Israeli study: As negotiators, man smart, woman smarter

Forget the men when it comes to business negotiations. Women may be more skilled than their masculine counterparts, according to a new study by an Israeli researcher.

The doctoral study, by Yael Itzhaki of Tel Aviv University (TAU), indicated that in certain groupings, women offered better terms than men to reach an agreement and were good at facilitating interaction between the parties.

“Women are more generous negotiators, better cooperators and are motivated to create win-win situations,” Itzhaki said.

Itzhaki, an adjunct lecturer at TAU’s Faculty of Management at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration, carried out simulations of business negotiations among 554 Israeli and American management students at Ohio State University, in New York City and in Israel.

The simulations, which were designed to examine how women behave in business situations requiring cooperation and competition, involved negotiating the terms of a joint venture, including the division of shares.

During the course of her research, Itzhaki discovered that while women in mid-management positions are often held back from promotion for being too “cooperative” and “compassionate,” men have begun to recognize the skills of their female colleagues and are now incorporating feminine strategies into their negotiating styles. “The men come in and use the same tactics women are criticized for,” she said.

Although both men and women can be good negotiators, Itzhaki emphasizes that there should be more women in top management jobs. Women have unique skills to offer, she said: They’re great listeners, they care about the concerns of the other side, and they’re generally more interested in finding a win-win situation to the benefit of both parties than male negotiators.

woman smarter william shatnerThese are especially desirable traits in today’s business world, which is calling for service improvements for customers and clients. Women today are earning more top positions in banking because of this trend, Itzhaki says.

In part, she says, women don’t reach CEO positions because they lack the right professional experience for the job and never enter the pool from which top positions are drawn. Managers commonly choose successors and colleagues who are most similar to themselves, Itzhaki explains. As a result, men are more likely to promote men.

Itzhaki, who is the founder of Netta, a nonprofit organization that promotes the advancement of women in the workplace, is currently advising Israeli companies on how to take affirmative action. Enforcing equal opportunity laws is one concern, but her advice also responds to concerns beyond the law. Are women being heard in corporate boardrooms? Does the company have policies that measure the amount of work accomplished and not merely hours on the job?

A lot of women don’t want to “fight” to be recognized, she said, preferring cooperation over competition. But more women in management can translate to a healthier bottom line, Itzhaki said.

“Businesses need to develop an organizational culture where everyone is heard, because women’s opinions and skills can give businesses a competitive edge,” she said.


It’s Personal, It’s Family and It’s Me

What was most surprising about the e-mail I got just a few months ago is that it came three years after the story ran.

When the story I wrote on addictions — particularly, sex addiction — was first published in March 2003, the response was immediate and strong.

Some people denounced a family paper for running such trash. But others, many more others, e-mailed or called to thank me, saying they hadn’t known they could get help for what they, too, suffered from. More than one person credited me with saving their lives.

And then — so much later — this e-mail came out of the blue, from someone who found the story online, and wanted to know how to get in touch with the man I had written about, a New York Chasid who had been sexually abused by older boys as a child, then grew up addicted to drugs and sex, all the while leading a respectable life with his wife and eight children. Now recovering, he helps others in the same situation, working quietly in the shadows of his Orthodox community.

Not every story I write gets that kind of reaction or has that kind of shelf life. And I am painfully aware that while some of the stories I have written for The Jewish Journal over the past eight years help people in small or large ways, a few of them hurt people and institutions as well.

But whether the articles are uplifting or depressing, helpful or hurtful, readers take articles published in The Jewish Journal personally.

And that’s why I do what I do. That’s why since college, when I edited Ha’Am, UCLA’s (now dormant) Jewish newsmagazine, I have stuck with Jewish journalism, never even being tempted to cross over into the mainstream press.

Reading a Jewish newspaper, I like to believe, is an intimate experience. In a Jewish newspaper — in fact, probably in any niche or ethnic publication — every bit of information is important and personal, because it is about people and things readers care about. The Los Angeles Times is about the world. The Jewish Journal is about your home. And even when the L.A. Times writes about your home, it is an outsider looking in, not a family member filling you in on the latest.

In fact, I often feel like I am writing for a family newsletter. I can picture readers flipping through the pages looking for articles by or about people they know. And even if there aren’t familiar faces or names, everyone is familiar, because everyone is part of the extended family of the Jewish world.

Look at our letters page. Readers’ responses jump with passion. People get incredibly elated, or totally upset, because the articles we write are about causes or people or institutions close to them.

Over the years, people have often asked me whether I’ve ever thought about working at a “real newspaper.” The idea, I guess, is if I’m good enough why wouldn’t I want to move up to the mainstream press? But for me that would be more of a move out than a move up.

I’d rather write for an audience of thousands that is curling up with the paper on Friday night and reading with a curious mind and, hopefully, an open heart, than for an audience of hundreds of thousands that is skimming the headlines before grabbing that travel-mug full of coffee and getting on the 405.


Sex Ed for Parents

Somewhere in America, a few high school students made a porno video, "by accident" they said, starring themselves. Whatever it was, a couple of kids were fooling around, and someone else had a camera. They showed the tape in the locker room and what followed was, of course, a big scandal. Somewhere else in America, there was an eighth-grade party, mom or dad took pictures, and when the photos came back from the lab, you could see two partygoers having oral sex near the shrubbery in the background of one of the shots. What upset the parents most was that the students weren’t even trying to hide.

Let’s blame someone. OK, it’s our commercial culture, the one that pays our bills. No, too close, it’s MTV (unless you work for it) or lascivious billboards or the movies. Let us stand for the declaration of our faith, "Our children are bombarded with overstimulating images, we are powerless to save them from casual, numb, sex."

We try to solve the problem by offering absurdly cold and clinical sex education classes in school, using scare tactics and statistics: just one careless drunken act at a party and "You’ll die from AIDS! Dead, dead, dead!" At home, when our children ask us about our own histories, we stand tall and tell the truth: "Times have changed … the pot wasn’t as strong then … sex wasn’t as dangerous … and I never did anything, anyway. There are other ways of having fun."

And then we direct our trophy children to the approved list of acceptable leisure activities. For example, we make them play difficult, bleating musical instruments. In my part of town it’s difficult to rent anything with a double reed because parents push bassoons and oboes on their middle-schoolers since offering yourself as first chair oboe is the ticket to Cornell.

Ooh, but catch your kid spending her allotted time on the frivolous — a crush, going to the Santa Monica Pier when she said she was staying at her friend’s, getting into the mildest trouble instead of conjugating French — we see all of this as a personal betrayal.

In a discussion about the fallout from the video scandal, I asked the parents about their own sex lives. One mother said, "Sex life? Are you kidding? We’re too tired. We cart the scholar-princes around all afternoon — from practices, to SAT prep, to band rehearsals. Then we come home and fall asleep catatonic by 9 p.m."

We are creating our own asceticism and abstinence through exhaustion and anxiety. And this goes against Jewish law, which has the wisdom to know that to have pleasure, you have to learn and practice pleasure, and if we don’t teach this to our children, how will they learn?

Here we find Kahana in the Talmud hiding under the bed of Rav, his teacher, because he wanted to learn the right way to make love. Rav and his wife went to bed, and as the 2,000-Year-Old Man said about the couple who discovered sex "During the night, they were thrilled and delighted." Except that they were watched.

Kahana was so shocked by what he saw, that he poked his head out and scolded Rav, saying, "You appear to me to be like a hungry man who has never had sex before. You act with such frivolity in your lust." Rav looked down at him and said, "Kahana, get out of here!" Kahana replied, "This, too, is Torah, and I must study!" We don’t know what the rebbetzin said.

I’m not suggesting you leave the bedroom door open, but the air of pleasure has its own energy in a house. In the Mishnah Torah, Maimonides describes the mitzvah of onah, a husband must not deny his wife pleasure. In the first year of marriage it’s his responsibility to learn what she likes. The wife has her own obligations to provide pleasure to her husband. She is forbidden to "delay immersing in the mikvah in order to afflict her husband."

As Rabbi Avraham Friedman writes in his beautiful and profound book, "Marital Intimacy: A Traditional Jewish Approach," a full sex life is so important that a husband cannot change careers without his wife’s consent because the change might hurt them in bed. So a camel driver (a low-paying job) can’t become a donkey driver (higher status, better money) without approval. The higher income is no justification if it damages the couple. "A woman prefers one measure of prosperity, as long as it is accompanied by intimate lightheartedness, to nine measures of material wealth and abstinence," we read in the Talmud.

In the fallout from our hyperparenting, we have failed to make adult life alluring. To many children, adulthood looks like no more than an opportunity to resolve complex scheduling conflicts, lose seven days a year standing entirely still in freeway traffic, periodically unfreeze the computer and fall asleep catatonic by 9 p.m. In a high school survey, one student recently wrote, "I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be like my mom and dad. They seem so sad and scared and stressed."

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his book "Jewish Wisdom," tells a story about a rabbi who informed his congregation that he was planning a trip to Switzerland. "Why Switzerland?" they asked him. "What reason could you have for traveling so far?" The rabbi replied, "I don’t want to meet my maker and have Him say to me, ‘What? You never saw My Alps?’"

So for the sake of your children and their future, set an example. If you want them to play a double reed, play the damn oboe yourself. You need music. And then take your partner, go to your bedroom, shut the door and light some candles. Perform a mitzvah. Just remember to turn off the video camera.

In the Biblical Sense

The story comes from Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, educational director of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy. A rabbi, it seems, tells his son, “It’s time to learn about sexuality.” The boy replies, “What would you like to know?”

It’s an old joke, but one that touches on the problem of introducing the delicate subject of sex to adolescents. Experts agree that Jewish schools — and schools in general — need to do more to teach kids about their bodies and about the whole complex subject of human reproduction. The question is: how can this best be done without offending the values of the students, their parents and their communities?

Scheinerman’s school, considered Modern Orthodox, runs from kindergarten through eighth grade. The subject of puberty is first broached in the fifth grade, through a school nurse, who speaks separately to boys and girls. A full discussion of human reproductive systems is delayed until grade eight, when it is included in a biology course. Also at this time, rabbis and rebbetzins present lessons on sexuality from a religious standpoint, using the examples of biblical figures like David and Bathsheba or Yehuda and Tamar.

Though the school’s students come from observant Jewish homes, Scheinerman acknowledges that “our kids are very much exposed to movies, TV and everything else. They ask questions and they get answers.” He believes sensitivity is a key to approaching awkward topics: “It’s not a dirty thing. It’s something that needs to be discussed, and we do it from the Torah perspective.”

Susan Kesner is a graduate of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy; she also attended an Orthodox girls’ high school. Today she’s a licensed vocational nurse with a certificate in women’s health education, and she’s convinced that Jewish schools do not go far enough toward acquainting young people with their own bodies. As an experiment, she spent the year 2000-2001 teaching sixth- and seventh-graders at Bais Rebbe, a Chabad middle school for girls. Kesner’s course — called “Nutrition” — covered the female body, but had to sidestep the whole area of reproduction. Her students knew that women give birth, but she was not allowed to explain how pregnancies occur.

Kesner, who also makes presentations to Girl Scout troops, strongly condemns the logic that teaching adolescents about sex will encourage them to grow up too soon. She asks the rhetorical question, “If you teach somebody about their lungs, does it mean they’re going to go out and smoke?”

From her own teen years, Kesner knows that observant Jewish youngsters “do a lot more than their parents think they do. And they feel a lot more than their parents want to think they feel.”

Still, Bais Rebbe was apparently not ready for her forthright approach. The administrator who took a chance by hiring Kesner has left the school, and the course Kesner created has been phased out.

Most Orthodox Jewish high schools separate students by gender. At Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YULA) Girls School, 10th-graders cover human reproduction in biology class, but also hear guest speakers who add a religious dimension.

As seniors, all YULA girls participate in a half-year seminar that approaches male-female relationships through the traditional Jewish laws of family purity, explains educational director Rabbi Sholom Strajcher. The discussion of intimate topics “has to be age-appropriate and in terms of the concept of modesty,” Strajcher said. The seminar is meant to prepare YULA graduates for eventual marriage.

But YULA Boys School offers nothing similar. The school’s head, Rabbi Sholom Tendler, reveals that boys study reproduction in their ninth-grade science class — “just in case they didn’t know it beforehand” — but otherwise are considered not yet ready to talk about physical intimacy.

They will, however, learn about marital relationships during their post-graduate yeshiva years. Studying in small groups, or one-on-one with a rabbi, they will discover such things as “how to make the relationship a beautiful one” and not to throw their socks on floor.

At liberal Jewish schools, sex education begins far earlier, and is far more likely to include information about birth control, safe-sex practices and deviations from sexual norms. Whereas Orthodox educators teach halacha (Jewish law), those at schools serving other wings of the Jewish community tend to gear their lessons toward the making of responsible choices.

Joan Marks, elementary school principal of Abraham Heschel Day School in Northridge, feels that “what you never want to do is tell children more than they’re ready to hear.” Still, she gently introduces the idea of reproduction to kindergartners by encouraging pets in the classroom. In fifth grade, her oldest students study the human body in some clinical detail. The sanctity of marriage is part of the discussion, but teachers take care to explain relationships that differ from the norm (like same-sex partners) by emphasizing that “there are different kinds of families.” Such an approach has proved helpful to those students who themselves come from untraditional family backgrounds.

At Valley Beth Shalom (VBS), which has classes from kindergarten through sixth grade, registered nurse Sue Freed outlines a comprehensive program of sex education. During a fourth-grade lesson on heredity, she brings up the realities of sperm and egg: “That just gets the first giggles out, to be honest with you.”

In fifth grade, boys and girls separately watch and discuss a film about puberty; girls are also shown samples of sanitary products. In keeping with VBS policy that parents should be part of the conversation, they see the film with their kids, then are briefed on what to expect during the teen years.

Sixth-graders at VBS take part in a multiweek program devised by the American Red Cross, which creatively covers such topics as values, gender issues, peer pressure and healthy relationships. Parents are included in many of the take-home exercises, as a way of improving household communications.

By the end of the program, the kids can separate sexual myths from facts, and know how to find help if they should ever need it. Though this program is thoroughly secular, VBS does not neglect the Jewish aspects of sexuality. Rabbi Ed Feinstein meets with older students weekly, reinforcing spiritual and ethical concepts.

Though Freed preaches abstinence, she admits that “if I were teaching this in upper junior high or high school, I’d have to have a different bent.” This is the challenge facing the folks at Milken Community High School of Stephen Wise Temple. In response to requests from a parent-staff task force, Milken has introduced a ninth-grade health and human development curriculum.

The new half-year course, taught by professional health educators in conjunction with a rabbinic intern, covers subjects relating to social, emotional, mental and physical health. Students learn — with the help of readings, discussions, and guest speakers — about eating disorders and substance abuse. The complexities of sexual behavior are an important part of the mix.

For Jason Ablin, Milken general studies director, the goal is to give students information that will allow them to act responsibly, both as Jews and as human beings.

Beyond the Classroom

The following books and resources are recommended by Jewish educators for teaching youngsters about their bodies:


Children 4-8:

“Where Did I Come From?” and “What’s Happening to Me?” by Peter Mayle. (Lyle Stuart, $9.95)

Children 9-12:

“The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls” by Valorie Lee Schaefer (Pleasant Company Publications, $9.95)

“What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Boys” and “What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Girls” by Lynda and Area Madaras. (Newmarket Press, $12.95)

“Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing” by Mavis Jukes. (Knopf, $10)

For Observant Adolescents:

“The Magic Touch” by Gila Manolson. (Philipp Feldheim, $12.95). Jewish perspectives on physical relations between males and females.

“Outside/ Inside” by Gila Manolson. (Philipp Feldheim, $12.95). The Jewish concept of modesty.

“The Wonder of Becoming You” by Dr. Miriam Grossman. (Philipp Feldheim, $13.95). Sensitive explanation of how a Jewish girl grows up.

Women’s health educator Susan Kesner can be reached at . — Beverly Gray, Education Editor

The Birds

Rabbi Baruch Finkelstein has an unhappy revelation for his fellow Modern Orthodox Jews: Your teen-agers are dating, fooling around, perhaps having sex. They are no different from non-Orthodox Jewish teens.

“The Orthodox community has been ignoring this,” says Finkelstein, 38, who teaches Torah and Talmud at Shalhevet High School. “They dismiss the topic as ‘forbidden.’ But we have to talk about it, and openly. We have to deal with the reality of what kids are doing today.”

Finkelstein and his wife, Michal, a registered nurse and midwife, have a solution that some may consider controversial. They are applying for a $20,000 grant to develop a unique, six-month sex-education curriculum — one that combines explicit clinical information with Jewish thought — for Jewish day schools, from Reform through Modern Orthodox.

In the meantime, Michal has been teaching a sex-education class over the past two years at Shalhevet. The focus, so far, has been on the 12th-grade girls (the Finkelsteins will write the boys’ curriculum later). The experience has been eye-opening for the couple, who have also co-authored a book on pregnancy and childbirth for observant Jews.

While teaching her course, Michal learned that the girls were confused. On the one hand, parents and teachers were stressing to them “abstinence before marriage.” On the other, they had been hanging around in coed groups since they were 12 or 13. Maybe a boy had come by a girl’s locker, precipitating a case of nerves. Maybe he had called on the telephone or invited her to his bar mitzvah.

All the while, the girls were seeing the sexualized images of young women in movies, in glamour magazines, on billboards and on “Beverly Hills 90210.”

“They are told, ‘Don’t touch.’ But they want to touch,” Michal Finkelstein says, acknowledging these are delicate issues, but crucial. “They feel uncomfortable in their bodies. They feel they don’t yet ‘fit’ the new womanly shape.”

Michal, 37, attempted to address the confusion during her program last year. She began by emphasizing that the class was strictly confidential and that she was not going to force her Orthodox point of view on the young women. Rather, she wanted to hear what they were feeling.

Most of the girls, she discovered, had only “peripheral” relationships with boys, though some weren’t sure they wanted to wait until their wedding night to lose their virginity. Michal told them that she wanted to give them the knowledge they needed to make good decisions in the world.

First, she explained the nitty-gritty of how a woman works. Amid the diagrams and the talk of PMS, yeast infections, breast self-exams, AIDS and menstruation, the girls’ questions were frank. Where is my uterus? Where is my clitoris? What is the physiology of orgasm? And why do I feel this way about boys?

“We discuss masturbation as normal, nothing to feel guilty about, and the girls wanted to hear they’re not the only ones thinking about it, lying awake at night,” Michal says. “I legitimize awakening sexual feelings; that it’s important to feel attracted to certain boys more than others; that it’s crucial you have sexual chemistry with any potential partner in life.”

When the girls asked, as they often did, “How will I know if he’s the one?” Michal reiterated the importance of physical attraction.

She also stressed how the sexual union between husband and wife is holy in Judaism. And how having sex can make the emotional havoc of breaking up with a boyfriend even more difficult.

The class went on to discuss date rape, childbirth and birth control; Michal brought in various contraceptives and displayed them on the classroom table.

The students queried the midwife about how pregnancy feels; how one makes a Jewish home; and how the sheitl -wearing Michal balances her career with six children. They also wanted to learn how to tell the mensches from the jerks.

To this end, there was a workshop and role-playing about how to judge character and develop trust in a relationship: What happens when boy meets girl and how to deal with guys in coed college dormitories were among topics discussed. After one student recounted how she was stood up on a date, the class role-played that too.

Through it all, and in a nonjudgmental manner, Michal Finkelstein presented the Jewish point of view about love, sex and commitment. She brought in psalms and segments of the Gemara, and took the girls to the mikvah. She presented biblical heroines such as Devorah as alternative role-models to the “Friends” or “Baywatch” babes.

So far, the Shalhevet parents have been thrilled with the program. And Dr. Jerry Friedman, Shalhevet’s president and educational adviser, believes that the curriculum is a must for Jewish schools.

“Our mandate is not only to prepare students with good Jewish and general studies, but to prepare them for the outside world,” he says. “We have to be pragmatic and give young people what they’re going to need out there. We can’t stick our heads in the sand.”