Change the Jewish conversation

Doesn’t an all-male roster suggest these are the best presenters?

An all-male roster on a panel or publication usually means that these are the best known presenters or writers. Let’s break this cycle. When we rely on the same speakers time after time, we send the message that there’s nothing new under the sun. Identifying women scholars, intellectuals, rabbis, and leaders will bring a fresh point of view – perhaps less familiar but equally expert in the matter at hand.

How do we “change the criteria” to add more women to public panels?

Be creative. Ask the male expert, “Who else can contribute to this dialogue?” or “Who might bring a new perspective?” Express your desire to make the panel more inclusive and your hope that future events will reflect the organization’s values and goals.

How do we include women when the topic concerns institutional issues where no women serve as leaders, e.g., seminary presidents?

Must the CEO or President be the only organizational representative? For the seminary panel, ask the Provost, Dean, or top professor – here you are likely to find a qualified woman. If your criteria results in an all-male line-up, expand the criteria or category. Adding diverse perspectives, including women, younger people, and a range of leadership roles, makes the conversation richer and more interesting.

Why doesn’t AWP start a speakers’ bureau of women experts?

We have learned that personal recommendations have more credibility than AWP presenting a “binder full of women.” The man who is invited to speak is in the best position to recommend female colleagues to editors and convenors.

What else can men do as allies?

Think strategically. As in most professions, top jobs in the Jewish community are filled via networking and personal recommendations. Suggest a woman for a job opening. Be attentive to gender dynamics on search committees.

Share the spotlight. Bring a female colleague to a high-level meeting or event. People advance professionally by becoming known within larger circles.

Speak up. New ideas need to be repeated many times before being accepted. We also know that ideas raised by women are often overlooked – until a man makes the same point. At meetings, underscore a comment made by your female colleague. You will give credit where credit is due and change the balance of power.

Advocate for improved work-life policy. Formal flexibility and paid parental leave affect women disproportionately, because of their greater caregiving and household responsibilities. When men ask for and utilize these benefits, they demonstrate that women are not the only ones who need and benefit from these policies.