Make the Case

Make the case for gender equity and shared leadership

Why is gender equity a Jewish issue?

Justice, equality, and excellence – these are solid Jewish values. We advocate for these values through our communal organizations and elsewhere in the world. Yet the Jewish community, where women represent 80% of the workforce, lacks parity in its leadership. And the salary gap persists.

Family, spirituality, education, culture – our community celebrates these Jewish priorities across the life cycle. Yet many Jewish organizations ignore these priorities when crafting work-life policy. When performance is measured by 24/7 or 24/6 time commitment, women professionals are sidelined because of their greater share of caregiving and household responsibilities.

Shouldn’t we be ahead of the curve instead of lagging behind? Our vision is of a Jewish community where our policies and behaviors align with our values.

Why does the gender gap persist in Jewish life?

Jewish women serve as presidents of universities and foundations and bring their wisdom to the Senate floor and the Supreme Court. So what’s holding women back from leadership in the Jewish community? We see how cultural attitudes can inhibit the pace of change:

We’re one big Jewish family – The family atmosphere permeating more established organizations allows gender stereotypes to flourish. With older men at the top, young women at the entry and middle levels are expected to be “good daughters” who won’t make too many demands.

My invisible accomplishment – All nonprofits cultivate donors and board members. However, in Jewish communal life, collaboration between volunteers and staff is valued more than individual achievement. This makes it hard to create and honor objective performance standards.

We are saving the world – Our organizations feed the hungry, uphold human rights, rescue the vulnerable, and fortify Jewish continuity. Internal needs – talent development, work-life policy, and women’s advancement – are seen as distractions from these mission-driven activities.

Where do we see progress?

Change is on the way! More women are at the helm of Jewish foundations, social service agencies, national publications, spiritual communities, and social justice organizations. Women lead half of the innovative start-ups recognized by Slingshot. More women are being tapped as public intellectuals and thought leaders and awarded major prizes and fellowships. All-male plenaries are becoming the exception. Orthodox women spiritual leaders are transforming everyone’s understanding of our shared Jewish narrative. More than eighty Jewish organizations have changed their workplace policies to offer formal flexibility and paid parental leave.

What’s holding us back?

The conversation about gender equity and shared leadership now starts at a higher level of awareness. Yet the pace is slow in some corners. Men occupy 90% of CEO positions at major national institutions and federations. Executive search processes suffer from gender bias, and there is still a significant pay gap between male and female professionals.

While a growing number of Jewish organizations recognize that intelligent work-life policy contributes to high performance, hundreds of other organizations cling to the belief that “face-time” is the best indicator of professional commitment and that paid parental leave is too costly.

What does success look like?

We envision many more women leading vibrant, influential Jewish organizations. They will advocate for systemic change, rather than waiting for the tide to turn. We expect to see a growing cadre of men who intervene in their organizations and communities on behalf of gender equity and shared leadership. For closing the pay gap, we see the next generation of professionals emerging as strong advocates.

We envision hundreds of Jewish organizations proud of their policies for paid parental leave and formal flexibility. Having achieved this goal, we will influence work-life policy across America, as we did in the early days of the labor movement.

By 2015, we expect to celebrate a new Jewish narrative – refreshed, dynamic, inclusive – at the intersection of gender equity, organizational effectiveness, and social justice.