Mrs. CEO


I was offered a job as CEO of an observant Jewish company. The process includes a vote by the board to appoint me to the position. The job description includes such responsibilities such as hiring and firing of staff. Given that I am a woman, is the board permitted to make such an appointment? May I accept the offer?


The Rambam rules that a woman cannot be appointed queen of the Jews or put in any other position of authority.[1] Nevertheless, the observant Jews on the board may elect you and you may serve in that role.

First, the Rambam’s opinion is not universally accepted. Apparently Rashi, Tosfos, the Ran and the Chinuch disagree.[2] The dispute among the rishonim is one basis for leniency.

However, there is a more fundamental leniency applicable in your situation. The prohibition of appointing women to positions of authority has defined parameters. Based on the examples listed in the Gemoro, Rav Moshe Feinstein describes the term position of authority as a position that is expected to work against the interests of the company or industry. For example, the Gemoro mentions an inspector charged with the responsibility of ascertaining that the scales in the market are accurate. The shop owners would gain if the scales were tipped in their favor; nevertheless, they pay for inspectors so that the customers feel secure. The inspector can close down a shop or fine a proprietor. This authority is granted by the employer to work against the employer’s short-term interests. A kashrus inspector has the same type of authority. The mashgiach kashrus is given authority to stop an order or sale or even to close down the business.

An employer may hire a woman to work for the company or institution no matter what kind of responsibilities she is given. She can control the entire production, research and development, human resources, finances or any other crucial aspect of a company as long as her job is to work towards the company’s interests and not against them.

This distinction is elucidated by Rav Feinstein and applied to a rosh yeshiva. No, Rav Moshe is not addressing the possibility of a female rosh yeshivager tzedek can be a rosh yeshiva. The same type of exclusion of women in positions of authority applies to converts.[3] Although a rosh yeshiva can accept and reject applicants to the yeshiva, can dismiss students, and has complete control of the standards and curriculum, that position is more akin to an employer overseeing his/her employees. A convert or woman is permitted to hire, fire, and direct any institution or company or any part thereof. If the job description advances the organization’s interests, anyone (convert or female) can be appointed to fill that role.[4]

The wording of your questions shows insight and Torah wisdom on your part. You asked whether the board could appoint you and whether you could accept the offer. In fact, the wording of the prohibition indicates that it is the community that is not supposed to make such appointments. We do not find that it is inappropriate for the candidate to accept the position. Hence, a convert or woman were offered such a job or received it by default, he or she may accept it. Rav Moshe Feinstein advances this logic as a possible explanation as to how Devorah Hanevioh became a shofetes over Yisroel and how Shemayoh and Avtalyon led the Jewish people. Perhaps their credentials were so impressive that they were naturally accepted as the leaders of the Jewish people and a formal appointment was unnecessary.

Do not be uncomfortable with such a legal analysis that might seem to legitimize cheating Hashem of compliance with His will. If the halachic process allows for a dispensation, this means that Hashem accepts every aspect of that behavior. Although the Jewish religion includes duties of the heart, it is based on principles of law and justice. It is thus not uncommon to find legal loopholes or legalistic analyses of the wording of a prohibition that permit behavior that may seem inconsistent with the spirit of the law. Once the analysis has been substantiated and the behavior deemed permissible, generally there is no ethical reason to avoid its practical application.

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אין מעמידין אשה במלכות שנאמר מלך ולא מלכה, וכן כל
משימות שבישראל אין ממנים בהם אלא איש (פ''א ממלכים ה''ה). ובאג''מ יו''ד ח''ב
סימן מ''ד כתב דלא נמצא בספרי אלא שלא שאין מעמידין אשה למלכות, אבל הא דכל
משימות בישראל רק לאיש הוא סברת הרמב''ם.


החינוך במצות מינוי מלך אינו מזכיר אלא מלך ולא מלכה
ומשמיט דין שאר משימות שהזכיר הרמב''ם, ועפרש''י ור''ן קידושין עו: ובתוס'
סוטה דף מא, וע''ע באג'''מ יו''ד ח''ב סימן מ''ד שהאריך להוכיח דנחלקו הראשונים
בזה, וסיים ולכן לצורך גדול בשביל חיות האלמנה ובניה היתומים יש לסמוך על החולקים
על הרמב''ם ולמנותה תחת בעלה להשגחה עכ''ל.


אין מעמידין מלך מקהל גרים וכו' ולא למלכות בלבד אלא
לכל שררות שבישראל (פ''א ממלכים ה''ד).


אג''מ יו''ד ח''ב סימן מ''ד ויו''ד ח''ד סימן כ''ו.

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