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‘Forward’: Jewish Charities Keep Glass Ceiling Intact

Few women in top posts, significant pay gaps

by
Sara Ivry
November 05, 2009

The glass ceiling, regrettably intact at philanthropic institutions across the country, is even harder to break for women at Jewish organizations. That’s according to an alarming story in the Forward, which reports that while three-quarters of the workforce at 75 major Jewish social service agencies, educational and religious institutions, and federations are women, women hold only 11, or roughly 14 percent, of the top positions at the organizations. The discrepancy is worse than the gap that exists among charities generally; the paper cites a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy study that found nearly 19 percent of the nation’s charities are headed by women. What’s more, top women at Jewish organizations earn just 61 cents for every dollar their male counterparts take home—for men the median income is $287,702; for women it’s $175,211.

Speculation varies as to why women generally are so conspicuously absent from leadership posts; some believe it has to do with the fact that women more often than men take off time from their careers to raise families and that they may be less aggressive about professional advancement and pay hikes. But why Jewish organizations seem to demonstrate an even larger gender disparity is unclear. One factor, write Jane Eisner and Devra Ferst, is “what communal insiders describe as the familial, sometimes paternalistic nature of Jewish organizations.” In other words—good old-fashioned, father-knows-best sexism.

Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.

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