US/World News

Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped promote female leadership in Jewish institutions

(JTA) – About two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the Genesis Prize Foundation gave out $3.5 million for gender equity initiatives in her honor. One of the Ginsburg grants has now borne fruit with the release of a report on why there are relatively few female leaders in Jewish institutions – and how to fix the problem. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Ginsburg reviewed the grants and upon learning about the planned report shook her head, appalled that Jewish organizations were still struggling with a gender gap in leadership.  “[Ginsburg’s] attitude was almost: ‘We’re still doing this?’” Jill Smith, a Genesis Prize official who was with Ginsburg for the review, said in an interview with The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The organization that went on to do the study is called Leading Edge. Founded in 2014, Leading Edge advises Jewish nonprofits on how to retain employees and foster their development into leaders. In this instance, the group’s focus was on gender, and it found signs that women are gaining more representation on boards and in executive offices. Women now lead nearly half of all Jewish federations, according to the study, which also noted that high-profile executive openings at the JDC and the Jewish Theological Seminary were filled by women last year. But overall, the survey found, women still tend to run smaller nonprofits and programs. Most Jewish summer camps are run by men, as are nearly two-thirds of Jewish community centers and all but one of the 17 federations serving large metropolitan areas.  The gender gap in leadership is a problem for the wider nonprofit world, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and evangelical Christian organizations tend to have a larger imbalance than Jewish ones. 

The report says that existing leaders should make gender diversity a priority in recruiting new leaders, and that overall staffing practices should incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.  The report, which looked at gender from a binary prism, acknowledged trans and nonbinary identities in a footnote and called for further studies.

Main Photo: Ruth Bader Ginsburg receives the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award in Tel Aviv in 2018. The Supreme Court justice is flanked by Stan Polovets, right, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, and Aharon Barak, left, former president of Israel’s Supreme Court. (Lens Productions/GPF)

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