How Many Women Does it Take to Build a Rainbow?

By Miriam Libove

 

When I was in elementary school, my best friend, Melissa, had a poster on her bedroom wall with the caption, “How to Build a Rainbow.”  (I would like to credit the artist, but my then 7-year-old brain only recorded important information like where my mother hid the Chanukah presents and which babysitters let me stay up past bedtime.) Nevertheless, the poster made a lasting impression on me.

It depicted a partially-built, florescent rainbow, suspended above construction vehicles and laborers in hardhats. There were bulldozers and backhoes, and scaffolds with workers in paint-speckled overalls. Dump trucks carried loads of sand in vibrant blues and purples, and cranes dangled small arch-shaped sections of rainbow. It was clearly a group effort, and the results promised to be spectacular.

This image came to mind a few weeks back as I watched JWFNY Assistant Director, Stephanie Blumenkranz, and Program Manager, Rachel Siegel, climbing on chairs and fitting together long pieces of metal piping. No, they were not building a sukkah, but rather, a structure that would be used to hang the JWFNY “Genderosity” banner for an upcoming event.

As a community committed to operating according to women’s values, the administrative preparation was highly collaborative. Handouts had to be printed and collated, brochures counted, nametags created, and yes, the metal framework for the banner had to be assembled.

I again was reminded of the rainbow-under-construction poster recently as the JWFNY team organized a large mailing for the High Holidays. With more than a 1,500 names on our mailing list, this was a task that could have felt insurmountable if assigned to just one person. As the newest member of the staff, and the one with the most administrative duties actually written into her job description, the entire project could have fallen in my lap. But that’s not the way this Foundation works.

It seems that Executive Director, Jamie Allen Black, has made a conscious decision to manage her staff in a way that facilitates unity and deemphasizes hierarchy. Taking a broad view of our individual skill sets, she encourages us to maximize our personal strengths and not feel confined by our job descriptions. When a newsletter needs to be generated, she invites input from all of us, regardless of seniority levels. By the same token, when a large organizational task needs to be done, she rolls up her sleeves, and stuffs envelopes along with the rest of us.

It is a good feeling to be part of this group of women. Under Jamie’s leadership, I feel empowered to contribute my ideas, and even write a blog post or two. We operate as a team, and as such, we can make great things happen. Maybe even a rainbow.

 

If you are interested in having your organization be less hierarchical and more of a holacracy, here’s a nice starting off point: http://www.forbes.com/sites/karlmoore/2011/06/14/the-decline-but-not-fall-of-hierarchy-what-young-people-really-want.  Please share your examples in the comments section below.

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