Private bankers believe they aren't giving enough attention to wealthy female investors.

That's why Kathleen Brown, a BankAmerica senior vice president and former California state treasurer, founded the Women's Banking Initiative for the San Francisco-based banking company.

The program - to be launched sometime in 1996 - consists of a group of BankAmerica investment managers who will be working exclusively with female private-banking clients.

But some women aren't waiting for bankers to come calling.

Take Tracy Gary. The heiress to a family fortune has become a Pied Piper to wealthy women who want to take control of their finances. In 1982, she founded Resourceful Women, a San Francisco-based educational support group that stages meetings for wealthy women on topics ranging from picking the right attorney to choosing the appropriate mutual fund.

"I've gained the reputation of the Dr. Ruth of money because I've encouraged women to ask questions," Ms. Gary said.

In the last 13 years, Resourceful Women - incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1990 - has run more than 375 programs. It now has a five- year plan to expand its program offerings and is building a $1 million endowment to support itself.

Over 2,000 women have attended Resourceful Women's programs to learn more about investment management - whether they have inherited their money or earned it.

"They are very tired of being discounted by their families as women who do not and will not understand," Ms. Gary said.

Ms. Gary was compelled to do something for other wealthy women after a disturbing encounter with a trust officer.

At age 20, she learned that a "couple million dollars" was left in trust to her.

Before meeting with the bank trust officer who was administering her assets, Ms. Gary worked with a college finance professor to make a list of questions about investment and trust management.

The trust officer listened to her questions, but he promptly directed the answers to her brother.

"It was explicitly stated to me that I didn't have to worry my pretty little head," Ms. Gary said.

Twenty-five years later, women are less likely to be treated this way by investment professionals.

While Ms. Gary's organization is not for profit, Ms. Brown's program at BankAmerica is meant to draw assets and fees into the banking company.

The initiative will provide educational training in personal finance for women entrepreneurs. It will also give them lines of credit, loans, and credit cards for their businesses.

Observing that women often outlive their husbands and that 47% of first marriages end in divorce, Ms. Brown concludes that most women inevitably have to face the challenges of investment.

"And since women typically make 70 cents for every dollar men do, they end up having a much lower base for their retirement," Ms. Brown said.

The initiative is intended to give women a handle on investments before they retire, she said.

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