Preventing All Male Panels

Preventing All Male Panels
  • Welcome to our outstanding panelists who are generously sharing their wisdom from the field in regard to the topic of this conversation: Preventing All Male Panels. As you can see from their bios, we have a diverse group which will lead to a rich conversation. Let's jump in!

    Do you remember the first moment that you realized that an all male panel was taking place? Can you describe that moment? What you did or didn't do? When this took place? Why it struck you? 
  • First, thank you, I am delighted to be included in this discussion.

    I began my political career way back in 1974.  Looking back I don't remember any panels with women until some folks "had" to invite me since I was the campaign manager for an upset winner of a Congressional seat.

  • P.S. Imagine my horror/amazement/dismay when forty years later in 2014 I saw an ad for a Wall Street Journal Conference featuring 17 men and NO women.

  • It's great to be part of this conversation. My earliest memory in this regard is not specific to just panels, but to the entire flow of a program from my time at Limmud NY (  I remember Shifra Bronznick pointing out to me that the whole line-up for a Havdallah program at the conference was all men.  The idea was the same: why did the committee seem to think that only men could close out Shabbat?  This put "gender goggles" on for me in a number of arenas (who is quoted in a news article? who is represented in the full speaker line-up for an event?) - including not being able to "unsee" an all-male panel.

  • I don't have any one moment I can point to when all-male panels became a problem I recognized.

    My first memory of advocating for women's inclusion in a specific process within the Orthodox community was in my time at Yeshiva University, when I was director of the Arts Festival in my second year. It had been an all-Yeshiva-College, all-male-led affair, and I basically said we had to have women in all these leadership positions, too. It became a mini-controversy as all such efforts do, and there were questions of stakeholders and agendas, but it did get rammed through, over any objections.

    My experience since those days has mostly been outside the Orthodox community, and often outside the Jewish community, seeing the discussions of all-male panels in the tech and journalism fields in years past (led, to a significant degree, by Change The Ratio's Rachel Sklar).

    In recent years, we'd have shows on The Jewish Channel, like Rabbi's Roundtable, where a basic requirement as we moved into booking was to ensure at least one seat for a woman. That ended being most of the work of booking such a show, due to the lack of supply of women rabbis, and we frequently found ourselves booking a woman first as our cornerstone, and then filling in the panel with other rabbis who could make the same time work. If we'd reversed it, booking men first, we'd stand little chance of booking a woman (and I can recall at least one episode when we didn't).

    At this point, women's inclusion been a basic part of my work, and similarly so for many in my field, so it's been interesting to see this issue surface again within the Orthodox community, again with the same kinds of arguments from status quo stakeholders about why they are failing, as we've seen before in tech, journalism, and the broader Jewish community.

    In that sense, the time that really stands out in my mind as noticing an all-male panel is the recent advocacy by JOFA, sharing posters of Orthodox events. It's momentarily jolting to see that stuff again, after so many years of seeing more progressive attitudes elsewhere, but after taking a moment or two to think about the current status of the Orthodox community, it's of course not surprising.

  • Before we get into proactive ways of preventing all male panels, let's talk about the rather common scenario.  The speakers are set, the event is happening in two weeks, and only now are people aware that an all male panel is slated. What do you do? How do you ensure that a 'token' woman isn't added just to take the heat off of event organizers? What should people consider in how to fix the situation? What methods have you found to be successful and/or effective? 
  • Can I ask a question back?

    This isn't the first time I've come across objections to "tokenism" in the Orthodox Jewish feminist sphere, and I don't understand what the objection is.

    Why, if a woman is deemed by a sponsoring organization and an audience in attendance to be of sufficient expertise to be worth listening to, alongside a more traditional/mysogynist array of male experts, is there an objection that she's merely a "token"?

    Of course, they should have included her in the first place, and that's a battle worth fighting with the organization even after the panel is over. And there are questions of proportionality for a given panel, including whether the new woman should add to or replace a member of the previously-assembled panel. But what about this woman and her inclusion is objectionable, that raises this issue of tokenism?

  • Excellent question. Let's go with that. 

  • Indeed, a good question.  I would posit that tokenism is in the mindset of the organizer and as such should be called out.  If putting a woman on a panel is done simply to avoid criticism or done after criticism, then she is, in fact, a "token" who could be perceived as "necessary" rather than deserving. 

    We also hear from some women that they resent finding themselves to be "the woman" on panels because they feel like "tokens."

    Steven, I do not put your suggestion of starting with a woman in that category because it is a proactive response to valuing women's voices.  

    One commitment that has been made by some supportive men has been to step aside if they find themselves on an all male panel and ask that a woman take his place.  We were told that at one conference a male participant finding himself on an all male panel opened up with a request that a woman expert be chosen from the audience to take his place.  By doing so, he made a significant point and, I am sure, some new admirers.  

    BTW, when I started I arbitrarily picked 30% or fewer women to put organizations in our Hall of Shame and 40% or more in our Hall of Fame.  Otherwise, they fall into GA "limbo."  We try to reward folks who move out of the Hall of Shame even in they don't make it into the Hall of Fame.   No complaints so far about the designations though often hear the excuse that women only represent xx% (under 30%) so it is ok for that to be the goal.  Knowing the importance of role models and of recognition, we argue that the excuse just helps perpetuate the low participation of women in the industry.  

    I will stop here (for now).

  • I appreciate the question about tokenism.  I'm of the belief that there ARE women who have expertise on every topic, so I think including one who is qualified to speak on the panel is not necessarily tokenism.  I completely agree with Gina about the importance of male allies doing their part to say they won't serve on a panel with no women, or better yet to step aside and recommend a woman in her place. One of my frustrations with this topic and others is that they are deemed "women's problems."  Actually, research has shown time and time again that we ALL benefit from diverse viewpoints represented in our board rooms, in our decision-making processes, in our learning.  It's in everyone's best interest to ensure that there are diverse speakers on a panel, with gender being just one lens in which this is important. I'm not worried about tokenism, I'm worried about people not thinking this through from the beginning (and then, as Sharon asked, realizing it when it's almost too late). It's very hard to "right this wrong" two weeks before an event, but if I were reaching out to women to join the panel, I would be transparent and own the mistake, and ask their support in helping to right it for the audience's benefit (which of course is less likely when it is last minute)....

  • In response to the first question: My experience was similar to Ruthie's. I don't remember when I first thought about the issue of all-male panels. I believe it was a conversation with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, who (like Shifra Bronznick) was working for Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community. They did great work on this issue. Like Ruthie said, it's like one of those drawings with an optical illusion. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. And you don't just see it in formal panels at conferences and events, but also in committees, boards, symposiums (live & written)...

    I am always bothered by the tokenism discussion, because it implies that a women was asked to be on the panel because she is a woman -- even though there was a more qualified man who could have filled the spot.  

  • Perhaps it would be helpful to have a speaker database with women who are experts in different areas. That way, one can approach an organization with names of women who would be appropriate speakers. And proactive organizations can look to the database for suggestions of speakers.    

  • Leslie, I like thes idea of a speaker data base but that should not dissolve conference organizers from using their contacts to find women to participate.  To change behavior, ultimately the responsibility has to be with the leadership of the sponsoring organization, which is likely to have the broadest reach on their particular issue/topic.  

  • Hi, all. So sorry for joining late. (I had a long day of teaching while taking care of our 3-year-old and 1-year-old, which I'm sure is somehow relevant, but I'll leave that for later).

    I think the tokenism problem is real. If we step back for a minute, we all know that panels tend to be somewhat haphazardly constructed, based in large part on what and who comes to the conveners' minds as they are planning. It's not a bad thing that gender is not the first thing that comes to mind in that context. In principle, I'd love to live in a world where all-male, and all-female panels were unremarkable, because they existed in equal measure. But we don't live in that world, and we know that if the conveners are trying to think about "an expert in field x", they more often than not think of a man. And then we're in a bad cycle, where Man X is repeatedly invited to speak about some topic, because he's become to go-to person, and so on.

    So I would defend a type of affirmative action, in the hope that it will break the cycle and help people think about all the relevant experts, not just the men. But inviting a woman who is really not as qualified, but just because she's the only woman I can think of right now, will almost certainly backfire when the audience sees the panel. Being conscious of the fact that there are qualified women, and aiming for gender parity, means that the women are not there as tokens.

  • My most active activism for avoiding all-male panels has been with students who are inviting professors to speak, and this has happened a couple of times, including when the students organizing the panels were all women. In this kind of context, I think gender has to be a primary concern because the panelists are there as models as much as experts, and the audience needs to see that this is not gender-specific. To my mind, these panels are as much a (content-based) performance as a presentation of content.

  • Are the challenges of addressing/preventing all male panels greater in religious settings? Does it become more challenging as we move to the right? Are different methods or strategies better suited to educate and advocate in conservative settings?
  • I absolutely think the situation becomes worse as one moves to the right -- and not just for those in those communities. If you ask the average person on the street to describe what a Hasidic person looks like, they'll likely mention a hat and ear-curls, and black-and-white clothing. Which is to say that to most of the world, Hasidic women are largely invisible. And as you drift leftward, you find a gradual increasing of visibility until, when you reach the Conservative community, there are finally no apologies for egalitarianism.

    And when talking about women's inclusion and representation, at some point in one's rightward drift into the Orthodox community, one gets nothing but blank stares. I don't know exactly where that point is, but it's clear from JOFA's recent postings about all-male panels it's found, that it's at some point within the group people describe as "modern Orthodox."

    And at that point, when you're talking about including women in a panel, you're needing to lay a lot more groundwork about why women's voices matter at all, because clearly these groups don't really agree.

    But getting back to even how these groups are perceived from the outside: I'd think almost any American today would look at an all-male jury or an all-male Supreme Court and immediately realize that something was wrong, without it having to be pointed out to them. And that's been the case for decades, thanks in significant part to the legal advocacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during her lawyering days. But for me, personally, it was only when reading a biography of Bader Ginsburg alongside a book about the agunah issue in preparation for a pair of interviews on "Up Close" that I suddenly realized: oh my goodness, the Orthodox community's divorce courts are entirely male; around the country and globe, not one woman is involved in these judgments. And that is really pretty mind-blowing. And again, because of how I perceive Orthodoxy, it just never occurred to me until that moment.

    I want to take a moment to push back on Aaron's points about quality, because that is the consistent excuse made for women's exclusion in so many places, at so many times, for so many situations. For years, major tech companies like Facebook and Twitter said they didn't have even a single female board member, because they were searching for the right candidates. We'd see the same with executive positions, and panels at conferences. And the not-at-all-subtle rejoinder I have to that is that it's pure BS, and has been shown to be BS everywhere it comes up. That's because there are, in fact, plenty of women who can meet a high bar for quality, and because there really isn't anything so very special about most of the men chosen for these panels. It's just not hard to find women of equivalent quality.

  • The challenges in more right-wing communities are certainly different. There are communities where it is not socially acceptable for men to hear women speak publicly. In those communities, I would work on getting women speaking at events directed for women. There are lectures/shiurs for women where all of the speakers are men. Or my personal favorite example, a panel for women on balancing work and home life where all the panelists were men! There are more than enough competent right-wing Orthodox women out there. But they're not always well-known because they aren't asked to speak (and don't have opportunities for exposure). And they aren't asked to speak because they're not well-known (or known at all). This is a cycle that needs to be broken!   

  • Steven, with regards to your critique on Aaron, I don't think he was saying that there aren't qualified women. He was saying that if an organization, in an attempt to quickly get a woman on a panel, chooses a woman who is not the most qualified or the best speaker, it is ultimately counterproductive because it gives the message that women aren't as qualified or erudite as men. "See, we had a women and she was terrible, so we can go back to all male panels." This goes back to the problem of panel organizers not thinking of women experts from the start, or not doing their homework. And the problem that the female experts are oftentimes less well-known--especially within the Orthodox community (on Jewish-related issues). There is also a perception that only women are interested in certain topics. I remember once being asked to choose a topic that didn't specifically mention women (I often speak about the history of Bais Yaakov and Orthodox women's education) because if it was a talk on a women's topic, people would think the speech was for women only. And it wouldn't appeal to men. I believe there is a similar perception that women speakers, or experts on issues related to women, won't be impressive to the male demographic.    

  • I have to disagree with Steven when he said "I'd think almost any American today would look at an all-male jury or an all-male Supreme Court and immediately realize that something was wrong, without it having to be pointed out to them." ...In my experience, it actually TAKES pointing this out to people - in all contexts, Jewish, American, cultural, etc - for anyone to notice this.  Using my "gender goggles" analogy from above, you have to learn to "see" the problem, and the way to do that is to point it out.  I've been in many scenarios where it has been pointed out a million times and the same mistake happens over and over again, in our own community - from the left to the right.  I do think this need to point it out plays into it being a greater challenge in community's where it is less obvious that a woman should play an equal part (on a panel or anywhere else) to a man.  It requires more pointing out than in a more "liberal" space.  But I think the problem persists across the religious and political spectrum in multiple arenas in which we all function regularly.

  • First, I second Steven's point about quality and agree with the follow up comment that putting a woman on just to put a woman on a panel makes no sense.  This also speaks to the "meritocracy" argument/excuse.  Saying that selection is based on "the best" implicitly assumes "the best" don't exist among women in the field.  I just don't buy it.  

    I am not familiar with the Orthodox community but am getting a good feel for the challenges from this discussion.  I am struck by the panel of men discussing work/home balance.  It reminds me of the iconic photo of all men testifying before a congressional committee on contraception.  Pretty hard to have blinders on when a photo like that shows up around a work/balance discussion.  Don't know the rules but circulation of a photo with a pithy headline can go a long way - though I am not sure whether the long way would be toward anger among the men or recognition of the ridiculousness of the situation. 

  • It would be wonderful if Orthodox Judaism and the Catholic church were the last bastions of all-male panels in the world. But here are some links:

    "Stop Man Panels"

    "These Powerful Men are Boycotting All-Male Panels"

    "Congrats, You have an All-Male Panel"

    "Female Scientists Turn to Data to Fight Lack of Representation on Panels"

    The more public something is, the easier it is to get the audience upset about it. But one big difference is that as we move to the right, the problem is deeper than just oversights. Unlike most arenas, there really is a dearth of female religious leadership in the more right-wing communities, so it's not just a matter of raising awareness. (And there may also be active resistance to having women, but that's a different magnitude of problem.)

  • Taking this in a bit of a different direction- The all male panel is in some ways an easy target.  It is an obvious, clearly definable, and obtainable goal- in not letting it happen. What about other types of panels? I'm not talking about a panel at a shul, conference, or yom iyun.  What about a roster of all male faculty teaching talmud? What about the reality that, correct me if I am wrong, there are fewer than 5 women who are heads of school in Orthodox coeducational settings? Can we take it to the next level? Do we pursue all ends? Do we stick with the panels because perhaps with exposure schools might want to hire eloquent, thoughtful, experienced women as heads of school or as talmud/halakha instructors? 

  • I can't speak to the next level but before we leave panels, let me show you the genderavenger Male Pledge - might some folks sign it or something like it?  Note that a bank president, a US Senator and the founder of The Container Store have signed plus some folks I know are regulars at their, admitted reform, synagogues.

  • Sharon, I think you're last line points in a good direction. Panels ought to be simple, and that can be an important step. It's harder to criticize an organization for having consistently male speakers over the course of a year, for example - unless they do us the favor of publishing the year's line-up on one page, where the problem can be easily seen. But assuming that this is really a problem of breaking a cycle, where women aren't invited because they're less well known, and they're less well known because they're not invited, this can be remedied by forcing the issue on panels. Hopefully this brings exposure, which then leads to more parity everywhere.

    I wonder if this is realistic, but I think that's the idea.....

  • I would not stop at panels. I would looks at faculty, boards committees and yes, speakers over a given year. It would be hard for an outsider to keep track, but not for a member. In general this change happens on a grass roots level. The most important step is to increase awareness and educate on the importance of including women and their voices. Then individuals will advocate within their local communities. I also think we need to think beyond panels because people often get speaking gigs because of their community positions. The two issues are closely intertwined. 

  • Also, I do not think there is a dearth of religious leadership in the right-wing Orthodox community. There are many women who are religious leaders, albeit without the title rabbi and not poskim (decisors of religious law). The single-sex nature of the community actually helps to cultivate leaders. But because these women get less exposure  (b/c they often not speaking to men), they don't achieve the celebrity status some male speakers enjoy. Further, because religious authority is generally associated with male rabbis, some might think that female speakers don't have the same gravitas as male rabbis. So there are certainly a lot of sociological issues to contend with, but the talent is there. 

  • Leslie, thanks, really appreciate the definition of poskim.  So, one thought is figuring out ways to give exposure to the women leaders to demonstrate their knowledge and personal appeal.  Is there some way to engage some male leaders to create mini-events/discussions?  Perhaps on something topical?  Feels like to address the sociological aspects there needs to be a pro-active, outside the normal channels, strategy along side the effort to push for inclusion generally.

  • P.S. On Male Pledge - you all should know that our first step in creating the GenderAvenger (GA) Male Pledge was a meeting with Shifra.  She has done an amazing job through intense, personal interaction with the men she recruited to the effort.  GA doesn't have the capacity to do that extraordinary hand holding and encouragement but I think the simple act of signing a pledge is a decent first step.

  • I think this is a good point to bring in my piece for The Atlantic reviewing the year-long effort we made at The Jewish Channel to get to gender-parity on my author-interview show, "Up Close." The industry average is reportedly closer to 15%.

    Here's the link; I couldn't get the hyperlink function to work in my mobile browser:

    The hydra-headed forces of institutional sexism that we found coming from so many directions echo what Leslie is talking about.

    Getting a woman in our studio for an interview required 4 times as much effort as for a man. And the institutional sexism stretched from the choices publishers make, to the relative household responsibilities of male and female authors, to disposable income, and the gender-imbalanced choices of third parties like universities to invite our potential guests as speakers.

    It was an object lesson in institutional sexism and how all these things feed into each other.

    And all-male panels, therefore, are a great avenue for public advocacy. Panels are a good target because they are transparent, they are straightforward, they require an audience, and they are easily influenced. Panels are valuable because they raise the profiles of participants (feeding salaries and future audience demand), they present a picture to the public about authority and expertise, and because everyone involved in organizing and sitting on these panels is an influencer.

    So, panels really are a great place to argue for inclusion, and to see the benefits accrue.

  • On Sharon's question of people in specific jobs, like the very few female heads of school at Orthodox Jewish institutions, that's a lot more complicated than panels. It's so easy to find a woman qualified to sit on almost any panel that it's really absurd when there isn't one. Yet, while institutions broadly should reflect gender balance in leadership and teaching positions, it would be completely inappropriate to tell any given school that they must fill their head of school opening with a woman, for example; there are too many variables in that search for a crucial position to impose that kind of requirement. Even at the teacher level, saying that X male candidate should be turned down, when there are so many variables in teacher hiring, strikes me (as a board member of my children's non-denominational and excellent school, Beit Rabban) as the wrong way to hire.

    For high-level jobs, it makes more sense to have something like the NFL's "Rooney Rule," which achieves greater diversity in coaching positions by requiring that people of color be among the several top candidates who get run through the interviewing process.

    At a lower level, of Talmud teachers at a school where there are a handful, I think it makes more sense to set a goal of hiring a number of female Talmud teachers within a certain period of time, than to start removing or turning down excellent male teachers.

    But with panels, it's a lot easier. The stakes are a lot lower, the visibility is much greater, and the acceptable candidates are far more numerous.

  • I agree with many of my colleagues and the implication behind Sharon's question that panels are an easy target.  You could say it's a "technical fix to an adaptive problem."  But it's objective:  you can see the number of people and you can see their gender (putting aside issues of different gender identities!).  But of course, it doesn't stop there.  I mentioned before little things, that are harder to notice, like who is quoted in an article?  Did the journalist make sure to interview men and women on an issue?  What about who is on the leadership team of an organization (more challenging)? In the context of hiring, I'm totally with Steven that the approach is to ensure there is diversity in the candidates being considered, even if not in the hire (and by the way, this also matters as far as who the search committee is).  

    At the JPRO (formerly JCSA) Conference this past May (2016) here in Columbus, Ohio, there were far fewer women represented.  When a male senior federation (in a session in which he was interviewed by another man) was asked about hiring decisions that don't reflect diversity, he literally said that people are confusing gender discrimination with hiring decisions, and that the best people are those who are hired and there is no connection.  I don't agree with that as there are so many other variables at play, but ensuring those making the hiring decision are not only men is one way to start.  (JFNA's  Jewish Heroes contest struggled with this issue years ago with a majority, though appropriately not entirely, male panel of judges, only selecting men as finalists for the honor: http://ejewishphilanthropy....).

  • Okay- What about panels that only have female participants? Yay or nay?

  • OK, we never feature them because goal is to push for gender balance.  Basically believe diversity of life experience along with issue credentials (of all sorts) makes the conversation richer in every instance.

  • At this point, I would be fine with an all-female panel. It would be wonderful if that were a problem, but I think that right now the goal is not actually diversity, but more female representation. The same way that right now we probably wouldn't complain if there were an all-persons of color coaching staff in the NFL, I wouldn't complain about an all-female panel.

    The real point, I suppose, is that if we ever live in a world where there isn't systematic discrimination, I wouldn't have a problem if any given panel happened to be all-male (or all-female). Until then, though...

  • I agree with Aaron that ideally we should be gender-blind. But we are so far away from that. 

  • All-female panels are just fine. They're quite rare in general-interest topics, so much so that the very uncommon moments when an academic or journalism or tech panel ends up being all women, it gets written up.

    I've never actually witnessed an all-women panel that wasn't explicitly about feminism or declared to be referring to "women's issues" in some way. And in those times, I'm usually one of between 1 and 3 men in the audience, even when there are a hundred or more people present.

    We don't need to advocate for men to be added to diversify all-women panels, but we do need to advocate for men to add themselves to diversify the audience at such panels.

  • I agree with Steven. I'd add that we could also advocate for more men to become experts/involved in the fields as well and hopefully appear on future panels. As was already stated above, "women's issues" really are community issues that impact both genders. 

  • I am beginning to understand the challenges better and can appreciate the points Leslie and Steven make about all female panels - especially if they could attract more than three male attendees!  Would be good if the discussions go beyond "women's issues" and/or in the promotion of the event connects  "women's issues" to their broader impact in the community (economic impact for instance).

  • Going back to the mention of "gender blind" - in a widely viewed Ted talk my friend, Mellody Hobson, called on folks to replace "color blind" with "color brave".  Feels as though "gender brave" is a good description for each of you and a good mantra going forward.  

  • Malcolm X writes in his autobiography that he refused to talk about "the Negro problem," since it's really the white man's problem. We should banish the term "women's issues," and talk at least of gender issues.

    Steven's point is on target; women are disproportionately invited to speak on certain topics, and that's a problem, too. I know some women who refuse to speak about anything with "women" in the title to avoid giving the impression that it's a "women's thing".

  • (By the way, I'm color blind. I'll look up the TED talk, but don't see what the bravery is.)

  • Aaron, let me know what you think of the talk (  

    How sad that women have to refuse to talk about any topic with "women" in the headline.

  • This is very interesting.  My gut says we should be considered about all-female panels in order to make the case for our concern about all-male panels:  all women discussing a certain topic is NOT representative and is missing a certain viewpoint (and I'd argue that even if it were about feminism!).  That said, I'm swayed by the idea that we want more female representation generally, and this is one way to get it (and also by the snarky assumption that after years of all male-panels, a few all-female ones can't hurt).  But ultimately, I think the point -- to underscore that this is a GENDER issue and not a women's issue - is that we want to approach any topic we are building a panel around (or a class around, or a series of lectures, or quotes in a news article) with viewpoints from both men and women, and this needs to be done in diverse panels.
  • Taking this in another direction- how might one advocate or attempt in change the gender balance in public online discussions. This might include Facebook, Twitter, listservs, etc. 

  • I'd like to refine Sharon's question to something I often struggle with:  how do you advocate without sounding like a broken record, or accusing people of not caring about these issues? One of my favorite things that Shifra Bronznick (founder of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community) says is that no one is sitting in a room, plotting how to keep women down.  If you ask people if they think that women's views are relevant on a panel, most will likely say yes (in most circles).  But then this mistake keeps on happening over and over again.  I have made a vow to point it out when I see it, but try to do so in a way that still respects all the work someone put into an event.  Either way, I usually end up looking like I'm criticizing their choice (which I am), rather than "advocating" or "raising awareness."  Thoughts?

  • Once again, it's fascinating, frustrating and enlightening how many of these issues feed into each other.

    Ruthie, comments and questions put us on a good footing for wrapping up today with practical ideas.

    I'm left with one thing unclear from your post, Ruthie: You seem to be implying that you're actually having to reach out to the same individuals more than once; that, after successfully altering one all-male event, you end up "sounding like a broken record," because, even after that success, that organizer goes on to assemble yet another all-male event at a later date. Is that right? If so, it's a whole other level of astonishing.

    But for both Rachel's and Sharon's points and questions, there are two main strategies that come to mind: networking to expand the advocacy base within the community, and persistent outreach so that the pitfalls of exclusion can get recognized before they become actual problems.

    In terms of networking, I'd assemble teams of folks you can rely on to advocate together. This helps you avoid sounding like a lone voice, and increases your odds with any given effort of having someone arguing your case who's known and respected by those organizing an event or its panelists/participants. It also just lightens the load on you, specifically.

    On persistence, it would make a lot of sense to develop resources online and in-print that can present the case for recognizing women's exclusion, and put those misogyny "goggles" on more potential allies. A page on JOFA's site with links to and summaries relevant articles could become a go-to resource that advocates could use. Similar content regarding social media and listservs could address the online problems Sharon is asking about.

    A mailer of those resources sent out to event organizers could create new allies in unexpected places.

    And, ultimately, an inclusion pledge specific to the Orthodox community makes sense, given how thoroughly isolated it is from mainstream feminist discussion and other important elements of popular culture. Such a pledge would further both objectives, of networking and pre-treating the problem.

  • Again, I want to thank you all for including me in this discussion.  I have learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the exchange of ideas.  I agree with all of Steven's practical strategies.  GenderAvenger publishes original blogs as well as #goodreads that address all sorts of issues surrounding women in the public sphere.  Please use anything on our site that is helpful including amending our pledge to meet your needs - only advice - keep it really simple and easy for folks to sign.  Also, you might enjoy, and again feel free to plagerize any parts that work for you, our page entitled Beat the Excuses which includes a fun video.

  • You're right Steven - the SAME person making the same mistake would be astonishing.  I'd say it's more of the same organizations making the same mistake, rather than the same person, so I feel like a broken record.  I just worry about being a nudnick, when actually I'm trying to make a point that is important!

    And sorry to add more questions instead of more answers... but I wonder about this a lot! How many women is enough? Is one enough to make a panel balanced?  Just got an email for this event with 10 speakers, 2 of which are women.  So it's not an all-male panel, but it's certainly not balanced (and I don't know enough about Jewish authors to know if it is representative): http://jewishreviewofbooks....

  • I had to throw this out there in final thoughts... I was recently included in what may have seemed like a gender balanced panel- 2 men and 2 women. The men happened to speak first, and the women after a break in between. The men went over their allotted time by over an hour. The other woman speaker and I were asked to cut down our speaking slots in less than half to accommodate this failing.  I said "no," but it got extremely awkward, and I had to be very flexible. I had to stop in the middle of my talk for dinner. It was extremely frustrating. 

    While I would hope that this situation was unique, I've been on panels where it may only be one man and one woman, or one women with two men, etc- and I barely had an opportunity to speak. I had to be fairly aggressive to get my 2 cents in. In doing so, I feared that I would appear to be too angry or aggressive...but also did not want to appear too passive or lacking in self-confidence.   I'm wondering if anyone from this panel has wisdom to share in this regard. 

    Feel free to share any other closing thoughts or questions. 

  • That's a great point, Ruthie. Again, to take examples from other realms of activism, only 13% of the US population is African-American, so it's not ridiculous to find 1 or 2 out of 10 speakers or CEOs or coaches being black. But since women are - just a guess - around 50% of the population, we expect higher. Of course, neither of these is straightforward, because we don't actually draw from the general population, but, say, from former NFL players, or from leaders in a particular field. (There are fields where the gender is skewed the other way: my office is next to the speech pathology offices, and 6 of the 7 professors in that department are female!)

    For an all-male panel, I think we all agree that "that's just representative of the field" is not a good excuse, but what about 1/10 or 2/10? I'd be inclined to criticize that, too, but it's worth finding out more about the field before doing so.

  • If you're highlighting someone else's perpetuation of the problem, *they're* the nudnik, not you! If you change their mind, you've welcomed a new ally to the cause, and they're likely to be grateful to you for having opened their eyes to the problem. If you don't change their mind, they're on the other side, which is the wrong side of history, progress, and equality, which is a great summary of "nudnik" in my book.

    I agree with you about problems of partial integration. When will 1 in 4 or even 1 on 3 for an event be more or less acceptable? It's a tough question.

    Gina's "more than 30% to be decent, more than 40% to be very good" seems like a reasonable idea, and if it were part of a pledge it'd be an easy thing to get people to wrap their minds around.

    The event you cite is a good example of things going in two directions at once. On the one hand, two women for a conservative publication's event! On the other hand, that's only 20 percent. And further, while the event overall isn't gender-exclusive, it's a good bet that within the event itself, individual panels will fail to include women. But I can see how it makes a tough case for outside intervention, especially since the detailed schedule hasn't been published. In this case, and the likely many others like it, it might be better to reach out to individual panelists, not necessarily stressing this one event, suggesting they sign a pledge. Looking at that lineup, I'm extremely confident of at least one male member being eager to sign a pledge. Given that most of them are pretty prominent individuals, it's worth feminists' time to reach out to a few panelists, and see the benefits accrue as they continue to sit on and organize panels in months and years to come.

    In regard to what you were saying above, about the same organization failing after previously being persuaded to include women, I think the real effective push there would be follow-up. Reach out to the person who organized the event a week afterward, and ask them to be an ally in spreading the word throughout their organization. Write a congratulatory letter to the people at the top applauding their turn to inclusion for that event, and including additional reference materials about inclusion to drive the message home.

    And don't worry about seeming a nudnik! Always remember who the nudnik is and isn't, and that it isn't you.

  • Taking off from Sharon's previous question, and Ruthie's point about sounding like a broken record, I've had that experience too, where I keep saying the same thing to the same organization. The problem is not only my own image, but that the whole message is watered down if it's just coming from "that guy who says this all the time." Even if Shifra is right that no one is plotting how to keep women down (and I'm not entirely sure...), there are people who deeply don't care about empowerment, either. The hard question is how to get through to them, who are not natural allies.

    Moving out of the realm of panels in particular, it seems to also be true that if an organization needs someone - quick! - to do a certain job, it's more often than not a man. For speaking jobs, the flip side of this is that women often hesitate much more than men do, and more men than women feel comfortable talking without a lot of preparation and so on. But this creates bad situations, when a man keeps getting sent to the head of the room, so to speak, not because of any nefarious plot to keep women away, but because the man is just the easier one to send. Then, of course, that man has an advantage is being more recognized and parrying that into other successes.

    Panels are a part of that process, as well, but really they should be an easier target because they are typically planned in advance and can be put together with more forethought.

  • OK, a few more thoughts.  First of all, in this case carry the "nudnik" moniker with pride.  Believe me I have been called much worse.  Also,  the issue of gender balance on stage but not in talk time is very common place.  This week's GenderAvenger Action Alert (comes out at 4 today) features Apple's most recent event introducing the IPhone 7 where there were plenty of women on stage but they only represented 7% of talking time.  So this is a universal issue not one specific to the religious community.  

    The follow up point is a really good one.  We try to follow conferences year to year or organizations conference to conference so we can note progress or lack thereof.  You might pick an organization or two and follow them closely - perhaps being in the spotlight consistently will raise someone within the organization's conscience and began a process of internal discuss that could possibly lead to change.

    Again, thanks for including me and look forward to hearing more about your efforts going forward.

  • Thanks everyone! I will own the moniker of nudnik more closely and remember that it's in the interest of getting our community on the right side of history so to speak.  And I appreciate that representative might not be the goal, but some sort of balance is - both in who is speaking and in how much "air time" they actually get.  I hope we can all be a little more nudnicky in this effort (despite sometimes feeling like "that person" who always does that), focus on a few organizations, and be remind people why this matters!  Thanks for including me.

  • Before you close, let's state the obvious... not one woman candidate for the next president of Yeshiva University. They couldn't even pretend that they were considering a woman.

  • From what I understand it was perceived by those in charge that a woman was not a possibility. I can't say what exactly that means, but I suppose that was their sociological judgment. In large part this is related to who the constituency is supposed to be.

  • My big take-away from this conversation - which I really enjoyed - is that panels are the tip of the iceberg, but for a lot of reasons are an excellent place to start. Hopefully it's just a start, though, and the panels can have ripple effects on all other parts of our society and culture going forward!

    Thank you all, kol ha-kavod, and best wishes going forward.

  • I leave with one thought:

    Fight the patriarchy!

  • The tip of the iceberg is right! Panels are a great place to start. So are conference programs, conventions, speaker series, Pesach programs, and scholar-in-residence programs. In all of these, women are missing or woefully underrepresented.  

    I'm going to add something to women being on panels and having equal speaking time: how women are presented by organizers. I was on a list of speakers for an event--the only woman. When I was added to the program, my name was listed last. That made sense to me at the time because I was the person most recently added. However, a number of men were added after me. Each one was added right above my name. My name, the only woman on the list, stayed last. These implicit messages about the importance of women's presence need to be changed. 

    My most important takeaway is that we can't be the only "nudniks." We can't be monitoring every organization and every conference planner. We need to galvanize others to see gender imbalance and advocate from within. It is those who belong to the organization or the congregation who can make the greatest impact. We also need to work to identify and promote women speakers who are often lesser known than their male counterparts.

    Wishing you all continued success! Thank you!

  • Thank you Aaron, Gina, Leslie, Ruthie, and Steven for this stimulation conversation. It has certainly provided me with new perspectives, ideas, and tools for the trade. Thank you for all that you do to shift the paradigm in the right direction. 

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