Jewish women’s contribution to the global economy was celebrated this week at a two-day conference at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
The gathering of the Jewish Women’s Business Network (JWBN) heard from leading female entrepreneurs, lawyers and other corporate leaders about how they have pushed their businesses forward.
The entrepreneurs came from the UK, Europe, the US and Israel for the launch event, while the Lords Pickles and Polak also attended, as did Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss.
Addressing the gathering, just after the opening bell on Tuesday, Diane Côté, the Chief Risk Officer and Chair of Women Inspired Network, LSE Group, said: “We are celebrating the contribution of Jewish women to the world economy.
“We are committed to equality in the workplace, between men and women and our aim is to get to women into 40 percent of senior leadership roles by 2020.”
She added that her organisation conference was set up “to inspire and promote gender equality”, while she hoped the conference would be “the beginning of new partnerships, new beginnings and new friendships.”
Emma Sinclair, the co-founder of EnterpriseAlumi and UNICEF adviser – and the youngest person in the world to have floated a company – recalled how she became a “stock exchange fanatic”.
She said: “Most kids’ parents test their children on the times table or spelling, but my dad played ‘Guess the Share Price’ with me on our way to school. It was only later in life that I realised that this was very strange.
“And, when I went to university – which is when they introduced tuition fees – I traded shares and was able to pay for my education that way.”
Truss said she had been at many openings at the LSE, but “this is the strongest collection of people I have seen here. It’s brilliant to welcome guests from the UK, Europe, the US and Israel – people with drive who really change the world.”
She added that there was a “latent energy of thousands of women in the UK who could, but don’t yet, set up their own business. Women are the most untapped resource in the UK, with 1.2 million potential businesses that could be set up.
“I am big supporter of disruptors and women are the greatest disruptors since they can see things that old business cannot.”
Marilyn Stowe, of Leeds-based Stowe Family Law – the largest family law practice in the UK – said she was a “proud Yorkshire lass and proud Jew who sees Jewish ethics at the centre of my work. We are giving back pro bono to those who need.
“Tzedaka [charity] is part of our work and our ethics; generosity and kindness are a sign of strength and I would like to be a mentor for those who are struggling though times of darkness.”
One of the JWBN founders, Justine Zwerling, head of primary markets Israel, LSE Group, told Jewish News: “The concept of our global network began in my garden in a moshav in the hills of Jerusalem this spring – where 20 women of from all walks of life joined me for a networking brunch – the first question was ‘who are you and what do you do’, the second ‘how can we help each other’.
“From this small gathering the results were business opportunities, collaborations, friendships, job creation and a supportive community that organically grew.”
Zwerling said that with the other JWBN founders, Yael Simon, Justine Colley, Jodi Karpes and Zehava Kahen, she “began building this global network with the blessing and support of our host Diane Côté”.
“We are delighted to hold the first LSEG Jewish Women’s Business Network event in collaboration with our Women Inspired Network. It is a great honour to host these exceptional women at London Stock Exchange Group.
“The event and Market Open ceremony celebrate the ambitious and innovative spirit Jewish businesswomen bring to the global economy as female entrepreneurs and business leaders across the world.”
Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK, Sharon Bar-Li, said that she had been inspired to join the diplomatic corps by her grandmother, the first Israeli female ambassador.
When she joined the ministry, women were in the minority, she said. “Now, in the cadet course that has just finished, 17 of the 23 people on the course were women.”
She noted that the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said once that there was a “special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. This has become the 614th mitzvah for Israeli women diplomats.”
The conference was also addressed by Jerusalem’s deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum recalled the biblical story of the crossing of the Red Sea, when it was the women who celebrated with song after the successful feat.
“First, it shows that women know how to party,” she said. “It also shows positivity and faith. Let’s keep celebrating.”