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Gender equity in Jewish community organisations in NSW

Rebecca Forgasz
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cover art gender equity

The Gender Equity Survey commissioned by The Jewish Independent and the National Council for Jewish Women revealed important insights into people’s perceptions and experiences of gender equality, discrimination and harassment in Jewish community organisations in NSW.

Some of the key findings are summarised here, together with a comparison to the corresponding data from a Victorian survey conducted in 2020-2021.

While the large majority of NSW respondents indicated early in the survey that gender equality is valued in their organisations and that gender discrimination and sexual harassment are not tolerated, agreement on these points was not emphatic. A significant minority (up to 1 in 4 in some cases) were unsure or disagreed with these statements. (In the Victorian survey, there was a lower rate of disagreement on these points.) The doubts of this minority were certainly borne out in the findings revealed subsequently throughout the survey, namely:

Women were more than twice as likely as men to have experienced gender-based harassment and to have been impacted by gender-based discrimination. The same pattern was evident in the Victorian data.

1 in 10 people reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in their organisation. The most common forms of harassment were “intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance”, “sexually suggestive jokes or comments” and “unwelcome touching, hugging and other physical contact”. These findings were closely mirrored in the Victorian survey.

Key forms of gender-based discrimination described by respondents included: lack of flexible working arrangements being offered, women not being listened to and not being offered the same opportunities to advance in their career.

Female employees were far less likely than men to report that they received regular pay rises, had access to professional development opportunities or were actively supported to advance their careers. Female volunteers were also less likely than men to report that they had adequate training to fulfil their role. While there were similar gender differences in the Victorian data, they were not as pronounced as in NSW.  Indeed, in one case, the results were reversed: more women than men in Victoria reported that they receive regular pay rises.

  • Separate from gender-based discrimination or harassment, bullying was quite widely reported among survey respondents. Each of the listed bullying behaviours were reported by at least one-third of respondents, with the most prevalent being favouritism, undermining, and shouting.
    • The prevalence of bullying behaviours was slightly lower in Victoria. However, there was a more pronounced gender difference in the data, with higher comparative rates of bullying reported by women in Victoria than in NSW.
  • Throughout the survey, there were marked differences in the perceptions and experiences of employees, board members and volunteers:

Board members were:

  • Far more positive in their assessment of whether people of diverse backgrounds are equally valued in their organisations (though they were less likely than staff or volunteers to agree that people of all ages were equally valued, with younger board members most negative on this point);
    • Much more likely to strongly agree that gender equality is valued and that gender discrimination and harassment are not tolerated, despite the prevalence of such incidents, particularly among employees;

In the Victorian data, the pattern was similar but not as pronounced on the above two points, with board members’ perceptions more closely aligned with those of employees.

  • Almost half as likely as employees to have personally seen or experienced gender-based harassment in their organisations. This was not the case in Victoria, where more board members than employees reported having seen gender-based harassment. 

Employees were:
Far more likely than either board members or volunteers to have seen or experienced gender-based harassment in their organisations or to have been impacted by gender-based discrimination. In Victoria, this was true in relation to volunteers but not board members;

More likely to have day-to-day experiences of work and career advancement in their organisations that were differentiated along gender lines, with various forms of direct and indirect discrimination against women evident.

  1. Volunteers were:
  2. Least likely to have seen or experienced gender-based discrimination, harassment or bullying, both in NSW and Victoria.
  • For people who identified their sexuality as gay/lesbian/bisexual/other, there was a negative trend throughout the NSW survey in relation to perceptions and experiences of equality, discrimination, harassment and bullying.
    • They were less likely to agree that people of diverse backgrounds are treated equally in their organisations, in particular people of diverse sexualities. (Indeed, respondents across the board were least likely to agree that people of all sexualities were equally valued, compared with people of diverse ages, genders or cultural backgrounds.)
    • They were 2-3 times more likely than average to have seen or experienced gender-based harassment or been impacted by gender-based discrimination;
    • There was a far higher prevalence of experiences of bullying among this cohort – up to twice as common in some instances.
    • This trend was not evident in the Victorian data at all. There were no notable differences between the experiences and perceptions of heterosexual and non-heterosexual respondents.
  • The main barriers to change and to the attainment of greater gender equality identified by respondents were:
  • general resistance to change, entrenched attitudes and an ‘insular’ culture, especially among long-standing employees; and
  • broader social and systemic factors, such as bias and fixed ideas about gender roles.
  • Leadership was mentioned often as a key factor in either driving or blocking change. However:
    • One in four people were either unsure or disagreed that there were leaders in their organisation who valued and promoted gender equality (the figure in Victoria was lower - approximately 1 in 8);
    • Only 3 in 5 board members believed that there was a good understanding of gender issues on the board of their organisation (the same as in Victoria);
    • Only 16% of respondents (34% in Victoria) agreed that their organisations had policies regarding gender equality, a key tool available to leadership to demonstrate commitment and embed organisational change.

READ THE FULL SURVEY on Gender Equity in Jewish community organisations in NSW


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