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Gender Equity in Leadership

Most people working at Jewish nonprofits are women. But most CEOs of Jewish nonprofits—especially at the largest organizations—are men. We're working to change that.

Our community – and the broader world it influences – needs the talent of all of its members to thrive. Yet the Jewish community’s leadership is not drawn from the full range of its people, denying us the brilliance, vision, and dedication of so many.  A more representative set of leaders would be better able to understand and serve the entire Jewish community.

In 2019, Leading Edge launched an ambitious process to uncover the root causes of the gender gap in top leadership at Jewish organizations.

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Research Process

In this exploration, Leading Edge partnered with The Starfish Institute, an organization that has developed a methodology for applying network science to understanding complex social problems at a systemic level.

Together, over the course of 18 months, we engaged over 1,200 people to define as many distinct causes of the persistent gender gap in top leadership at Jewish nonprofit organizations as we could identify. We then mapped how those causes likely interact with one another as an ecosystem. Our process included reviewing relevant literature, conducting in-depth expert interviews, convening half-day workshops and peer-led listening sessions, fielding surveys, a crowd-sourced computer game, uncovering positive deviants (bright spots where things are going well), and more. To understand our research process in detail, see this document for a full explanation of the methodology.

The Five Keystones

Our analysis reveals five keystones to solving the gender gap in top leadership at Jewish nonprofits. “Keystones” are the causes with the most potential to make an outsized impact across the whole system. Each keystone cause implies a keystone opportunity to discuss, test, evaluate, and implement solutions.

Keystone 1

Cause: Boards, funders, and others in power don’t always hold Jewish organizations accountable for addressing the diversity of their top leadership.
Opportunity: Boards, funders, and other powerful stakeholders can hold Jewish organizations accountable and incentivize them to elevate diverse leadership teams.

Keystone 2

Cause: Many Jewish organizations have no talent strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Opportunity: Jewish nonprofit organizations can implement talent strategies to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Keystone 3

Cause: Some members of search committees and boards hold biases about what makes a qualified leader.
Opportunity: Search committees, and the boards that appoint them, can implement processes to ensure that the work of the search committee is professional, equitable, and fair and that the most qualified candidate is chosen for the role.

Keystone 4

Cause: There is a perception that you cannot be both a top leader and a primary caregiver.
Opportunity: Community members can work actively to shift our cultural assumptions about the capacity to be a leader and a primary caregiver at the same time.

Keystone 5

Cause: Not enough men speak out about or prioritize addressing the gender gap in top leadership.
Opportunity: Institutions can give men the knowledge, support, and incentives to speak out and address the gender gap in leadership (and DEI more broadly).
  • Do you have a bright spot or action step you want to share?

    Write to us at gender.equity@leadingedge.org.

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