From One Woman to Another

JWI is cultivating the next generation of women leaders.

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Five years ago, the Young Women’s Leadership Network was established in memory of Sondra D. Bender, an inspiring community leader, who dedicated her life to the spectrum of causes within the Jewish communal world. The dream was to create a pipeline of future women leaders, women much like Sondra, who would leave the world and their community better.

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The fit was natural. JWI has as its most valuable resource a wealth of women role models. For each of the past 17 years, JWI has recognized 10 incredible women from a diversity of professions – scientists, politicians, CEOs, entrepreneurs, writers – 170 women at the pinnacle of their respective fields. We asked ourselves, what if we were able to take those women and put them in front of young women, women in their 20s and 30s, who were just starting their careers? What if we not only connected two generations, but also built a community of peers in the process? Creating opportunities for them to add their voices to issues they care about? Literally pulling up a seat at every table for a young woman eager to lead? What kind of women would it attract?

Five years later, we know what that dream becomes. It becomes the Young Women’s Leadership Network. 

Something powerful happens when women get together. Together, we build communities, create change, and support one another so that individually we become our best selves. This is the power that fuels JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network. 

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Led by National Manager Sasha Altschuler, the Young Women’s Leadership Network brings together young women in D.C., New York, Denver, and L.A. (launched this spring with support from the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund) for monthly workshops with accomplished Jewish women role models. The Network’s four local boards help create close to 50 events each year for more than 1,000 young women. Events cover the spectrum from career advice from Google staff to entrepreneurial inspiration from an attorney-turned-bakery owner. And each spring, members of the local boards come together for a retreat to share best practices, deepen friendships, and create a national network.

This past year, following the excitement of JWI’s Vote Like A Girl initiative, each Network held a series of advocacy workshops. These culminated in the Network’s first ever national advocacy day. Close to 100 young women from across the country participated in meetings on Capitol Hill with representatives and senators from both parties to talk about pay equity, gun violence, and safe campuses. For many, this was the first time meeting with legislators and feeling the power of their collective voice.

But whether the young women are advocating for change, learning how to negotiate a higher salary, or baking challah, they are building a large and engaged community of leaders. 

The highlight of the Network's year is the Young Women’s Leadership Conference, held the day before JWI’s Women to Watch gala luncheon and sponsored by the Sondra D. Bender Leadership Institute at JWI. Hundreds of young women spend a day learning with and from other women. “It’s incredible how one afternoon can change your life for the better. This was not your average women’s conference; this was five hours that opened my eyes to endless opportunities not only for myself, but also for all the Jewish women around me,” wrote Alyce Blum, a member of JWI’s Denver Network board, who attended last year.

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The Young Women’s Leadership Conference offers Jewish women in their 20s and 30s the opportunity to attend panel discussions, workshops, and small group networking sessions with current and former Women to Watch honorees. Like the Women to Watch Up Close & Personal Symposium, the Conference begins with a panel of accomplished women role models in a moderated conversation covering a range of timely topics. Last year’s panel shared thoughts on how young women can ready themselves to be the voices of the future and a voice for our community. 

Following the panel, attendees select two breakout sessions, each featuring a panel of amazing women mentors sharing both personal and professional advice from their years of experience. A "speed networking" session follows, allowing the young women to travel in more intimate groups to speak personally to the mentors. The day ends with an informal wine, cheese, and dessert reception – a perfect end to a perfect day.

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This day of connection for both generations of women inspired JWI to create an ongoing 1-On-1 mentorship program, connecting young women at the beginning of their careers with women who can serve as role models and mentors. JWI will open applications for the second cohort of mentors and mentees at the conference. Mentees are chosen based on the available mentors, as special attention is paid to thoughtfully pairing role models with experience that directly relates to the mentee’s field. While the conference and monthly workshops are open to all Jewish women in their 20s and 30s, the 1-On-1 Mentorship program is only available to members of the Young Women’s Leadership Network.

We hope you'll join us at the most inspiring conference of the year: From generation to generation, experience what happens when women learn from and with each other. To register go to jwi.org/ywlc. Email Sasha at saltschuler@jwi.org to learn more.