September 2020 -- Elul 5780-Tishri 5781,  Volume 26, Issue 9

c2020 Shoreline Publishing, Inc.      629 Fifth Avenue, Suite 213, Pelham, NY 10803      P: 914-738-7869

Uncovering the Gender Gap in Top Leadership at Jewish Organizations

Leading Edge, based in New York City, influences and inspires dramatic change in how Jewish organizations attract, develop and retain top talent. They work with all Jewish organizations and are led by Gali Cooks, President and CEO.


In 2019, Leading Edge launched a project to uncover the root causes of the gender gap in top leadership at Jewish organizations. Through building the leadership pipeline for the Jewish nonprofit sector, Leading Edge has found that the Jewish community continues to elevate only certain kinds of leaders. The problems this issue faces are big, complex, and varied.


Building on the groundbreaking work of Shifra Bronznick ( Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community), the SRE ( Safety Respect Equity) Network and others, Leading Edge partnered with The Starfish Institute at 100Kin10 to take a systemic approach toward analyzing the persistent gender gap, recognizing that the sector — like many others — tends to privilege a certain traditionally-white cisgender male model of leadership.


Over several months, Leading Edge gathered the perspectives of nearly 1,000 people from across and beyond the Jewish communal landscape: practitioners, academics, lay leaders, funders, and more. Across many dimensions, the project strove to keep in full view the ways that barriers to top leadership overlap across lines of gender, race, ability, class, and more.


The cumulative findings, about 75 root causes, are organized into five overarching themes. Systems are constantly in motion, and no static representation will be perfect or set, like an ecosystem in the natural world. Leading Edge is committed to continuous improvement and ongoing listening.


The root causes are organized based on five themes: Unsustainable Jobs-- Top leadership jobs are unsustainable for anyone, including cisgender white men; Systems to Diversify—Jewish organizations and the Jewish community at large lack systems and motivation for diversifying their leadership and staff; Jewish Patriarchy—Modern Jewish life is shaped by patriarchal beliefs and traditions; Discrimination—Institutional and interpersonal sexism, racism, transphobia and other forms of discrimination hinder the diversity of top leadership; Deprioritizing the problem—The Jewish community does not prioritize solving the gender gap.


The next phase of this effort is to spot individual root causes to identifying the relationships among them .The final map will pinpoint the subset of root causes that, if solved, are likely to have the biggest impact in addressing the persistent gap in top leadership at Jewish organizations.


This project is supported by the SRE Network, the Genesis Prize Foundation, The Jim Joseph Foundation and the Donald and Carole Chaiken Foundation.


To learn more, go to