Board of Deputies to integrate work on women in the community following completion of Women in Jewish Leadership project

Women in Jewish Leadership was established in order to examine and improve gender equality across the Jewish community. Following its initial findings, WJL made a number of key recommendations which were followed up by a variety of highly successful initiatives and pilot projects aimed at tackling the problem of gender inequality in the community.

After six years of working to embed the need for change and successfully demonstrating the target areas within communal organisations, WJL is delighted that the Board of Deputies has stepped forward to continue this important work. The Board is centrally and strategically ideally positioned to highlight and tackle the issues that affect women in the Jewish community and it has committed itself to the ongoing improvement of gender equality.

Women in Jewish Leadership was set up in 2013, following on from the recommendations of the JLC’s Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership in 2011.  It was initially funded by both the Board of Deputies and the JLC, and from 2014 onwards, by the Board of Deputies alone.

It tackled areas in which gender inequality remains a concern and established several pioneering pilot projects and initiatives that would support the improvement, especially at senior levels of leadership. These have included:

  • Improving levels of widespread gender inequality within communal organisations by establishing  a Gender Equality Plan, led by Dr Helena Miller, piloted in six major communal organisations. These were very positively reviewed and resulted in substantial changes being made within most of  the organisations aimed at increasing the number of women being attracted and recruited
  • Providing networking, support, and specific training and development opportunities for Jewish professional women both inside and outside the community working alongside Lead, part of the JLC and led by Nicky Goldman.  During this time Lead pioneered Envision, a bespoke women’s leadership programme and developed mentoring and skills training programmes.
  • Setting up networks of women to support one another.
  • Leading campaigns such as the All Male Panel campaign to highlight issues relating to gender inequality which are rarely highlighted.

WJL continued its remit beyond its original advisory role, in order to initiate these changes and establish a firm basis from which to develop further improvements.  There has already been a steady transition of work into the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has been funding the initiative for the past three years. Incorporating this vital work fully into the organisation will ensure that the progress made continues and that it remains sustainable and suitably resourced.

The Board of Deputies intends to support networking and mentoring work for women, to campaign to increase the number of female Deputies and to run women’s events and initiatives, including looking at new ways to promote gender equality in the community.

Women in Jewish Leadership and the Board of Deputies extend tremendous thanks to all those who have volunteered and contributed to Women in Jewish Leadership over the past four years, and will be celebrating their contributions at an event in March, which will also launch a report reviewing their progress.

Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said, “We are delighted that the Women in Jewish Leadership project has grown to such significance that it is to reside at the heart of the community at the Board of Deputies. Such an important issue belongs right in the core of the community’s infrastructure and that is where it will be. I pay enormous tribute to co-chairs Laura Marks OBE and Norma Brier OBE, and the whole Women in Jewish Leadership team, for their tremendous efforts and contributions over the last few years.”

Laura Marks, co-chair of Women in Jewish Leadership said, “It has been an intense journey over the last few years and we have achieved so much of what was set out in the Commission’s recommendations for change.  However, there is still a long way to go. Norma Brier, my co-chair, and I are pleased that the Board of Deputies has agreed to take on this communal challenge and continue to move it forward with new vigour and ideas. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the women (and some very supportive men) who have devoted their time and expertise to this project particularly the invaluable team of volunteers”.

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