Sisterhood Blog

Male-Only Economics Conference Raises Difficult Questions

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

What if you were a woman entering a business conference in order to hear speeches the mayor of a city, a government finance minister and the CEO of a major bank, but were turned away at the door because you were female and the audience was limited only to men “for modesty reasons”? One might expect such a thing to happen in Saudi Arabia or Iran. But it happened last week in Jerusalem.

Women expressed anger, frustration and disgust after they were barred from entering a “management forum” held by ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Keinan were among those speaking at the conference.

It wasn’t only secular women — but also Orthodox businesswomen — who were turned away, and complained about the treatment. One told Ynet that it was “humiliating and incomprehensible.” The event was not advertised or promoted as an exclusively single-sex affair.

The organizers of the conference defended itself by saying that the event “was a private function for a public with certain values,” and pointed out that the newspaper also held women-only conferences.

Much of the criticism centered around the fact that the building was co-owned by the Jerusalem municipality and the Jewish Agency. With gender segregation a hot-button issue in Jerusalem, with ongoing controversy over separating genders on public buses and even on the streets in Haredi neighborhoods, criticism was hurled at the city for allowing this event to take place on public property.

The municipality issued a statement saying, “We see nothing wrong with a private Haredi body renting an auditorium in the city for a private function, matching the needs of its target audience in its nature. Our inquiry revealed that this was a private and closed event of Hamodia newspaper for Haredi institution managers. The newspaper rented the auditorium, and the only people allowed to enter were those invited by the newspaper. Officials who were not invited were not allowed in, regardless of whether they were men or women.”

So if the conference hadn’t been held in a publicly owned facility — and the fact that it was limited to men made clear from the outset — would banning women have been acceptable? Should the public officials have accepted their invitations to speak? If ultra-Orthodox executives uncomfortable networking with women aren’t going to attend mainstream conferences, should they be barred from holding their own privately sponsored sex-segregated events? If so, should comparable women-only events also be outlawed?

While it’s clear that this particular instance was flawed and problematic, the overall question of whether business events aimed at a sector that accepts gender segregation should be permitted to discriminate on the basis of gender isn’t so simple.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yuval Steinitz, Nir Barkat, Hamodia, Haredi, Gender Segregation, Economics, Business

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.