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JCC State of Mind – February 9, 2024

Posted by Admin on February 9, 2024

Written by Aaron Cantor, EKC Director

We are on a mission at EKC to advance a transformative cultural shift—one that empowers and advances female staff, fosters allyship among male colleagues, and cultivates an inclusive work environment. We are beyond excited to share that we’ve been awarded a grant from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh in support of this important work during the upcoming camp season.

To help guide us along the way, we have finalized a collaboration with both Gender Equity in Hiring Project’s Dr. Sara Shapiro-Plevan and JCC Association’s Chief Talent Officer, Carrie Darsky. These recognized authorities in professional development will help ensure that our efforts remain grounded in providing experiences that equip our female staff with lifelong tools applicable in any workplace, modeling a supportive and growth-oriented workspace, and addressing the gender leadership gap that persists even in the most egalitarian settings.

An average day for staff at EKC—maintaining schedules, organizing activities, and supervising kids in a fast-paced 24/7 environment—may not at first seem to be about developing leadership skills. In actuality though, working at summer camp is on the-job experience around teamwork, creative problem-solving and decision-making. More than completing daily tasks, our young adult staff are acquiring valuable skills sought after in any industry, and at the same time are learning about themselves during a pivotal developmental stage; they begin to recognize their potential and make connections to behaviors, attitudes and actions that can demonstrate power and influence. Working at summer camp is considered to be so influential in young people’s lives that it is often the experience that shapes and guides their career choices. Seeing the growth of former camp staff is truly one of my favorite aspects of my own career.

As we see every day at EKC, there is no formula or straight line to the how of internalizing leadership; becoming a leader is an iterative process involving internalizing a leadership identity and developing a sense of purpose. It also includes accessing a culture where talents and ambitions are nurtured by allies and mentors. Research shows that for females, gender bias persists and disrupts the learning cycle at the heart of becoming a leader. Internalized glass ceilings likewise persist, and it can be difficult to translate tasks into earned leadership skills. Understanding that EKC staff members are young adults in the nascent stages of their careers, this initiative empowers us to nurture a culture that helps young women envision themselves as leaders, designs pathways to promotion that chart a course to leadership, and fosters allies among male colleagues.

We embrace the responsibility and opportunity to shape the way our community thinks about gender equity for emerging professionals. By challenging and disrupting the status quo, we take on an important role in creating a workplace culture that empowers all staff, regardless of gender, and sets the stage for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Alongside all of the daily activities that define EKC, striving for gender parity and equipping staff with new tools and insights will be an all hands on deck effort. We’re going to do this learning―and unlearning―together, by empowering young leaders, nurturing male allies, supporting learning and growth opportunities, and embracing the ripple effect our efforts can create. These components will make up a significant portion of our collective efforts to ignite meaningful growth to our workplace culture at EKC.

As summer approaches and we prepare to launch this initiative, we’re eager to share our learnings far and wide! May what we learn together inspire growth throughout EKC, the JCC, and in any summer camp community working towards inspiring a new generation of leadership.

Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom,


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