A new era for Jewish women in business

The Jewish Women's Business Network at the market opening of the London Stock Exchange on 22 January 2019
The Jewish Women's Business Network at the market opening of the London Stock Exchange on 22 January 2019

The Jewish Women’s Business Network launched at the London Stock Exchange on January 22nd 2019. To say this launch represents a new era for Jewish businesswomen is far from an empty slogan.

The launch was the culmination of a year of planning and effort, but it was also a response to a clear and urgent problem that has needed to be solved for many years. Like so many other Jewish businesswomen, when I started to forge my own career, I quickly became aware of two elements that were missing: there were no Jewish female mentors and there was no community of women like myself.

Communal events aimed at women seemed restricted to challah baking, fundraising and educational experiences. I wanted to benefit from the same types of business networking environments that were available to men in our community, but those spaces and opportunities simply didn’t exist. At times, it really felt like I was a community of one, with little choice but to forge my own path in business and to make my own connections.  Even the explosion of online networking was of limited help, providing only brief LinkedIn exchanges and soulless connections.

Over 20 years and with much perseverance, I managed to find Jewish women who became my role models, sharing their strength and wisdom as I sought to fulfil my business potential and balance the responsibility of caring for a large family. But I couldn’t get one question out of my mind – why should it be so difficult to find role models, mentors and advisors who understand what it means to be a Jewish woman and a businesswoman? The more I thought about this question, the more I began to realise what sort of impact a professional network for Jewish women could have.

In 2018, I met Justine Zwerling, Head of Israel Capital Markets at the London Stock Exchange.  A formidable and respected industry leader in her own right, Justine and I quickly realised that we had both been incubating similar ideas. Suddenly everything clicked into place.  We decided to work together, determined to jointly create a space for Jewish women that provided the sorts of opportunities we had struggled to find on our own.

Justine and I found an invaluable ally in Diane Cote, Chief Risk Officer of the London Stock Exchange and Chairperson of the Women’s Inspired Network.  Diane quickly recognised that our vision was not to create a self-serving network, but rather a space for mentoring and empowerment to show the global business world that Jewish women are a force to be reckoned with!

The rest, as they say, is history. The launch of the Jewish Women’s Business Network at the London Stock Exchange exceeded even our wildest expectations.  Public and private industry leaders and women at every stage of their career in hi-tech, law, medicine, finance and philanthropy converged on London from New York, Israel, Europe, South Africa and across the UK.  The sheer levels of energy, ambition and passion in the room demonstrated beyond any doubt that Jewish women have been crying out for a network like this. The launch began with a conference to highlight the dynamism and ingenuity of proud and entrepreneurial Jewish businesswomen, with business leaders sharing their expertise on important topics including business strategy, life balance and philanthropy.  The following morning, the balconies of the London Stock Exchange were packed with row upon row of proud Jewish businesswomen, cheering as the launch of the Jewish Women’s Business Network was announced at the opening of the market.

I can assure you that this is only the beginning. I believe what we have started at the Jewish Women’s Business Network will have a profound influence on how our community supports women of all ages to fulfil their potential in their chosen fields. Our network will ensure that Jewish women can expect to have outstanding opportunities for meaningful and transactional relationships in their business lives.  We know that the next generation of Jewish businesswomen are looking to us and we take that responsibility very seriously. The Jewish Women’s Business Network signifies to this next generation that we are here for you; we will guide you, connect you and help you become the most effective and fulfilled person you can be. Above all, we promise you one thing – you will not be alone.

 

About the Author
Yael Simon is a business development entrepreneur, specialising as a global strategist for both corporates and non-profits and serves as a valued and trusted adviser to many philanthropic families and foundation
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