There are not enough women working in business — and “certainly not enough Jewish women”.
So says Amy Woolf, a senior human resources officer for KPMG, the City financial services giant.
According to Ms Woolf, recruiting women to high-powered positions is “a big issue that we have to tackle”, and the task is “even harder within the parameters of the Jewish religion”.
Ms Woolf, who is the head of the company’s staff Jewish Society, was speaking ahead of the launch of the Union of Jewish Students’ Women’s Network, which kicked off with an event, held at KPMG’s Canary Wharf headquarters.
The network aims to give women a louder voice on campus, and promote opportunities for them in the job market.
At the launch, more than 60 students met City professionals and signed up for a mentoring scheme that would partner them with women working in the Square Mile.
Advice came from a panel consisting of Board of Deputies vice-president Laura Marks; KPMG partner Roberta Carter; Labour MP Louise Ellman; HSBC consultant Lisa Saper and lawyer Helena Nathanson of legal firm Reed Smith.
They agreed that, when it comes to occupying influential positions, Jewish women are sidelined both in the workplace, and in the Jewish community.
Ms Marks, who is also co-chair of Women in Jewish Leadership, rejected the notion that women underachieve because they focus more on looking after family. Citing Ella Rose, the newly elected head of the UJS, she said: “She is only the fourth woman president in 40 years. None of them ever had children. This is much more complicated.
“Are Jewish women disadvantaged in the Jewish community? Massively. Should we opt out of it? Definitely not. We have to work towards leading the community. The only way forward is collectively.”
The Women’s Network was conceived two years ago, after a motion at the UJS conference called for more representation for groups such as female, disabled, and lesbian and gay students.
Chair of the network Melissa Leigh said the group could motivate female students by “showing them that there are amazing Jewish women out there who we can take inspiration from”.
She added: “I went to a panel discussion at Limmud recently. It was an all-male panel of representatives from various youth movements. A young person in the audience actually put their hand up and asked why there were no women on the panel. It really showed the attitude of our generation.
“We’re starting to hear women’s voices more and I think the women’s network is integral to this.”
Roberta Carter, KPMG’s only Jewish, female partner, said: “Gender diversity across the workplace is not only an important social issue, but also a business issue.”