The impact of WJL

Nicky Goldman

Executive Director,

Lead, the leadership development division of the JLC

I am delighted to be taking part in the JLC campaign to support International Women’s Day.

IWD is a great opportunity to celebrate the leadership of women in the Jewish community. And there are many. Many who have stepped up to lead, to take responsibility and to make a difference to communal organisations and through them, to peoples’ lives across the Jewish community, the UK and to global projects and priorities. Stepping up to lead is a positive choice for women and for men, either in a lay or professional context in the Jewish community. And we celebrate and thank those who do.

The issue of gender equality in Jewish community leadership has moved forward considerably over the last 6 years. In 2011, the JLC launched a Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership to recommend ways of advancing more women to senior professional and lay roles in the community, chaired by Laura Marks

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/jlc/pages/621/attachments/original/1519220920/Inspiring_Women_Leaders_-_Advancing_Gender_Equality_in_Jewish_Communal_Life.pdf?1519220920 .

The Commission reported in 2012 with a series of recommendations.

Women in Jewish Leadership (WJL) was set up in 2013 to implement the recommendations, chaired by Laura Marks and Norma Brier and supported by the Board of Deputies and the JLC.

WJL delivered a number of critical projects – the Gender Equality Plan led by Dr. Helena Miller and her team, which was piloted in 6 communal organisations;  creation of networks including Aitza (for professional women working outside of the community) and the Women CEOs Forum; mentoring and leadership development programmes (Envision, Leading In), devised and delivered by Lead; and awareness campaigns, including All Male Panels. WJL also helped to create a climate of change, which generated other communal initiatives.

Many of the Commission’s recommendations were implemented and the WJL project was formally concluded in 2017, with the Board of Deputies taking up the issue of gender equality. The final report is linked here https://www.bod.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/WJL-Report-A4-v3-updated.pdf .

WJL did some great work to effect change and there were many notable things about the project itself as a case study:

  • WJL was cross-communal, enabling many of the lay and professional people involved to work together across organisations and denominations to achieve change in this area
  • WJL involved men and women – gender equality is not a women’s issue, it is a community issue. And clearly it is a wider issue that just within our Jewish community. The report, ’Women on Boards’ in 2011 concluded that boards are more effective when led by a diverse group of leaders and which include women in greater numbers.
  • WJL completed its allocated task, celebrated what it had achieved at a reception last June and handed over the mantle to the Board of Deputies to continue the issue of gender equality.

Much was achieved, thanks to the dedication and commitment of many lay and professional leaders and volunteers.

There is still much to do. We have wonderful leaders in the community, female and male. We do need more women to step up, to take responsibility to play their part and to lead this vibrant and vital community. Thank you to all those who already do.