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The Women of Israel Advocacy: Challenges and Benefits of Female Leadership

Successful women

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Leading the Way

Roz Rothstein is the co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs. As Rothstein began to name all of the male-led organizations, she was shocked to realize the reality behind the Forward’s study.

For the last 10 years, Rothstein has been working diligently to change the landscape of Israel advocacy. “I have sacrificed a lot. This has become a race and I have not stopped in 10 years,” she said. “I have missed time but also done very important work. You buy the life as a CEO. I have an active, busy organization to run and I have to be there to support everyone and be on call when an issue arises.”

Lisa Eisen is the national director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the founding chair of the Israel on Campus Coalition. In 20 years of work in the Jewish world, Eisen often has found herself the only female in the board room, but she believes that the future will bring change.

“Women have just as much to contribute as men. Younger women don’t see this gender gap,” she said, “I am starting to see women rise to the top and I am always optimistic. I’d like to encourage women to take senior roles. The culture must change. Women must demand greater flexibility and work solutions. I do see progress. Especially in philanthropy, the numbers are more balanced.”

Over time, Eisen, who started as an activist on her campus, has developed her leadership style. “I work harder than a lot of people,” she said. “I am confident and strong in a nice way. You don’t have to be like Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir to be an effective leader.”

She advises women, “Do your homework. Do not be afraid to speak of and say what is on your mind. Be confident in your own power. Balancing is not easy, I have three kids. I went on maternity leave and then went straight back. I come home and work at night. I don’t get much sleep but I am extremely fulfilled.”

Menaged believes that being a female is an advantage in Israel advocacy. “Putting aside the most fundamental point, which is that each individual brings a unique set of skills and talents to their job regardless of their gender, I think being a woman has certain advantages for Israel advocacy,” she said. “One of the most powerful advocacy tools is being able to share a personal, powerful story that humanizes the situation. A woman can oftentimes connect better emotionally with an audience in this regard.”

Some Advice

There is still work to be done to ensure that the balance of leadership on college campuses carries into the future. The following lessons helped these women rise to their top positions.

Ask for what you want. It was up to Menaged to work with her organization to find a solution that would allow her to continue to work and grow professionally. Menaged explains, “My organization, Hasbara Fellowships, and our parent organization, Aish HaTorah, have always showed considerable sensitivity. I am about to have my third child, and HF/Aish have been very flexible in allowing me to have unique circumstances that balance work and family.I have also been able to have my family travel with me on many occasions.”

Menaged said that while she felt comfortable asking for accommodations that enabled her to balance work and family, many women do not. She encourages women to ask for what they want and find organizations that are committed to helping them find balanced solutions.

Become an expert. Rothstein advises women to become excellent public speakers and writers. These are two key qualities she believes every leader and head of an organization must have. Most importantly she said, “Make yourself an expert in your field. Understand the Middle East, its history and be able to speak and write about it like a true expert.”

Find a mentor. Eisen encourages young women to find “a woman of senior ranking and regularly seek their advice and meet with each other. There is someone who came before you who can guide you through your career and you harness your own strength and power,” she said.

Realize your worth. “The current difference in salaries is completely unacceptable and inequitable and it has to change,” Eisen said. She advises, “As you graduate from college, do your homework on market salaries. Your first job sets the [benchmark] for the rest of your career. When you start with too low of a salary, that gap accumulates throughout your career. Find the appropriate market salary, present yourself well, network and always try to improve your skills. Professional development, obtaining an advanced degree and volunteering for new assignments are ways to build your skills set. Don’t undersell yourself.”

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Successful women

Though still a minority, many women are changing the landscape and breaking new ground for future female leaders. Pro-Israel organizations StandWithUs and The Israel Project both were established by females.

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