So It’s Not the Men, After All

When asked about mothers going out to work, it turns out that Israeli men look more favorably upon full-time jobs than women do.

Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman
Ofra Edelman

When Galit Raz-Dror became a mother, one thing was clear to her: she wanted to find a flexible part-time job that would allow her to spend time with her daughter. While on maternity leave, she heard about a job opening at an academic research institute.

“It was close to home, and I was told that this particular workplace looks very favorably on parents. It was also a part-time position and all these factors led me to apply,” she relates. “The idea of leaving my child with a caregiver five days a week until 4 o’clock every day was unacceptable.”

“I started working in stages,” says Raz-Dror, 34, a mother of two from Jerusalem. At first she worked two days a week and gradually increased her hours to an 80% position. Her partner continued to work full-time in a relatively flexible job.

“I made less money but we reduced our expenses on a caregiver and kindergarten. I can definitely say that after becoming a mother, things changed for me in the way I perceived my career. The things I want to do are influenced by additional considerations, aside from thinking about how I want to change the world.” she says.

Raz-Dror is not alone. In a survey conducted by Haaretz, people were asked whether mothers should stay at home, work part-time or work fulltime. Some 47% of the respondents said mothers should work part-time, while 37% thought they should have fulltime jobs. Nine per cent thought mothers should stay at home. The survey included 1,050 people, of whom 800 were from Jewish communities and 250 from Arab ones.

When analyzing the data by gender, it turned out that men preferred fulltime jobs for mothers more than women did. In Jewish communities, 45% of men and 35% of women surveyed felt this way. In Arab communities, this option was supported by 25% of the men and 20% of the women. Women were decidedly in favor of part-time work: 51% in Jewish communities, in contrast to 39% of male respondents. In Arab communities, 61% of women and 50% of men favored this option.

Dr. Hagar Tzameret tracks gender indices at the Center for Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere at the Van Leer Foundation. She follows the incidence of gender inequality in Israel and was surprised by these results.

The majority of Israelis - including women - believe mothers should not work full-time.Credit: Leo Atelman

“You’re providing me with another explanation for why gender inequality is not shrinking. We’re constantly saying that something is stuck, policies need to be changed and perhaps more men should be recruited to the struggle. Now I realize that we have to mobilize the women.”

“For 30 years we’ve been saying that women in the Western world have entered the workforce but no one replaced them at home,” says Tzameret. “They’ve probably realized that no one will, and now we see that they don’t want anyone else to do so. It’s amazing. As a researcher, it fascinates me but as a feminist, it causes me despair. We’ve failed. Feminism has failed. Something isn’t working.”

It turns out that men can’t win – even when they tell surveyors what is expected of them, no one will attribute feminist motives to their answers. Sociologist Prof. Dalia Mor, Vice-President of the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, has researched the blending of work and home. “I believe some of the explanation lies in the fact that women understand the difficulties while men understand this much less.”

The head of the Israel Women’s Lobby, Yaffa Vigodsky, adds: “Men look at economic needs, viewing the issue as a financial one.” The survey results from Jewish communities indicate that younger people (15-24 years old) were more in favor of part-time work for mothers (56%), and as the age of the respondents rose, they became more in favor of full-time employment. Tzameret noted that there were more religious people among the younger respondents, which may be relevant. Prof. Mor said that the results show that “when the burden of young children at home is no longer a factor, there is more likelihood that women will favor full-time employment.”

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