Posted tagged ‘Women’

Israel, the Labour Market, and International Women’s Day

March 8, 2012

For Israelis, International Women’s Day in 2012 coincides with the festival of Purim, when Queen Esther took on Haman, the wicked minister of Persia. The story describes a triumph for female brawn, daring and courage. The Jews of 127 provinces were saved. Haman and his sons found their place on the gallows, and their property was transferred to Esther’s family.

As in most countries around the world, the position of Israeli women in today’s labour market is not brilliant compared to the male species. Simple stats show that women:

  • Earn around 15% less on average per hour.
  • Hold less full-time positions (66% compared to 87%)
  • Hold only 34% of the managerial positions

In a global context, Israel is doing quite well. “The country is ranked in 11th place among the 59 developed countries for the participation of women in the workplace. The rankings also list Israel in 24th place with regards to women in executive positions…” And at the top end of the scale, Forbes billionaire grouping, Israel has 13 members, including Ms Shari Arison.

There are three bright spots that I have picked up in the stats.

First, if only a third of managerial positions are filled by women today, back in 1990 that percentage was a mere 16%. That is a noteworthy improvement. And it should be pointed out that Israel’s three major political parties in opposition are led by women, as is the former outgoing chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Second, 56% of all university students are women, again another factor that is likely to lead changes in the future.

Third, figures released this week show that more men from the ultra-orthodox Haredi communities are now to be found in the workplace – a 7% jump to 45% between 2009 and 2011. The point is that in this section of society, it is common for the wife to get the children off to school in the morning and then work part of the day, while the husband studies religious texts on behalf of the family.

Therefore, not only will this employment shift release some pressure on the female section of society. It will also expose more stridently religious men to the machinations of life as a whole. They will no longer be so cut off and they will no longer be so dependent on government subsidies.

So, as ever, “booting the man out to work” is to be seen as a significant social and financial benefit for Israel as a whole.


4 things the media does not tell you about Israel

March 1, 2012

The Israeli media is being fed stories of 100 students, actors, activists and otherwise who have been sent around the world to meet contemporaries at university campuses. The articles describe the hatred towards Israel that the travellers encountered.

The Israelis tried to explain how in their view the opinions of the locals were misconceived and based on false premises. Their line was that Israel is a country that suffers from problems effecting its very survival, yet maintains a vibrant, open and democratic society.

No country is perfect. But are the allegations against Israel true or false? Here are three anecdotal pieces of evidence from recent days to help the jury decide.


 IsraAID is an NGO, which enables Israel to provide support to peoples in need around the globe. For example, it is facilitating the first ever gender-based anti -violence training programme to take place in South Sudan. 30 social workers will be placed in the Juba region, backed by three top-level Israeli therapists.


Israel has not been totally succesful in absorbing the Ethiopian community into society. That said, you know that times are a changing, when an Ethiopian – and a female at that – is appointed by Jerusalem as its new ambassador in Addis Ababa. Belaynesh Zevadia emigrated to Israel in her teens. Armed with a masters degree and a host of diplomatic experience, she will find herself back in her country of birth for a three year stint. 


The accusations against Israel’s army are many. They serve to hide the official name of the army, which is ZAHAL – Israel’s Defence Forces. It is an phrase which has meaning on a day-to-day basis. The latest indication of this is how all recruits now have to give a bone marrow samples., which allows Israel to claim that it has the highest registration level in the world. And whilst certain diseases display have a higher level amongst Ashkenazi Jews, this is a data bank open to the whole population.


The plight of women in the Middle East is well documented and continues to cause concern. Israel is not without its share of domestic violence issues, but that does not put it on a par with the likes of Iran nor the hostility shown by Egyptians towards female journalists in Tahir Square. After all, three of Israel’s leading political parties are led by women, as is the retiring head of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Women in Israel

March 8, 2010

It’s International Women’s Day, and the stats come rolling out. In Israel, we read that only 12.9% of CEOs in leading companies are women, up from 8.4% just 2 years ago. In the army, nearly half of the lower officer ranks are filled by women, roughly commensurate to the gender proportion. By the level of Brigadier-General, only 3% are women.

Good? Bad? Getting better? Better compared to others? However you look at it, there is still much to do. And that comes from a country, which was one of the first to have a female Prime Minister. And but for a few thousand votes, a second lady, Tzipi Livni, was almost installed last year.

Clearly, society has much more to learn. There have been 3 major rape case in as many months involving females still at school. The most recent incident concerned students from a well-to-do neighbourhood. What has not been established is if the number of incidents has increased in recent years or if it is case that more are reaching the attention of the police.

By way of comparison, a women’s rights group in Gaza has documented how females are frequently denied their inheritance. The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights has consistently reported on the abuses of female rights, rapes that have gone without investigation, family honour killings, and more.

An interesting way forward came to light last month. There was a competition for the most sexist Israeli adverts of 2009. The implication was that the ads were of poor taste. If that message gets through to more and more people, then Israel will continue to break down the social gaps between the two genders.

That was the week that was for women, in Israel

February 15, 2009

Last week, Israeli women gave a global lesson in equality.

Let’s start with the general election Like her or not, and whatever the final make up of the new government, most commentators accept that Foreign Minister, Ms Tzipi Livni, ran the best campaign. She came from behind in the polls to become the largest party. She looked comfortable slipping into jeans and boogying at a disco. She was the lady to fear.

And as for Avigdor Lieberman, he may be the enemy of the foreign press, but of his electoral list, 4 are counted as former models. And one of those is the daughter of a former deputy Prime Minister. Yup, women did well in the polling booths.

But the successes do not stop there. Bar Raphaeli, Israel’s best-looking export and long-time partner of Leonardo DiCaprio, made the front cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. This is a lady who is proud to acknowledge her own natural beauty in tandem with that of her homeland.

Possibly even more sensational was the triumph of Hila Plitman. Growing up near the centre of modern Jerusalem, this soprano picked up a Grammy award. She received the attribute as in the category of best classical vocal performance.

Israel may be locked in to much of the culture of the Middle East, but she continues to offer pluralism and democarcy,  In fact, a female duo has been chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, a Jewess and a Muslim. 

Curiously, Saudi Arabia has just appointed its first female deputy minister. Yet another case of Israel showing others in the region the benefits of her open society.

Women and Israeli society 1

October 10, 2008

In Israel, Jews are in the middle of a 3 week period of religious festivals. Similarly, Muslims have just finished Ramadan. Time for the women of the home to be busy in the kitchen, surely? And yet, times are a changing.

On the political scene, it is looking incresing likely that Ms Tzipi Livni will form the next government. This is a lady with one sharp background. Her parental home was modest and dedicated to core values, associated with the founding of the country. In early adulthood, the lady evidently had a stint in the security services. She has just fought an internal battle in her own party, Kadima, defeating a former chief of staff in the process.

This is no one-off triumph for the female in Israeli society. The speaker of the Kenesset is Ms Dalia Itzik, who has fought her way up the system, staring off as a teacher in education politics in Jerusalem. The Head of the Supreme Court is Ms Dorit Beinisch. The Knesset boasts a female Arab member, very active on social issues. And so the list goes on.

It is not just on the national scene that women are active. In the town of Hara Adar, just west of Jerusalem, some local women became fed up with the back-stabbing of local macho leaders. A few years ago, they formed their own political party. The result is that they are now a significant voice on the local council.

A similar move has begun in Givat Zeev, sandwiched between Ramallah and Jerusalem. A town of 12,000 residents, it is facing elections in early Novemeber. The local female team are well placed to become a dominant force. 

Stats on rape, harrasment etc are not encouraging. On the other hand, these changes will surely help to show others the way forward.

Women and the Israeli labour force

September 21, 2008

I have just heard a fascinating approach to helping women enter the labour market in Israel.

What’s so special about that? Ultra-orthodox or Haredi women have often been held back from working. Their culture and society effectively “keep them in the kitchen and nurseries” even when they have solid qualifications. Other factors, such as not working directly with men or high maternity levels, have kept them unemployed.

Along comes Ms Libie Affen. A feminist? I am not so sure. Libie is a Haredi lady with a masters degree and the COO of Matrix, a leading Israeli high tech company. With a spin off from matrix, she has established a profitable company to employ Haredi es, to give them the conditions they require, and to produce quality output as demanded by Fortune 500 companies.

She currently employs 450 ladies, most of them software engineers or equivalent. One of the conditions is that they are provided rivate transport to and from the client. This allows them to deal with children int he evening and protect their modesty demands.

Now here’s the real “wow” factor. Libie has been asked to explain this model to a female cooperative in Detroit. And to take this one step further, the Palestinian Authority has also been in contact.

Why did I write this? Did you realise that Israel is about to swear in a female Prime Minister. She will sit along side the female head of the Supreme Court and Madam Speaker of the Kenesset.