Lift As You Rise

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by Meredith Jacobs, JWI COO

This summer, when 92-year-old JWI member June Robbins was honored at a national event celebrating the legacy of “Rosie the Riveters,” she told me, “JWI taught me how to speak in public.” Robbins was 17 years old when she filled in for the men who had gone off to war by working for the Navy as a mechanical draftsman. Years later, when she was a young woman, she attended a JWI women’s leadership convention and participated in a public speaking workshop. It was there that Robbins learned, “Don’t let anything get in your way.” She explained that “because of JWI, I have the confidence to speak to anyone, anywhere.

I was struck by how familiar her story felt – how decades later, JWI is still creating safe and encouraging spaces for women to advance their leadership skills.

Our work around women’s leadership is the umbrella under which all of our work finds shelter. Women in leadership drive policy and culture change that impacts our workplaces, homes, and communities – creating environments in which all women can lead safe and healthy lives.

This last year, JWI has worked tirelessly to expand our women’s leadership offerings. Our Young Women’s Leadership Network, engaging thousands of young women across the country, just launched in San Francisco – our sixth city. And we are continuing to create more opportunities, connecting these young professionals with mentors, formalizing financial literacy workshops, providing governance training for young board members, and fortifying the foundation that will support further national expansion.

We are excited to announce a new international partnership: In early 2019, JWI was invited by Masa Israel to spearhead the women’s leadership training cohort for its year-long Israel program for young professionals. Sessions will focus on Jewish women’s leadership, pay equity and safe workplaces, physical and mental wellness, and civic engagement and advocacy. Upon completion of the program in Israel, graduates will become active members of our Young Women’s Leadership Network.

Our leadership training is expanding from young women at the beginning of their careers to women at senior levels. We are creating a network for our former honorees in our Women to Watch Leadership Circle – accelerating collaboration, peer-networking, and learning at the highest levels. And, stay tuned for a new JWI community that will invite all women to join us in a variety of virtual and in-person experiences.

Our new Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project is addressing the disparity of women leading Jewish communal organizations. While women make up 90% of staff, very few serve as CEOs or executive directors of our largest and most influential Jewish organizations. Considering the ages of current executives, more than 75% of Jewish organizations are projected to transition leadership within the next five years. JWI is jumping on this unique opportunity to offer training and experiences to help women at senior levels get hired for top spots. Participants will learn from JWI's Women to Watch honorees, as well as representatives from a top national search firm, leadership coaches, and the editor-in-chief of Moment magazine.

At the core of our work is the understanding that we must lift as we rise, and therefore, at all levels of our leadership trainings – from college students to women at the pinnacle of their careers – is a call to women to mentor those who come after, to create workplaces that are safe and equitable, to empower others with financial literacy, and to advocate for legislation and workplace policies that help all women and girls thrive.

For more than 120 years, this has been our call to action: Amplifying the voices of women and positioning them to succeed. Building generations of women leaders is our enduring impact.