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Challenging Gender Bias on the Way to More Equitable Workplaces

December 12, 2022

“Thank you for listing the salary for this position!” This is just one fantastic example of the ways in which hiring in the Jewish community already looks vastly different today than in 2018 when the Gender Equity in Hiring Project was founded. The pandemic has changed the way we hire and interview, and in lots of ways added a layer of efficiency to the process (Zoom interviews!). Best of all, employers and employees come to the table today with knowledge, data and ever more frequently, a positive intention to affect change–this is the sea change GEiHP hopes to affect. The Gender Equity in Hiring Project was founded to challenge gender bias in hiring and employment processes in Jewish organizational life, to help women and people of all genders rise to positions of leadership. A gender equitable hiring process tends to be the rising tide that lifts all ships, helping employers and employees begin a relationship fairly, and opening our eyes to what gets in the way of opportunity for women–and for non-binary folks, LGBTQ+ folks, people of color, and folks from every marginalized community. We can let go of the inappropriate questions, the poorly designed processes, and the barriers that prevent us–cognitively and behaviorally–from hiring the best candidate, and often lead us to prefer white men named John over women or simply to imagine a man when we imagine a leader instead of the amazing diversity of potential leaders in our talent pool.

Folks looking for jobs in the Jewish community are better educated about what great hiring can look like. And once they know, they’re empowered to ask for something more and something better. And it isn’t just thanks to laws recently passed in New York City and California (and soon in Washington State), joining Colorado requiring salaries listed on job postings, which prevent people from needing to guess at their opening bid in a salary negotiation. Gen Z and Millenials are the first generations to feel great going home and truly disconnecting from their work: they understand that work is not “one job, one life,” that we no longer stick to one linear career trajectory for our entire lives, and that we can also demand to disconnect when we get home, and find fulfillment from our work without having to work 60 hours a week. These two demands, side by side, are giant leaps forward and clear benefits to exhausted Jewish communal professionals in all kinds of settings. More Jewish organizations are working on compensation analyses and audits, more are describing workplace culture in their job postings, and shifting to include a “why you want to work here” section in the interview process. Prospective employees are then able to imagine that their future workplaces will see them as individuals, and will be able to support them with the policies, procedures and practices that will help them to keep sacred their rest time from their work time (and ultimately make them more productive).

One of GEiHP’s core values is transparency, which weaves its way into every corner of our work. The Open Salary Spreadsheet, an experiment at the end of 2019 which included a data set from an incredible 1% of the entire Jewish communal workforce, invited folks to share their salaries to help others benchmark their own, inviting transparency and vulnerability. GEiHP partners and volunteers in our wider network are champions and advocates as they invite our organizations to be transparent about family leave policies beginning in the hiring process, speaking up for the individual and for the system so that all can make better hires–and create healthier relationships at work that contribute to more job satisfaction. Embracing openness and honesty offers the space to ask questions up front–and to cultivate trust at the beginning. Sharing information, knowledge and challenges, both internally and externally, enables us to take risks and grow together, and helps us to find satisfaction and fulfillment at work. It isn’t just millennials and Gen Z who want this from their workplaces: all employees want more transparency, and it’s what keeps us at work, fulfilling our organization’s compelling missions and visions–and building the Jewish community we seek. Based on the initial success of GEiHP’s 2019 experiment, we will be launching a revised data collection in the spring of 2023, born from our commitment to transparency, equitable salaries and narrowing the gender wage gap (so stay tuned).

Our 170+ Gender Equity Advocates, now in our 12th cohort, and part of our Gender Equity Advocates Network, are out in the field, embedded in Jewish organizations where every day, they are observing and challenging gender bias and looking to shift hiring and employment practices toward equity. Their voices are sometimes quiet and behind the scenes, and sometimes loud and public, but they are most powerful when woven into the fabric of our Jewish communal landscape–making change from the inside. They are supported by the thousands of people who have joined the ranks of GEiHP’s vocal volunteers, ambassadors, allies, partners and larger network members, who use our resources, coaching and data to negotiate better salaries, advocate for and with colleagues for the creation and codification of policy, and remind us all of the invisible taxes and penalties that many of us are paying in our workplaces because of our gender or the other ways in which we are marginalized.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely invested in Jewish communal life. What will you do to guarantee that our workplaces are safe, respectful and equitable? GEiHP honors the integrity of our Jewish organizations by inviting us all to make sure our insides match our outsides–that we treat our employees as equitably and respectfully as we treat our constituents, learners, congregants and families. Our work is on our collective behalf. We invite you to bring your voices together with ours, and we’ll strengthen the entire community together, as we challenge the way it’s always been done, and do better–and more equitably–for our future.

Dr. Sara Shapiro-Plevan is all about relationships, focusing on the way relationships improve our practice, help us to understand our work, and engage effectively with others as we build sustainable networks, communities and workplaces. As the CEO of the Gender Equity in Hiring Project (GEiHP), she puts our Jewish values of equity and justice into action as we build Jewish workplaces that tap into the best of our human potential, transforming the endemic culture of gender bias that so often keeps women from senior staff positions and leadership roles. Sara holds an EdD and an MA from the Jewish Theological Seminary.