Israeli Women Making Fewer Strides on the Job Than in Education

They’ve achieved equality in education but not in political and economic power, say researchers for the Gender Index.

Yarden Skop
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According to entrepreneurs Michal Tsur and Leah Belsky of Kaltura, women in start-ups can balance home and family.
According to entrepreneurs Michal Tsur and Leah Belsky of Kaltura, women in start-ups can balance home and family.Credit: Bloomberg
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

Although Israeli women have made great strides over the past two decades in acquiring higher education, they have not closed the gap in terms of salary, workforce participation or entry into traditionally male professions or top executive positions, according to Israel’s Gender Index.

In 1995, 15.5 percent of Israeli men had at least 16 years of schooling, which usually meant they had earned an academic degree. This compared with only 12 percent of women.

By 2013, a quarter of both men and women had obtained 16 years of schooling, according to the index, a project of the Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere, which is part of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

The progress in education, however, was not always translating on the job.

“Women are acquiring human capital to integrate into the public arena, but they are not successfully translating this into workforce achievement or a narrowing of the gaps in political and economic power,” Gender Index researchers said in a statement. “They are encountering structural and cultural obstacles that make it difficult to do this.”

According to Dr. Hagar Tzameret Kertcher, the developer of the index, “The belief that if we study and work hard we will succeed has been smashed. Higher education has become less significant to advancement and reaching senior positions. There’s a sort of covenant between us and the state that we can achieve everything and get the same terms in the workforce if we move along some track, but we see that opportunities for women are not equal.”

The index has been measuring gender inequality from 2004, and its most recent available statistics are for 2013. To measure inequality, it examines education, the workforce, occupational segregation, poverty, power, family status, violence against women and health issues. Within each area several metrics are measured, with their number growing annually.

The general index shows that between 2004 and 2007 gender inequality worsened, while between 2010 and 2013 it narrowed. Aside from the fields of education and occupational segregation, which are showing increasing inequality, all other areas have been stable or improved during these years.

Inequality has particularly narrowed in recent years concerning poverty, power and the Arab community. Still, there are concerns.

“This reduction was partly due to a general worsening of employment outlooks for men and women alike, not from an improvement in women’s situation,” the index’s editors note.

“Similarly, it must be said that despite the improvement, the depth of inequality in all the indexes remains high (59 percent), particularly in the power, workforce and occupational segregation indexes. These findings reflect the enormous challenge that we still face in promoting equality between women and men in Israel.”

One metric newly added to the index is how secure women feel compared to men when walking on the street. According to the study, 85 percent of men feel secure on the street, compared with 60 percent of women.

The index adds new parameters every year based on requests from the field and women’s organizations. “For example, regarding security when walking on the street, every woman knows that feeling of insecurity, but often she thinks that it’s a subjective, personal feeling,” Tzameret-Kertcher said.

“Measuring it numerically lets us insert into the discussion so-called personal experience that obstensibly can’t be quantified and determine whether women and men really do feel differently about being out in public.”

The index also tries to predict when there will be gender equality in the areas it studies if Israeli trends continue at the same pace. According to the current index, this will occur in 2097.

Along with Tzameret Kertcher, the Gender Index editors include Prof. Hanna Herzog, Prof. Naomi Chazan and Rona Brier Garb.

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