Blazing Trails

Every now and then, I have an experience that truly puts me in the shoes of others. The roundtable discussion Justin Silberman and I took part in for this week’s cover story about five young women in the political arena was just that kind of experience.

While I was completely aware that women face different obstacles than men in the workplace, hearing these stories really brought the point home. But the conversation was no downer, as talk quickly turned to inspirational and uplifting topics: of being the “first” woman to achieve something; of engaging those who were previously unengaged in the political process; and of more people hitting the streets to voice their concerns.

Whether it’s the groups of women Mandee Heinl (County Councilwoman Vicki Almond’s legislative aide) has been organizing to support preferred candidates or the woman Jews United for Justice’s Molly Amster convinced to testify on police accountability or the increased number of rallies the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Sarah Mersky saw in Annapolis this year, it’s clear that there are women working to move politics away from being an “old boys’ club.”

“I think we’re seeing people take ownership of people who they think will represent them well,” Heinl said of the “huddles” she’s been helping to organize.

While there are still many glass ceilings to shatter in the political world — men still outnumber women by far in political office — women are blazing trails in a variety of areas, as you’ll read in this week’s JT.

Daniel Nozick’s “You Should Know” feature has attorney Kelley Spigel laying out the goals of her new family law firm, started just weeks ago by the 30-year-old. He also spoke with Joan Magill, an Owings Mills real estate professional who recently became the first woman to be featured on the cover of trade magazine US Builders Review. And Hannah Monicken spoke with Jackie Congedo, a Howard County native who was recently named director of the Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council.

Milestones like these are worthy of celebration, and knowing that there may have been obstacles along the way — obstacles I may never face — and knowing that these women likely had to work harder and smarter than their male counterparts is even more of a cause to celebrate.

It’s no secret — and statistically proven — that there is still a long road ahead to gender equality, but the Jewish community in Baltimore can count itself among those ahead of the curve. Outside of the achievements of these eight women, Baltimore’s Jewish organizations have a large number of women in upper-level positions, chairing committees and leading volunteer efforts.

It’s on all of us not only to recognize rising stars, but also to make sure the playing field continues to be leveled and that we are paving the way for the next generation of female leaders.

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