What Does IBM know that Federations Don’t?

by Karen Berman

In the Jewish world, emphasis is placed on Tikkun Olam – repairing injustices. Our texts speak of being equal in the eyes of God. And yet, female CEOs earn only 62 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The latest salary survey published by The Jewish Daily Forward shows that the Jewish communal world continues to “lag dramatically” behind the overall not-for-profit community, with only 9 out of 76 national organizations being led by women professionals.

This is not new news. In 2009, 11 of these national organizations had women leaders. Instead of making progress, we are regressing. What continues to shock me, however, is the continued acceptance of the Jewish community of this appalling trend.

Our organizations – the very ones focused on human rights, social injustice, and equal access – are not applying the same principles to their hiring and promoting practices. While of course women as a whole are suffering, it is the organizations themselves that are truly at risk. In a time when there is a dearth of skilled management, 50% of the potential talent pool is shut out of the top jobs.

And it is an external, strategic issue as well. According to Forbes, women now control more than half of the private wealth in America. Within a generation, women will inherit 70% of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth. On average, women give nearly twice the percentage of their income to charity than men do. Excluding women from top positions gives the message the Jewish communal world does not value women or their opinions; that that don’t have an equal seat at the table. This is not a message that not for profit organizations want to convey to those who are making the majority of the funding decisions.

To be sure, many people will tell you that there are not enough qualified women in the applicant pool. And yet, Jewish women have greater representation as Presidents of Ivy League universities than they do as leaders of Jewish national organizations. People will also say that for life style reasons, women don’t want the head job; however, nearly 70% of the employees of these organizations are female. Surely a good percentage of them are putting in as many hours in middle management as their leadership logs in the CEO suite.

Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community, an organization created to address this very issue, has made some progress by intensifying the focus on the inequities women face in Jewish communal workplace. It has engaged both women and men in the dialogue, published reports, and created specific programs designed to improve quality of work life for all, close the salary gap and increase the visibility of women as thought leaders. However, the numbers show we have a long way to go.

All is not hopeless. There are many qualified women who can effective lead our organizations. But this is not a women’s issue, it is a Jewish communal issue. Those who have the ability to shape framework of our organizations must understand, embrace and prioritize this challenge. Until we as a community understand that securing our organizations for the future is just as important as the mission driven work we perform, nothing will change.

Karen Berman is the Executive Director of Youth Renewal Fund. She is also the President of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City.