Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

The Role of Women in the American Jewish Establishment

By: Gad Nahshon

Despite the major professional and socioeconomic strides made by Jewish women in the last 30 years, a recent study reveals that women are still significantly under represented on the board of national Jewish organizations.

For the past three years, a study commissioned by Mayan, The Jewish Women's Project of the JCC on the Upper West Side, has surveyed and analyzed the board membership of 48 major American Jewish organizations. One of the survey's major findings was that women comprised only one-quarter of the board members of the organizations studied in 1994.

The ground breaking report, entitled Power and Parity: Women on the Boards of Major American Jewish Organizations, also found that among the 41 "co-ed" organizations studied, only five had female presidents.

On the professional side among the 30 organizations that responded to a survey question on salary, only one had a woman in the highest salaried position. In fact, more than half had no women in their five highest salaried positions -- a remarkable statistic given that two-thirds of the organizations' employees were women.

This Mayan Report is based on research by Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, Dr. Pearl Beck, and Dr. Charles Kadustein. It was supported by Mayan Director Eva Landau and Tamara Cohen. The conclusions:

  1. U.S. organizations with 235 members of boards in 1994 were surveyed. Out of them, only 25% were women (members). 23 organizations had less than 25% female members.

  2. Only 5 females served as presidents out of 41 presidents.

  3. Most organizations do not have females holding high salary positions. Women hold unimportant jobs and therefore do not get high salaries.

  4. "A troubling finding of the study was that full-time employed women -- the fastest growing segment of Jewish women in the United States -- were the least powerful of all board members. Full-time employed women devoted the same amount of time to the organizations most important to them as did full-time employed men."

  5. "Mayan's action plan offers the Jewish community a new way to address the challenges it faces. While the plan focuses on achieving gender parity and enhancing women's leadership, it has the potential to improve the overall quality of lay involvement in organized Jewish life. Identifying ways to make board membership more accessible to women, and especially full-time employed women, will benefit all board members who are increasingly balancing multiple commitments. By gaining an understanding of the dynamics that have limited women's advancement, organizations will be better equipped to provide all board members with the support and training necessary for effective leadership. As organizations begin to restructure their boards, participation can become more meaningful for all board members and more productive for the institutions they serve. Given the crucial role that board members have assumed in the Jewish communal world, these initiatives can have a profound impact on the future of Jewish life." (Power and Parity).

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