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March 15, 1991 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-03-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Number of Women Serving
on Detroit Federation Board
Barely Increases

AMY J. MEHLER

Staff Writer

SHIRLEY HARRIS

LINDA LEE

MICHELLE PASSON

T

he number of Detroit
women who serve as
officers and board
members of the city's Jewish
Welfare Federation has
barely increased in the last
five years.
Women occupy 14 of the 99
seats on the JWF board of
governors, the Federation's
top body of lay leadership.
Five years ago, women held
13 of 93 board positions.
Despite these numbers,
Federation staffers such as
Michelle Passon, director of
leadership development,
believe that women's in-
volvement is growing and
breaking new ground.
"Even though there's been
little growth (for women) on
the board of governors, it
doesn't mean that other
areas of leadership in the
Federation are under-
represented," she said.
Mrs. Passon, who in 1986
conducted her own survey of
women's leadership roles in
the local Federation, found
women had zero member-
ship on the finance com-
mittee and held 1 percent of
committee chairs compared
to 43 percent of Federation
committees nationally.
Despite these findings,
Mrs. Passon said the status
of women is better today,
pointing to an increase in
the number of women presi-
dents of Federation agencies
and to the increase of women
members on Federation's
executive committee.
"For the first time in the
Jewish Welfare Federation's
64 years of existence, there
are three women presidents
of agencies," Mrs. Passon
said. "This would have been
unheard of even 10 years
ago."
Linda Lee is president of
the Jewish Community
Center, Linda Z. Klein heads
the Jewish Vocational Ser-

vice and Janet Levine is
president of Federation
Apartments. There are 12
agencies in all.
In 1970, Mrs. Passon said,
two out of 18 members of the
JWF executive committee
were women. In 1986, five
out of 21 member were wo-
men. Today, six of the 35
committee members are
women.
Mrs. Passon also cited the
number of women recipients
of the annual Fred M. Butzel
Memorial Award for Com-
munity Service, the highest
honor the Jewish Welfare
Federation bestows.
Of the last 39 honorees,
eight have been women.

Women occupy
only 14 of the 99
seats on Detroit's
board of governors,
the Federation's
top body of lay
leadership. Five
years ago, women
held 13 of 93 board
positions.

During the mid-1980s,
Mrs. Passon said more was
done to promote women in
non-traditional leadership
roles.
"The path to leadership for
any aspiring lay person is
through the Allied Jewish
Campaign — in areas of fi-
nance and major gifts — not
through the Women's Divi-
sion or educational and ser-
vice oriented boards and
committees," she said.
Shirley Harris, vice presi-
dent of United Jewish
Charities and whose vol-
unteer career with the JWF
spans almost 40 years, said
she notices more and more
women with professional
business credentials coming
into the ranks of Federation
leadership.
"Women have established

their rights," she said.
"They are asked to join
committees with increased
frequency, and they sit on
them."
Mrs. Harris, the first
woman in Federation to co-
chair a division in the gen-
eral Campaign, feels there's
a good representation of
women in the Federation.
Mrs. Harris has also held
positions in women's en-
dowment fund-raising, gen-
eral fund-raising, and this
year sits on a new JWF con-
trol advisory planning com-
mittee which authenticates
requests for monetary
grants.
Linda Lee, the first woman
president of the JCC since
1941, said the JWF has a
way to go before it fills its
top echelons with women.
"Women seem to roll up
their sleeves and take care of
the nitty-gritty," she said.
"Women aren't that hung up
on titles. Maybe if we had
been more insistent, we'd
have achieved higher posi-
tions sooner."
Mrs. Lee, who was recently
named a Heart of Gold reci-
pient by United Way, is one
of three women on a Federa-
tion strategic planning
committee with a total
membership of 17.
"They then added 36 addi-
tional spots for subcom-
mittees," she said, "but wo-
men only held 10 of those
positions.
"There are still com-
mittees with dispropor-
tionate (low) numbers of
women," she said. "There
are certainly enough capable
women, but we can't expect
changes over night."
Mrs. Passon said change
was her goal when she first
conducted her survey. It was
prompted by an earlier study
that revealed a perception
that women who work in
Jewish federations were less
involved in areas such as fi-
nance, budget and business.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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