Sexual Harassment Focus of First Webinar Program
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Sexual Harassment Focus of First Webinar Program

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta launches series addressing female community needs.

“Gender inequality isn’t something that happens in a city bubble,” said JWFA Executive Director Rachel Wasserman.
“Gender inequality isn’t something that happens in a city bubble,” said JWFA Executive Director Rachel Wasserman.

A Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta webinar series addressing the needs of women and girls began Wednesday with the theme of sexual harassment. The subject was identified among others in a needs-assessment study. The results of community-wide research conducted by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, were announced in March.

The documentary film “Nevertheless” was made available to an audience online for a week, after which a discussion webinar was held that attracted more than 150 people across the United States, Israel and Mexico.

“That was the benefit of being virtual,” said Rachel Wasserman, JWFA executive director. “The virtual world allows us to reach a wider audience. Our mission is to promote social change for Jewish women and girls wherever they are. Gender inequality isn’t something that happens in a city bubble.”

“Nevertheless” shared the intimate stories of seven people who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or school context. The film, and the following panel of experts, addressed the issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, gender-based violence, victim blaming, retaliation, privilege, intersectionality, toxic masculinity, socialization of children and the legal system.

The JWFA study results of the nearly 800 women and girls who responded to the research showed that 37 percent of the women faced illegal discrimination, such as earning less than men in comparable jobs, and 26 percent of women experienced some kind of sexual harassment in the last 10 years. Although the respondents were all Jewish, their work environment wasn’t limited to the Jewish community.

Of the three population groups that were interviewed, working women was the largest. The other two groups encompassed teen girls and adult caregivers.

The next program scheduled to address the issues from the grant-making organization’s study is called “Exploring the Good Girl/Super Woman Syndrome.” It, too, will be held via webinar July 29.

According to Wasserman, the issue of women feeling they must maintain a façade of perfection impacts all three groups that were part of the needs-assessment study. “This feeling permeates us throughout our lifetimes,” she said.

Indeed, one high school teen interviewed in the study mused, “I guess it’s the way that the world is now, … if you haven’t cured cancer by the time you’re 12, then you’re a failure.”

Wasserman told the AJT earlier this year that the study revealed that the challenges in balancing work-life issues were impacting teens as well as adults. “That was the biggest ‘aha’ for us because we’re perpetuating the same anxiety. Teenage girls become moms and we have got to stop this cycle.”

According to Wasserman, “We knew this was an issue before the pandemic, but now it’s just exacerbated, and it will be a problem after the pandemic.”

A third webinar resulting from the community-wide study will be held Oct. 22, focusing on “Women and the Ever-Evolving Role of Caretaker.”

On Aug. 26, JWFA scheduled a webinar entitled “Gender-lens Philanthropy in the Age of COVID.”

Wasserman said, “This is less directly connected to our study, but it’s part of our strategic plan. Women tend to feel uncomfortable with money and power. There are a lot of studies about how philanthropy will be affected by COVID.”

Details for all of the webinars can be found at https://jwfatlanta.org/events/. They are free and open to the public.

In May, JWFA concluded its regular grantmaking, having allocated more than $1 million. However, it has also issued an emergency Request for Proposals. “We are looking for Atlanta-based programs experiencing COVID-related needs,” Wasserman said. “There’s a lot of financial uncertainty these days.” The deadline for the emergency funding is June 30.

JWFA also recently concluded the pilot year of its Agents of Change program, which is designed to build the capacity of women in Atlanta’s Jewish community to become agents of change. The program hopes to help the women develop their skills through exclusive, interactive seminars led by accomplished leaders, activists and influencers, according to the group’s website. The program was so popular that JWFA is creating a second year for this first cohort, even as it seeks Jewish women above age 25 to launch a new ACT cohort that will begin in the fall.

Separately on July 16, JWFA is hosting a conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, moderated by Pat Mitchell, editorial director of TEDwomen. Acumen was founded in 2001 to “transform the world of philanthropy by looking at all human beings as members of a single, global community where everyone had the opportunity to build a life of dignity.” According to JWFA, the program is part of its efforts to educate their members as philanthropists.

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