The widow of Steve Jobs has been stepping up her public profile in the two years since the death of the Apple founder, becoming a major player in the world of global philanthropy.
Laurene Powell Jobs has been known as an intensely private person, rarely giving interviews and instead letting her late husband take the spotlight for his technological innovations. But Steve Jobs’ widow has gradually — and tactically — become less private, dipping her toe in the public arena as she pushes an agenda in areas including education, conservation, and nutrition.
Last month Laurene Powell Jobs even gave a television interview, discussion an immigration bill before Congress. Those close to her said it was the beginning of a more public profile in giving.
“She’s been mourning for a year and was grieving for five years before that,” said Larry Brilliant, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and friend of Steve Jobs. “Her life was about her family and Steve, but she is now emerging as a potent force on the world stage, and this is only the beginning.”
Powell Jobs would have some considerable assets at her disposal in her philanthropy. She has a net worth of $9 billion, most of it coming from Apple and Walt Disney stock, making her the richest woman in Silicon Valley and the 13th richest woman in the world.
Others close to Steve Jobs’ widow said she plans to remain mostly quiet in her philanthropy, even as her stature increases. Though Powell Jobs does not have a foundation in Steve’s name, she has increased her role at Emerson Collective, an organization she founded to give out grants and invest in education programs.
“It’s not about getting any public recognition for her giving, it’s to help touch and transform individual lives,” said Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a philanthropist and close friend of Jobs’ widow. “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 1 percent of what she actually does, and that’s the most I can say.”
The widow of Steve Jobs now has a chance to turn around the philanthropic reputation of the late Apple founder, who was criticized for not making large public gifts during his life. There were rumors that he did make major gifts anonymously, including one to a hospital, but it seems Laurene Powell Jobs now has a much more public giving strategy in mind.