Finding Balance: Where are all the Boys?
Today we welcome our first post from Eden Marcus, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
It’s become a tradition that my USY (United Synagogue Youth) chapter board participates in a minyan during our Monday night meetings—the quick break next door in the sanctuary helps us feel part of the temple community. But lately I find these field trips troubling. When people see a group of seven girls walk in, the first thing I hear is, “Where are all the boys?” Or, perhaps even more troubling, “Wait, you don’t have any male leaders?”
“Nope,” I want to say, “It’s just us girls. I am the president, and all the vice presidents are girls as well…and guess what? We’re doing great.”
I know that an all girl board may be a novelty to many people, but it can be frustrating when the first reaction we get is that of confused and scratch-your-head surprise.
Sometimes, I come home from a board meeting and vent to my mom. My mom, who has served on more than a few committees, told me that boards work best when there is diversity—whether that means a mix of genders, experiences or viewpoints. My mom comforted me and pointed out that while my USY board lacks a variety in gender, we bring differences in age, religious involvement, and USY experience.
Shortly after our conversation, she sent me an article by Nicholas Kristof who discussed the lack of females on the Twitter board, even though women use Twitter more than men. Kristof, one of the few that even noticed the lack of women, cited a study showing, “In business, there’s abundant evidence that inclusion of women in senior positions is linked to better results.”
Yes, diversity is good, and my USY board is trying to plan events that will appeal to both genders. The way I see it, having passionate people on board is the key to success. We were the people who put ourselves out there to lead—the ones with the passion to help. So, does it really matter that we all happen to be girls?
While we were discussing Kristof’s article, my mom asked a question that got me thinking. She wanted to know: do you think they would have noticed if your board was all boys?
There is no way to know for sure. Truthfully, I don’t think an all boy board would attract as much notice. People are used to seeing guys run things. We see it in business and politics all the time. And let’s face it—there aren’t many circumstances where only females are in charge.
Heavily female boards in USY are becoming more common. This year’s regional executive board consists of five girls and one boy. When I asked Amanda Hills, the Regional President of the New England Region of USY, for her thoughts about heavily female boards, she shared her belief that youth are the root of change. The growing number of females serving in high positions in youth groups, she said, “should be taken as a really strong indication of what's to come.”
Of course, some things may never change. When I asked Matt Holman, the sole male on the regional board, what it’s like to be outnumbered by all the girls, he simply shrugged and said he’s fine… except, “It’s sometimes awkward when they go to the bathroom together and I’m left alone.” Matt’s nonchalant response is a sign of the times; he’s really not bothered.
I feel hopeful. Females in executive positions, leadership roles in youth groups, or even running synagogues, are becoming more common. One day, I believe, it won’t even be a cause for comment—or a whole blog post.