Lessons of Leadership From My Mother.

Author:Epstein, Nadine

Moment's Year of the Woman is in full swing. With help from some very savvy women and men, we're compiling an exciting list of powerful and thoughtful women leaders to interview and honor this year.

I've been thinking about the need for more women leaders since I was a child. My mother, Ruth Epstein, was a dynamic leader. She stayed home like many suburban moms of her era but was also the president of a number of women's organizations and a leader of local causes. When she would return from that mysterious something called a meeting, she'd casually drop that she had been elected president or vice president. For most of my childhood, I assumed all you had to do was show up at a meeting to become president. (Only in ninth grade did I learn there was much more to it. I ran for student government in a new school without bothering to prepare my speech, and lost by a humiliating margin.)

After volunteering at the local JCC, my mother eventually worked her way up to assistant executive director. Only after a series of male executive directors did not work out did the board turn to the highly competent and visionary woman who had been there all the time. She went on to oversee major membership and building expansions, as well as to launch and manage a second JCC in an underserved part of the county. I tell you this because my mother exemplified some of the special qualities many women bring to leadership. In addition to being a compelling speaker, she was also a warm, inclusive collaborator who paid attention to the critical role of tone in bringing people together. And she was a strategic thinker who applied common sense to find opportunities for agreement. In short, she possessed the kind of leadership qualities that our world desperately needs.

In a different era my mother might have run for political office, and I know if she were alive today, she would be thrilled at the record number of women who are doing just that. In this issue, Moment's Ellen Wexler introduces us to a few of them, including three who cut their political teeth in Jewish institutions. But even if all these women win, there still won't be enough women in office. In 2015, when I asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg what the court would be like if four or five women were appointed, she looked at me and said: "'People ask me, 'When will there be enough?' and I say, 'When there are nine.'" She pointed out that the nation had nine male justices for centuries. I agree...

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