Three years ago, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation Women’s Division passed a resolution, subsequently accepted by the Executive Committee of the Federation, calling for increased participation of women in top policy and decision-making roles in all aspects of Jewish community life. As a result, the Milwaukee Federation appointed its first woman planning director, and increasing numbers of women began to be elected or appointed to the Federation board and its committees, and to the boards of constituent agencies.
Although women attended meetings regularly, it soon became apparent that the men were still making the decisions. Many women who had functioned effectively in women’s organizations contributed little when placed in these new settings. If they spoke at all, it was to ask questions for their own information so that they could better interpret the work of the agency to others rather than to ask the kind of question or make the kind of statement that would move the discussion towards a decision.
It became apparent that they also lacked certain executive skills that people in business or the professions acquire with experience.
To help correct this situation, the Women’s Division set up a seven-session pilot Leadership Skills Seminar for women who hold leadership positions in the Jewish community: members of the board of directors of the Women’s Division and the Federation, all Jewish agencies and all the synagogues.
The seminar covered such areas as financial management (balance sheets, monthly financial statements, budgets and the “language of finance”), the legal responsibility of boards, and personnel administration (union contracts, use of job descriptions, evaluations, salary ranges, hiring and firing).
Recognizing the value of the project, the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, at its General Assembly last fall, gave the 1978 Shroder Award for “Intermediate Cities” to the Women’s Division of Milwaukee Jewish Federation for its Leadership Seminar.