Sisterhood Blog

How to Hire More Female Federation Leaders

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share

Journalist Haviv Rettig Gur recently noted in ejewishphilanthropy.com that just two of the 19 largest Jewish federations in North America are headed by women.

This is worth highlighting, particularly as the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly gets down to business today in Baltimore (it runs through November 13). The presently dismal rate of hiring women at the top of large Jewish federations “paint[s] a picture of an institution out of touch with some of the key trends in today’s Jewish world,” Rettig Gur writes.

The issue in the organized Jewish world is not limited to federations, of course. In the most recent of its annual surveys of compensation in 76 national Jewish organizations, The Forward found “a picture of communal stagnation in gender equality, as the number of women in leadership roles remains at the same low level, and the gap between male and female salaries has grown even larger.”

That there are even two women heading the largest federations is a recent development. San Francisco’s federation appointed the first woman to head one of the “big 19” in 2010, and Montreal’s hired a woman at its helm last year.

To be sure, 48 out of North America’s 155 federations are run by women, though “the percentage drops precipitously when it comes to the large federations which raise and manage the lion’s share of the federation world’s funds,” he notes.

There are indicators, however incremental, that things are changing for the better. The JFNA and UJA-Federation of New York have adopted parental leave (paid or not is unclear in Rettig Gur’s piece, though it is a salient question) and now permit flexible work arrangements, two factors which will likely make it easier to attract and retain women to management positions.

And visibility for women in the federation system has grown, if the fact that about 40% of speakers and panelists at the current GA are women is any indication.

Through its campaign to make leaders more aware of the dearth of women invited to participate in panel discussions, the organization Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community has created a shift. Central to that initiative has been getting men on board by having key male allies decline invitations to speak until there are women on the panel.

The same thing has to happen on the larger issue of women at the helm of the largest federations and other Jewish organizations. Until men — male board members and professional staff — demonstrate a commitment to making change, nothing will markedly improve.

Much is at stake. As Rettig Gur wrote, “At the end of the day, whether federations can enable women to become leaders will speak volumes about their viability as institutions in the coming years.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, jfna, jewish women, jewish federation of north america, haviv rettig gur, debra nussbaum cohen, women

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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.