GENDER EQUALITY SURVEY: ARE QUOTAS THE ONLY PATH TO CHANGE?


By Commission on W...
May 17, 2012
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The community needs more women leaders – and many believe that our organisations should be held to account to achieve this, a communal survey has shown.

The research, published by the JLC’s Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership (CWJL), reveals a powerful call for change, with 83% of those questioned identifying a need for more women leaders. The CWJL is in the process of drafting recommendations for a final report, due in July.

Approximately one in every three men who responded to the survey was a communal lay leader as opposed to approximately one in every five women, meaning that almost twice as many men as women fill the top posts in Jewish organisations .

More than half of the respondents (56%) supported the introduction of targets, which would oblige organisations to work towards having a specific number of senior posts filled by women. Quotas, a controversial measure which ensures that a certain percentage of posts are filled by women, were supported by more than a third (35%) of those surveyed. Eighty-eight per cent (and 90% of women) believe that women should be able to chair their synagogue board.

More than 1,600 people responded to the survey, which was conducted to understand how British Jews perceive gender equality in communal organisations, to quantify the problem and to collect opinions about and strategies for change. It was distributed to 66 Jewish communal organisations to send out to the public and the SurveyMonkey weblink was shared by hundreds of people across social media.

While three-quarters of the respondents were women, there was little difference between male and female responses – indicating that this is not solely an issue for women. The survey was, geographically and denominationally, broadly in line with the population.

Encouragingly, the survey found that an overwhelming majority of our community is volunteering. Three-quarters (75%) of our sample said they hold voluntary roles in the Jewish community and 32% said they hold one outside the community. However, the results also highlighted some key differences in the voluntary roles carried out by men and women. Across almost all sectors, there are far more women holding the position of sub-committee chair – typically a ‘hands on’ coordination role - than men. By contrast, men were more likely to hold the influencing, decision-making posts of organisational Chair, Vice-Chair, Trustee or Governor. This difference was most pronounced in synagogue bodies and welfare organisations. The only sector to show gender parity was that of arts and cultural organisations.

When questioned on the possible benefits of increased female leadership, 81% of men and 93% of women believed that it would lead to a wider range of role models for young people. Sixty-eight per cent of men thought that Jewish organisations would understand the community better compared with 83% of women who clearly believe this to be essential). Fifty-three per cent of men felt that Jewish organisations might be better run (compared with 68% of women).

However, several issues did divide the genders slightly. When asked what makes a leader, men were more likely than women (9% compared with 5%) to think that ‘being the biggest funder’ was the definition of leadership. One respondent suggested that “until meritocracy replaces the ‘walletocracy’, this will remain a barrier.” Similarly, 7% of men, compared with just 1% of women, felt that men were ‘better leaders than women’, with 11% of men (compared to 6% of women) believing that women leaders ‘tend to be aggressive’.

Strategies for change generated greater consensus, with 80% of respondents believing that educating school children about gender equality would have an impact. Actively recruiting women for senior roles (80%) and the development of leadership programmes (80%) were also strongly supported, with mentoring provision (77%), the setting up of networks (78%) and childcare during meetings (73%) also felt to be helpful strategies.

Commission Chair Laura Marks, founder of Mitzvah Day, suggested that the survey reflected a growing urgency for change:

“It is interesting to see such strong demand for organisational change even though quotas would be an extreme solution. As a first step, we will be encouraging all our communal organisations to demonstrate their commitment to increasing the number of women into leadership positions. Research shows that companies with more women leaders are significantly more effective than those without women on their senior management teams - a more gender-balanced leadership would make our community stronger. Clearly we have to address two issues: supporting women to stand up and take responsibility but also finding ways for our organisations to benefit from the talented women we have in our community.”

Steven Lewis, JLC Trustee supporting the Commission and Chair of Jewish Care:

"This survey is a clear mandate for change. We are working, as a Commission, to develop workable proposals which will benefit our communal organisations by drawing on the wide talent pool of women. We are listening and taking this issue very seriously."

Norma Brier Independent Consultant for the Voluntary Sector and previously Chief Executive of Norwood, said:

“The survey indicates that the community could be so much more effective, across almost all areas, with a better balance of women in leadership roles. It is imperative that we understand why women are under-represented and take positive action to break down the barriers. The ‘do nothing’ alternative would leave a disastrous legacy for our children.”

Leonie Lewis, Director of the Jewish Volunteering Network, said:

“It is fantastic to learn from the Commission survey that three-quarters of our community are involved in volunteering in various ways, but it has also shed light on some inequalities in terms of the roles held by men and women. Men are tending to hold the decision-making posts while women are operating at a more hands-on level. We need to find ways to create more balance in this respect.”

COMMENTS

Lanne

Wed, 05/23/2012 - 14:30

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http://www.change.org/petitions/united-synagogue-allow-women-to-stand-as...

Women should be allowed to stand as chairperson of their shul


Mary in Brighton

Mon, 05/28/2012 - 15:11

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You mean they can't ?


Lanne

Tue, 05/29/2012 - 17:16

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They can't


Advis3r

Tue, 05/29/2012 - 17:58

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An explanation of the Orthodox Jewish objections to women serving on synagogue boards. The objections stem from a mixture of Halacha, or religious law, and tradition. According to halachic authorities, the barring of women from positions of lay leadership is often based on an interpretation by the 12th-century Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides of a biblical verse in the Book of Deuteronomy. In the Mishneh Torah, his extensive work cataloging Jewish religious law, Maimonides cites a passage in which the Israelites are told to appoint a king. He infers from this that, because they are not told to choose a queen, women are banned from positions of communal authority.

Furthermore Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik zt"l cited another consideration, namely serara – the discretionary power to make decisions with which others need to abide. Each Board member has input into decisions made by the committee as a whole; often, however, the president, as the head of the organization, will make on the spot decisions alone. The same is, of course, true for the synagogue rabbi, who is presumably the final word on religious practice in a community. It is true that the rabbi’s contract can be terminated; but until that time, it is his rulings that the community is bidden to follow. This is the kind of discretionary power which Maimonides maintained was forbidden to women.


Lanne

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 15:43

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http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/67729/strong-support-quotas-women-lead...

"Both candidates for US president made manifesto pledges to allow female chairs." The role of Women in society and Judaism is something that can change over time. My dad told me when he was younger girls did not have Batmitzas but now they do. In the past women in society were not leaders (even in the non Jewish world) because that was not societies expectations. Jewish traditions change over time, we do not do things our ancestors did- animal sacrifices and polygamy even though they are spoken about in the Torah.


Advis3r

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 16:28

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Lanne I was only providing an expalanation. Personally I think providing credible and workable solutions for the aguna problem is far more important and pressing than whether this or that synagogue allows a woman to be chairperson of the synagogue committee.


zaheerayin

Wed, 05/30/2012 - 17:14

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If G-d doesn't have our best interests at heart, then what are we to do? G-d tells us loud and clear what is best for us at a particular point in time. He told us what was best for us when we were a stone-age shading off into a bronze-age people. His message for today is loud and clear. It is in our best interests for women to be fully equal and enfranchised in the organisations and institutions of modern civilised countries. If quotas are what it takes, so be it.


Troy

Thu, 05/31/2012 - 10:40

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Advis3r, surely the aguna issue would be prioritised by female leaders?
Male community leaders simply do not see it as being a problem. Where they want to get around aguna issues they move heaven and earth to do so, with the political and social power to enforce their desires. When the disenfranchised woman wants freedom then they lack the support to win it.

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