Jewfem Blog

“Balance and Business: Integrating spiritual ideas with your professional life”

"Balance and Business: Integrating spiritual ideas with your professional life" was the title of a workshop I gave last week with Elana Rozenman's Professional Women's Networking group SuccessWorks. It was a fabulous group of professional working women in a variety of fields who shared experiences and ideas about maintaining our own spiritual balance in our professional identities. Elana Rozenman has been a leader in the field of women's professional empowerment in Israel, and it was a privilege for me to be invited to address this group and talk about these important issues. Miriam Simon was kind enough to take some notes, and Sharon Altschul took photos, so I'm sharing some of those here.  What throws us off balance? TrustSafetyDignityPersonal PowerAbuse/Attacking/ Violence – screaming, shamingFairness/JusticeFear of Security, Self Worth, Money, RespectBasic Needs Not Being MetSupporting SelfToxic EnvironmentFear of Mistakes These fears flash through our brain all the time, even just for seconds. There are fears that should call us to action, like when you see someone being shamed. There are fears that can turn into opportunities, like leaving a toxic work environment to find a better job. When we have events throw us off balance, not only look at it from a lens of fears but from what it does from our whole world view – what is my life and how I want to live my life – to quit, become freelance, to sue, to stop a meeting. Working as a spiritual quest. Five spiritual principles.  1. Dignity. Create working lives that value our and others dignity so the environment is one we can trust. Trust can build a dignified environment. 2. Diversity/complexity. We're diverse people within ourselves. Welcome that we wear lots of hats. It's ok to be more than one thing. Making space for our own complexities and in an environment where it's not expected that everyone is the same.  3. Balance between give and take. Give service/time and receive payment but suddenly it's off. In our culture women are trained to give and men are trained to take which is why women find it hard to ask for what they are worth. Balance between give and take is important.  4. Alighment. What we're doing fits in to our sense of purpose in this world. Does your work feel like work that matches what you believe in – a sense of alignment.  5. Joy. We should be happy in our work environment. If you really hate wehre you are – reason enough to work for a change.   To learn more, contact me anytime at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Inspired female leadership by Susan Weidman Schneider at Lilith

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the offices of Lilith was the books. Piled up in every corner of desks, chairs, shelves, and the floor, the books were an almost unintended design concept. They tell the visitor that this is a place where people love to read. Really, though, Lilith is a place where people love to *eat*. Well, maybe not eat so much as to work around the conference-table-slash-kitchen-table. My meeting with the Lilith staff took place around the table in the center of the office that was filled with all kinds of salads and baked goods that the multi-talented and multi-tasking staff members made.   “Lilith is a place where people love to talk, and our conference table has always been a place where good talk happens over food--much like at a wonderful dinner table, or even a salon,” Lilith editor-in-chief Susan Weidman Schneider said. “Despite the yumminess of the victuals,  the important part is, of course, not what food each person brings to the table, but what *voices* are at the table. The food is just a signifier of our hospitable impulse to invite in guests and their ideas. For example, the Lilith staff has mentored more than 150 interns in our 35 years of publishing, and almost every one has told us that what they valued most about their experience here was being heard at that very table. Lilith is probably the most intellectually welcoming office I have ever encountered. And what’s amazing about that is that the atmosphere is definitive part of the working culture, a purposeful outgrowth of the feminist ideology that drives the magazine content. “Everything gets done around this table,” Susan told me over salmon salad and soft fennel-molasses bread made by Lilith’s inimitable managing editor Naomi Danis. Every issue and every article gets created over food, slowly, with cooperative input, tossing in and kneading new ideas as the staff chews and digests. The entire magazine is a product of group thinking and collaboration, mostly over food. This is a remarkable model of feminist work. It’s about giving women power and voice in a way that strengthens everyone rather than adopting patterns of being controlling, aggressive, manipulative or hierarchical. That’s not an easy thing. Expressions that are ambivalent, uncertain, hesitant, or help-seeking are not valued in most workplaces. They are often taken as signs that a person is not serious, or intelligent, or “management material”. Definitions of professionalism are often a function of being single-minded, unwavering, determined, loud, aggressive and abrasive. The person most unflinching is often the one whose ideas are adopted and who seen as the “leader”. In fact, much of the current literature on helping women “get ahead” in the workplace focuses on teaching women to adopt these behaviors – drop the qualifiers, we are told, get rid of all the “I think”s and “perhaps”es, and don’t forget to unabashedly self-promote and publicly give yourself credit. If this is the model that developed from generations of women’s exclusion...

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When it's time for a gender audit

The list of top earners in Israel’s publicly traded companies was published last week by Yediot Aharanot’s Mamon magazine. There is only one woman on the list: Stella Handler. She’s the director of the cable network Hot, and Handler stands out for her gender, with a salary of 14.82 million NIS annually (approximately $4 million). That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but it’s also 30% less than the top guy on the list, mall-magnate David Azrieli, who makes the equivalent of $5.7 million a year. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, on which Israel ranks 55th in the world, Israel has a ratio of 88:100 women to men in the economy. Today Israeli women are getting undergraduate educations at rates on par with their male counterparts. Yet they are not making it to the top of the economy. The question is what is happening inside companies and organizations? Why are women failing to thrive? There are two ways to address this question. One places the onus on women, and one places onus on surrounding cultures. Many programs for women’s economic empowerment focus on what women need to do thingsdifferently in order to get ahead. Like Sheryl Sandberg, for example, in her now famous TED talk, in which she encouraged women to speak up, “take a seat at the table,”and stay focused on their ambitions, regardless of where life or motherhood takes them. All of this is good advice, for sure. But there is also a second approach which examines surrounding organizational cultures and explores ways to create thriving environments for people with different needs, family demands and personalities. Read more:

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Advice for the '$1.6 Billion Woman'

Sheryl Sandberg is about to become a very rich woman — and I’m really happy about it. The world needs more rich women, especially women who understand the importance of empowering other women.The New York Times called Sandberg the “1.6 billion woman,” based on the anticipated public offering of Facebook, where Sandberg is COO. Sandberg, who has been a strong, vocal advocate for women’s advancement in the workplace, is actually one of the few women on top in Facebook. Tellingly, there are no women on the Facebook board, and Sandberg is the highest ranking woman in the company — number four from the top. Of the 10 most senior positions in the company, only three are held by women. Certainly Sandberg has a reputation for promoting women’s successes at work — helping working mothers to find creative schedules and day care, encouraging women to be powerful and assertive, building a culture in which women’s real, complicated lives and concerns are welcomed rather than dismissed as signs of women’s lack of professionalism. But when it comes to women’s equality all the way to the top, the Facebook record remains mixed.   Read the rest at The Forward

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Women excluded from the New York Times!

Here is the letter I wrote to the New York Times about the absence of female voices from their aritcle on the exclusion of women:  Dear Mr Bronner and Ms Kershner, While it’s nice for you to take interest in the exclusion of women among haredim, your own exclusion of women in the process is nothing less than outrageous. I refer to your article "Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Women", in which exactly one woman was quoted in the article., out of eight interviewees, and she was left to the end. One woman! You interviewed and quoted one man after another, some of whom really have nothing to do with the issue, have done absolutely nothing about the problem, and have no real expertise in gender issues  (Moshe Halbertal? Jonathan Rosenblum? Who are they other than religious men with opinions and status? They have done NOTHING on the issue and know NOTHING about gender!) Meanwhile, the dozens of women's organizations, researchers and activists remain hidden and subsumed -- no less so than women sitting behind a partition in synagogue. The women who have put their blood, sweat and tears into this issue, as well as their scholarship, wisdom and reputations, are silenced. By no less than the NY Times. By you! What the men in black coats do to women on the bus, you have done to professional women leaders and activists. Hanna Kehat, Lili Ben Ami, Tammy Katsabian, Rachel Azaria – these are some of the women on the frontlines who you silenced. It’s the exclusion of women’s professional voices from the New York TImes. It's easy to point fingers, isn't it. It's very convenient to say that "they" have a problem, those "strange" ones who wear odd clothing and abide by their own set of rules. But it's much harder to look inward at one's own culture, where discrimination is more subtle, not because of official "rules' but simply because of an absence of a social or cultural consciousness. Because you don’t care. Because it’s easier for guys to play the power game with each other – “Hey, Halbertal’s in my smartphone, I’ll just get a quote” – rather than to see the women doing the real work and give credit where credit is due. I ask which is a more troubling issue -- women sitting in the back of the bus, or women's voices, expertise and professional leadership being completely ignored in the media. Not such a simple answer, is it. The Times would do well to analyze the representation of women on its own pages, and for reporters to ask themselves who they see and who remains invisible. Sincerely,Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman