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We need more women trustees - to make sure our charities are run properly

It's not only for reasons of equality that communal organisations need to encourage more female trustees

    Participants in the Jewish Leadership Council's leadership training programme, Gamechangers, 2014
    Participants in the Jewish Leadership Council's leadership training programme, Gamechangers, 2014

    There is a reason to encourage more women to become trustees of Jewish charities beyond the desire for equality. It makes sense for the community to draw on a wider pool of capable people who can help run its institutions.

    Although the Anglo-Jewish population has declined over the decades – with the exception, of course, of the flourishing Charedi sector – the number of Jewish organisations has not. The increase in Jewish schools, for example, has meant an increase in the need for people to sit on their governing bodies.

    Being a trustee can make considerable demands, particularly with the regulatory requirements of the Charity Commission and others. It is unreasonable to expect the same people to carry the responsibility, year in, year out. So charities need more people to step forward to take their turn.

    Trustees should be active and inquiring (as well as having the self-restraint not to meddle when unnecessary). There is no point in having passengers on trustee boards who are there just to make up the numbers, while an inner clique pulls the strings.

    If you want something done, ask a busy person, goes the old adage. There is a logic to this. Someone with little time to waste may be used to thinking quickly and acting decisively.

    But the converse can be true. Busy people are sometimes too busy; they don’t have the time to know what is really going on inside their organisation or tackle trouble before it tips into crisis.

    A woman in a senior position in the Jewish charity world told me she knew examples of men with an excessive confidence in their abilities who had made the wrong call when it would have been better to have consulted with others and shared the decision-making.

    In order to ensure mobility, some organisations already limit the period an individual can serve as a trustee. While this may not be a viable option for all charities, they should be prepared to rotate their trustees regularly.

    Although some people devote decades to communal service, moving from organisation to organisation until old age and infirmity overtake them, that can hardly be expected of everyone.

    More people may be prepared to serve as a trustee for a short spell, take a break while they focus on job or family, and then return to a communal role later.

    When the Jewish Leadership Council ran its “Gamechangers” programme for young leaders, it chose an equal number of men and women. Charities have a vested interest in widening the net of inclusion if they want to make sure they are governed properly.

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