Washington, D.C. and I are about to celebrate our 5 year anniversary. A lot has changed for me in those five years: I have had 2 great jobs, started graduate school, seen friends move here and then move away, met a great guy (and endured some less-than-quality time on OK Cupid…), and seen the streetcar finally carry passengers up and down H Street. Some of these five years have felt all over the place, but one of the most important constants for me has been my involvement in Jewish Women International’s Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN).
JWI’s mission is powerful: to end violence against women domestically and abroad, and to ensure that women and girls are empowered to control their financial futures. JWI staff are just as likely to be found in the halls of Congress educating Senators about the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence prevention as they are to be training young women on college campuses about how to manage their finances or negotiate their first salaries. The Young Women’s Leadership Network is just one way in which JWI has shown its commitment to supporting women at every phase of their lives. As a founding board member of YWLN, it has been immensely satisfying to create a space for young women to learn professional skills while meeting their personal needs, targeting themes that range from how to quit your job and start a business to how to merge divergent Jewish traditions with a significant other or roommate.
To me, DC has always felt hyper-focused on self-serving professional opportunities. But YWLN is different. Memorably, in our first year we hosted a breakfast with a corporate leader at Scholastic. I watched as a conversation between our speaker and a young engineer began with how technology can encourage education reform, but quickly morphed into advice on how to negotiate a promotion, and ended with a broader question about how to create a more personally fulfilling career. This is just one example of how, in intimate settings, YWLN provides the space for women at the top of their fields to “pay it forward” by melding personal and professional advice in the same way that it is melded in the real world. Our members are empowered to serve as mentors to each other within our network as well, helping each other through the seemingly minor but often difficult decisions of building a career and a life.
In the United States, almost 85% of those who serve on boards of non-profits are over the age of 40. Many wait to join a board until they consider themselves professionally successful or wealthy enough to donate monetarily. Conversely, being on a board at the beginning of my career has provided me with a way to continue to educate myself, build my professional network, design programming that speaks to me and my peers, and begin to instill the habit of giving time when money is not as available. Without the daily pressures or bureaucracy that come with working on the staff of an organization, YWLN has given me the opportunity to take the “30,000 foot view,” engage in strategic conversations about innovative programming, and establish the mission and vision of our young organization.
I hope you will consider joining me on the YWLN DC board and help us as we continue to expand. In just the past year we have opened a new chapter in NYC, baked babka with a well-known chef, learned about public service from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and celebrated Mother’s Day with a fundraiser that benefitted survivors of domestic violence. Be a part of what happens next! Applications will be accepted from now through June 1 and can be found here!