Young Women’s Leadership Network: A look back at 2018

by Sasha Altschuler, Young Women’s Leadership Network National Manager

Being a young professional can be hard. How do you make friends or find a community? Find a job you’re passionate about? Make professional contacts? What if you want to switch industries?

One thing that makes it easier: The Young Women’s Leadership Network.

This is what the Young Women’s Leadership Network is all about: Providing a warm smile, talking to the new person who just walked in the room and is a bit nervous, learning to promote yourself and your achievements to a total stranger who will lift you up and ask further questions. The Network is about finding a community that makes you feel safe and supported, and helps you thrive.

It’s also about finding your voice – through a leadership position on one of our volunteer boards, planning a philanthropic program, attending our annual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, or writing for JWI’s blog. I’ve had young women tell me that the Network is the first and only place where they’ve felt like they could stand up, take control of a room, moderate a panel, run a board meeting, or speak their mind on an issue that matters to them. The Young Women’s Leadership Network helps young women find their voice, and use it to make positive change in the community.

Our members are empowered to make the Network their own. One young woman mentioned that she wanted to see more events focused on women in policy, so we organized an event on Capitol Hill with 150 young women, five inspiring speakers, and three members of Congress. In response to the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh, Network members brought leaders from different faith communities together to discuss ways to work together to end violence. All five Networks – Chicago, D.C., Denver, L.A., and New York – went above and beyond in 2018 to think of the most creative, engaging, and unique programming that would benefit their communities.

In 2018, I’m proud that we:

  • Hosted the largest Young Women’s Leadership Conference to date with over 250 attendees.

  • Brought hundreds of young women to Capitol Hill for Advocacy Day and DC’s Women in Policy event

  • Created events from designing your professional brand, to navigating your Judaism, to achieving the #girlboss status, to becoming financially fearless, to baking challah with Holocaust survivors, to bringing in Shabbat with your JWI community, to supporting philanthropic initiatives that create change.

  • Launched the Chicago Network (bringing us to FIVE thriving Networks around the country!)

  • Hosted the inaugural Women to Watch Colorado with over 150 members of the Denver community.

  • Engaged 52 local board members under age 35, ensuring they have a seat at the table. 

  • Facilitated the second cohort of JWI’s 1-on-1 Mentorship Program.

Perhaps my favorite day of the year is the Young Women’s Leadership Conference. I love how every year it gets bigger and better in the way it inspires and emboldens everyone who attends to grow. So, for my “Looking back at 2018” letter, I thought I’d share with you some of the notes we’ve received from members around the country:

“Now that I’ve been to my second YWLC, it’s become a cornerstone and highlight of my year. I didn’t grow up necessarily surrounded with career female role models. I’ve been motivated and moved by what I’ve learned. This year was incredible – in getting to hear from women in all different fields and at different stages of life, it inspires me to keep working toward who I want to be when I “grow up.” More than the sum of its parts, I was unable to expect how empowered and emotionally moved (yeah, I mean tears!) I’d be after a day chock-full of learning, networking, and meaningful conversations. More than just professional development, it was an exercise in wellness and self-love. Being surrounded by Jewish women, women who I could see myself becoming, made it that much better. This network, these women, and this organization have given me more than I’d ever expected, in an incredibly short amount of time. I can’t wait for next year, and for many years of future involvement with JWI! 

– Marina Rostein, Washington D.C.

“The conference opened my eyes to the number of powerful women who are supporting one another and lifting each other up. I learned the value of "building my own board of directors" and the importance of having individuals from different fields to help promote creative thinking throughout my career. The solidarity of being in a room with 250 other Jewish women within my age group inspired me to be looking at these women as movers and shakers in their fields. I walked away feeling inspired to journal more frequently, find my personal board of directors, and to make sure I am empowering other women around me on a daily basis”

- Melanie Studnicka, Chicago

“Being a part of JWI's Young Women's Leadership Conference was incredible– not only did I have the opportunity to hear from inspiring female leaders from a wide-range of industries, but I met young professionals like me, navigating the uncertainty of our future careers. The energy in every room was contagious and made me want to go back to Los Angeles and get to work in my network. I feel lucky to have found an organization like JWI that promotes and works for all women, and am grateful for the network of supporters that make it possible”

- Naomi Rich, Los Angeles

“Over the past few years, I’ve attended numerous women’s leadership events and conferences, but this year was my first YWLN conference, and was by far the most accessible, enjoyable and worthwhile event I’ve participated in. The opportunity to connect with other young Jewish women was great, and hearing from female leaders who have built amazing careers and who were eager to share their experiences was a great benefit as I build my own career. The theme from the conference that stuck with me most was that these women were ordinary people who had carved extraordinary paths for themselves — a truth that made the conference meaningful and tangible, and demonstrated the potential success I can build for myself. The YWLN conference inspired me to get more involved with JWI and stay connected with this empowering community. 

– Mollie Bowman, Washington D.C.

Can’t wait to see what we do in 2019!