean Shafiroff, philanthropist, is actively involved as a volunteer fundraiser and leader of several charitable causes. Her managerial skills, compassion, generosity and enthusiastic dedication are among her strongest traits.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Jean Shafiroff, philanthropist, is actively involved as a volunteer fundraiser and leader of several charitable causes. Her managerial skills, compassion, generosity and enthusiastic dedication are among her strongest traits. She possesses a remarkable ability to connect different charitable groups with interested people and resources. Jean's particular interests include charities related to women, health care, animals and the people of the cities she calls home.

Jean's hands-on involvement with the multiple causes she supports is one of her strongest traits. Each year she chairs numerous galas and host events benefiting not-for-profit organizations. She has chaired numerous galas including ones for New York Women's Foundation, Southampton Hospital, NYC Mission Society, Southampton Animal Shelter, French Heritage Society, JBFCS, Lighthouse International, American Cancer Society, Southampton Bath and Tennis Club's Charitable Foundation and Solar One.

Jean is particularly known for her leadership in raising money for the Southampton Hospital. In 2010, 2011 and 2013 she served as the chairwoman of the Southampton Hospital's Annual Summer Galas, which collectively raised $5.4 million ($1.7, $2 and $1.7 million, respectively).
She sits on the boards of The New York Women's Foundation®, NY Mission Society, JBFCS (20+ years), French Heritage Society, The Couture Council, Lighthouse Guild Advisory Board, Southampton Bath & Tennis Club's Charitable Foundation and Southampton Animal Shelter Honorary Board.

As a result of her philanthropic work, Jean has been honored by several organizations. In 2009 Jean was honored at the Centennial Gala of the Youth Counselling League. She was honored in May 2013 at the Jewish Board Family and Children's Services' Annual Gala and received the Madeleine Borg Lifetime Service Award. In March 2014, she was honored at the New York City Mission Society Gala and received the Dina Merrill Hartley Public Service Award. In May 2014 Surgeons of Hope honored her at their annual dinner. The Ellen Hermanson Foundation honored her and the President of Southampton Hospital, Robert Chaloner, at its annual fundraiser in June 2014, at the home of Ellen and Chuck Scarborough. In July 2014, she was honored by the Pet Philanthropy Circle along with Georgina Bloomberg, Amanda Hearst and Best Friends Animal Society. In November 2014 she was honored by Animal Zone International at the Argos Fall Benefit.

Jean is well known for organizing and underwriting a number of charity luncheons for various causes. She has hosted and underwritten several luncheons for The New York Women's Foundation®, featuring former board president Diana L. Taylor. Jean has also given several large luncheons for Southampton Hospital.

In tandem with her philanthropic responsibilities, Jean has also hosted events in honor of the entertainment industry both in New York and Los Angeles. In 2011 she held an event for Oscar winning actor Colin Firth prior to receiving his Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for The King's Speech. In 2012 she hosted a luncheon in association with The Weinstein Company for Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh's film My Week With Marilyn. In July 2014, she hosted a star-studded post-screening party for the film A Long Way Down, starring Pierce Brosnan.

Jean enjoys writing and has had several articles published in Social Life Magazine. She has also written for and been published in Hamptons Magazine and Gotham Magazine. She is passionate about style and fashion, and was featured on the Chic Index and Hamptons Magazine's Best Dressed list (in 2012). She has been featured on the magazine covers of Social Life magazine (August 22, 2014), Resident Magazine (May 2014), Resident Magazine Hamptons Edition (June 2013) and Hampton Sheet (July 2012). In September 2010, New York Magazine, in their article entitled "Who Runs New York?", named Jean as the 4th Most Photographed Person in New York City. Gotham Magazine also named Jean in their "100 Most Powerful New Yorkers" list, describing her as "one of the first ladies of philanthropy".

Jean holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and a BS in physical therapy from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has worked both in public finance and private partnerships on Wall Street. Prior to that, she was a physical therapist at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City. Jean is married to Martin Shafiroff, an investment advisor, and together they have two daughters, Jacqueline and Elizabeth, who share their mother's interest in charitable causes. They reside in New York City and Southampton.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My family and teachers were excellent role models who taught me to care about those less fortunate. They encouraged me to use whatever time and resources I had to try to help those in need.

My first career was as a physical therapist at the inner city St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan. Although I only practiced physical therapy for one year before going back to Columbia University for my MBA, that experience enabled me to see first hand how much others suffered because of poor health and insufficient finances. My travels to Cambodia, China, Argentina and Colombia reinforced my belief that too many people suffer and that I must do whatever possible to improve the lives of others.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as co-founder of the Martin D. Shafiroff & Jean Shafiroff Foundation?
Both my MBA from Columbia and my work on Wall Street taught me the importance of budgeting funds wisely. My education and work experience taught me to review the financial statements of charities, to make sure that they are run properly and to check that they provide funds to the people and programs that actually need them.

In addition to running our Foundation, I am on board of seven charities. As a Board Member of these non-profits, I am a volunteer fundraiser. I also serve in many leadership roles.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Martin D. Shafiroff & Jean Shafiroff Foundation?
The biggest challenge is to choose between charities. I try to get involved with a charity, understand its needs and believe in its cause before the Foundation makes a contribution. There are many wonderful nonprofits so it isn't easy to choose.

What advice can you offer women who are looking to work in the non-profit sector?
My advice is to look for non-profits that are well run and where you believe you can make a difference. Naturally, you will want to work with people that are responsible and kind.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It isn't always easy but I love the volunteer work I do. It brings added meaning to my life. I am most fortunate to be able to do volunteer work and at times involve my daughters so they can also embrace philanthropy. I'm also grateful to have a husband who supports my work and drive.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Pay disparity is probably the biggest issue right now. Women need to be treated equal to men and that includes equal pay.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship is vitally important and I am forever grateful to those who have helped me. It is important to encourage others to take on added responsibilities and teach younger people the skills to move forward. I believe in a team approach, working together and supporting one another to achieve a common goal.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Hillary Clinton has been a great voice for women and has done an excellent job as Secretary of State and as a Senator of NY State. I love Michelle Obama's program to improve the nutrition of young people and her fight against poverty. Although I did not like all of Lady Thatcher's policies she was a forceful leader who helped to carve a better future for England.

What do you want the Martin D. Shafiroff & Jean Shafiroff Foundation to accomplish in the next year?
The Foundation will continue to donate to charities we believe make a difference in people's lives. I also look to how I can personally improve myself as a volunteer, leader, fundraiser and advocate for women's causes, underserved children and the animals of the world.

Popular in the Community