Judith Flacks, Head of Campaigns at the JLC
The JLC launched a campaign last week to mark International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2018. The theme of IWD this year is “press for progress”, so we decided to take a closer look at the ways in which the women in our community are pressing for progress in a whole range of ways.
Some women are doing just that through education, others are getting involved in their synagogues, some are trailblazing on leadership development, and others are asking the right kind of questions about flexible working, maternity leave and family support.
There are so many initiatives and activities happening around us that we sometimes forget that they all have people driving them, running them, organising them, working on them; those projects all have leadership, and that broadly defined leadership is full of strong female figures.
The JLC campaign includes contributions from Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Reform Movement; Laura Marks, Founder of Mitzvah Day; Naomi Dickson, Chief Executive of Jewish Women’s Aid; Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies; Nicky Goldman, Chief Executive of Lead, Michelle Mitchell, Head of Major Giving at World Jewish Relief; Shelley Marsh, Executive Director of Reshet; Debbie Sheldon, Chief Executive of Work Avenue; Sharon Bannister, President of the Manchester Jewish Representative Council; Lyn Julius, co-founder of Harif; Joanne Greenaway from the London Beth Din; and many more. In fact, we were spoiled for choice of contributors to fill the two-week campaign.
This is the first campaign of its kind within the Jewish community which has gathered contributions from women who vary in their leadership positions, are diverse in their backgrounds and women who have offered different messages on what they believe pressing for progress is for them.
Meghan Markle said in an interview last week that “Women don’t need to find a voice: they have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen”.
I believe that the UK Jewish community is actually very good at empowering its women. There are lots of women who work for and volunteer in Jewish organisations and spaces who are confident, willing and capable of using their voices. We have leadership development programmes for students, professionals, and lay leadership, we encourage our youth early on to step up their responsibilities, and for the most part, we do try to encourage women in our community to have a voice.
But do we listen to them when they speaking in meetings or are they being spoken over and spoken for? Do we listen when women tell us they need flexible working because of care responsibilities? Do we give women the same opportunities as men? Amongst many issues that are frequently (or possibly not frequently) raised, we have to get better at listening and acting on what will make our communal spaces and workplaces fairer and more open to all.
The JLC campaign features some of the many women working and living in the Jewish community who are pressing for progress. They are doing good work, and leading our community in ways that are not always recognised. Women have voices, they are using them, we now need to make sure we are listening.