By Felice Caspar
Women have made much progress but still face a glass ceiling that hinders their advancement, members of B’nai B’rith’s Young Leadership Network were told at a “Brunch and Learn” event in June in Washington, D.C.
Deb Weiner, YLN-DC chair, developed the concept for the session, entitled, “Challenging Traditional Gender Roles in Law, Diplomacy and Charity.” It was held June 4 at B’nai B’rith’s international headquarters in the nation’s capital.
The group heard from two diplomats, Einat Weiss, counselor for political affairs for the Embassy of Israel, and Evelina Petrone, first secretary in the political section for the Embassy of Lithuania, and from attorney Jennifer L. Feldman, vice president of Membership for Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. The discussion was moderated by Eduard Redensky, Young Leadership Network chair of B’nai B’rith International.
The panelists shared their perspectives from different places: Israel, known worldwide for decades of strong female leadership in government and in the armed forces, and Lithuania, where, in 2009, Dalia Grybauskaité was the first woman elected president—and by the largest-ever margin for a Lithuanian presidential candidate.
The panelists were candid in addressing the extra challenges faced by women in government service and as professionals and organizational leaders. “There is still a glass ceiling and I’m still trying to knock at it. I have three daughters, and I tell them all the time that you can do anything,” said Petrone. Weiss reflected on how women are perceived behind the scenes in Israel: “Men are always questioning—can she manage the battle if she has not been in a combat unit? It’s still harder for women to have the top-most positions in foreign policy.”
Feldman commented on challenges women face in the American workforce, specifically in the field of law. The discussion touched on the most recent presidential election in the United States. “Having a female candidate running in the U.S. was a huge breakthrough, and, hopefully, one day, the election of a woman to this office will be accomplished,” Feldman said.
B’nai B’rith International actively seeks to involve women in all of its activities. Programs such as this one aimed at young leaders provide a forum to address issues that are important to both men and women. The Young Leadership Network offers young professionals the opportunity to get involved in an agenda that affects Jews and the community here in the United States and abroad.
Along with participants from the Washington, D.C. area, the event was attended by Gary P. Saltzman, president of B’nai B’rith International, Charles O. Kaufman, chair of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, and Jay S. Feldman, a B’nai B’rith young leader and member of the Executive Board of Directors.
Under the chairmanship of Ed Redensky and with Vice Chair Rachel Silvestain, the B’nai B’rith YLN is flourishing, now established in seven core communities in the United States (five of which have women as their chairs) and interacting with groups around the world.