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Time for change on female representation in the Jewish community

Unfortunately diversity is not wanted or welcomed by all. And often those who do not want it, who feel threatened or afraid of change, are at the top end of organisations.

    By J. Howard Miller (1918–2004), artist employed by Westinghouse, poster used by the War Production Co-ordinating Committee, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (via wikipedia commons)

    Six months ago Jewish Care organised a property industry panel event fundraiser and the panel comprised of 15 men. Despite an article here in the JC and indications that Jewish Care understood future panels should include at least some female representation, another all male panel event, a "Young Jewish Care Industry Leaders Property Breakfast" occurred yesterday.

    Oscar Wilde might have said that to do one all male event may be regarded as a misfortune; to do two looks like carelessness. But Wilde would have been a step behind – to do one is careless. To do two comes across as pure indifference.

    All-male events in the Jewish communal world are hardly a rarity. In fact to hear diverse voices – whether that is through gender, orientation, abilities, age, ethnicity or heritage – is not the norm. This is despite organisations such as JW3, which have upheld a commitment to diversity for years and aim for gender balance as much as possible, even when their events incorporate supposedly male dominated industries.

    But unfortunately diversity is not wanted or welcomed by all. And often those who do not want it, who feel threatened or afraid of change, are at the top end of organisations.

    Daniel Carmel-Brown, Jewish Care’s current Director of Fundraising and Marketing and Chief Executive Designate, shows no such fear. He provided the following comment in response to criticisms of the repeated all male panel events:

    “We know that we need to do more to address the gender balance of speaker panels at some of our fundraising events. Our recent Young Jewish Care property events are an example of an area where we can do more to tackle this gender imbalance.”

    It is refreshing to see an organisation own up to making mistakes and addressing how to rectify them in future – not indifferent after all.

    Mr Carmel-Brown also noted that many of Jewish Care’s events recognise or are hosted by women. An example of these is the Woman of Distinction, an award presented to such prominent recipients as Dame Esther Rantzen and Ruby Wax. Of course we should have these events recognising great achievement in our communal repertoire, but why should we hear about or from only the most virtuous women?

    Pushing for diversifying the voices we hear is about normalising the presence of more than one type of person and giving a space on a platform to someone who hasn’t always had it. The status quo inequality means that women already have to work much harder to be heard. By committing to more diverse events, we see women elevated for the same achievements as men and given equal recognition on the same regular basis.

    Mr Carmel-Brown continued to note that Jewish Care employs more women than men, which is unsurprising and typical of an organisation in the care industry and charity sector.

    “The only [gender pay] imbalance is at the top of the organisation, as only one of the six directors is a woman. As the incoming CEO, I am aware that as we inevitably experience some change in the top team this could well create an opportunity for more women to take on leading roles, readdressing the gender balance of the Directorate team.”

    This kind of acknowledgement is brave  - many organisations would try to paint a different picture, make excuses or pave over the existence of a gender pay gap problem. After all, the rest of the organisation shows no signs of gender imbalance. The charity’s 2017 gender pay gap report shows a median result of -0.11 per cent and a mean of 10.47 per cent, below the national average figure. But it’s still there and that means it is still a problem.

    Mr Carmel-Brown is clearly aware of the situation and has plans to make space for change. Others could easily follow the positive example set at the top of this prominent communal organisation, if they admitted they have similar problems in the first place. The strategy is simple:

    Name the problem.

    Claim responsibility for it.

    Change it.

    I look forward to seeing how Jewish Care implements its changes and hope other organisations follow suit.


Jews are BAME too

Abi Symons

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jews are BAME too