In suit pants and blazers, nylons and heels, University of Maryland students gathered Sunday morning for the first ever Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference at Maryland Hillel. Students entered into the organization’s brightly decorated social hall, where nervous smiles were shared and handshakes ensued. More than 100 students came together to discuss their professional aspirations.
“It was great to see Jewish girls from such different backgrounds unite toward a common goal,” said participant Tamara Berman, a freshman and civil engineering major.
After registration and a light breakfast, the program continued with 45-minute skill-building sessions. Students selected from a list of sessions with names like “Making the Most of Your Job Offer: Tips for Negotiating Salary” and “Oprah, Ellen…You! How to Build Your Personal Brand and Have Fun Doing it.”
Deborah Rosenbloom, vice president of programs for Jewish Women International, led a workshop on walking away with a higher salary than the one that was offered and shared negotiation strategies. She spoke about the disparity between what men and women earn and said that 30 percent of a woman’s income goes toward paying off debts and delaying or ruling out graduate school.
“Young women save half as much of their discretionary income compared to men, because of media pressure — cosmetics, hair treatments, wardrobe — everything costs more,” noted Rosenbloom.
She shared tips on thinking critically and realistically about the cost of living. “You must be able to afford your dream job,” she said.
Leslie Pomerantz’s “Defining you Leadership Style” session focused on using biblical giants as guides and role models of leadership. Pomerantz, senior vice president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, described Moses’ legislative role, Aaron’s peacemaker persona and Miriam’s contemplative, consensus-building strengths. It was Miriam who had thought to bring along timbrels during the Exodus, and lead the women in dance. In groups, students worked on defining the qualities that define a leader, and assessed their own strengths and weaknesses.
Later, students networked over lunch with 25 local business professionals. Nikki Golomb, a freshman and international relations major, drove an hour and a half from the University of Delaware to attend the event after a program director at her Hillel chapter posted about the event on Facebook.
“I was surprised by the professionals’ breadth of knowledge and how much they empowered me,” she said. “I really enjoyed learning about personal branding and found networking with them really helpful.”
Jewish sorority Sigma Delta Tau was a co-sponsor of the event and 20 SDT sisters attended. SDT President Lauren Mishan said that as a Jew and woman, she is a minority in a predominantly male professional world.
“Young women of this campus really got a lot out of it,” said Mishan. “I think it was important, especially in empowering women in my chapter.”
Added Talya Bock, a trustee of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation, another co-sponsor, “We share a vision of social change for women and girls, and we pool our resources — our time, our funds, our hearts, our brains, our networks — toward empowering women.”