Closing the Financial Gender Gap

If traditional gender roles have left women less adept at running their finances than men, Rifka Lebowitz, a Glasgow-born private financial consultant, says female immigrants in Israel struggle with money matters in particular. "Everything is in Hebrew and sometimes they're on their own, and even their husbands don't fully understand the system," she explains.

To counter this trend, Lebowitz has started offering private tutorials to rectify the situation for local English-speaking women. "There are certainly many sophisticated women who are very good with their finances; some of them run the top companies in Israel and in the world. But there are also many women who aren't - for whatever reason," Lebowitz, 33, told Anglo File this week.

"Maybe they felt it wasn't their place [to understand finances], or sometimes they just weren't interested until the time when they had no choice, or they made aliyah and [suddenly] needed to budget, to do things they never had to do before," she surmised. "It's not that women aren't capable, just sometimes some women weren't exposed to the same financial knowledge men are exposed to."

The new group, dubbed "Financial Savvy Women," will meet once a month and discuss, "in a friendly supportive setting," topics such as "banking, kids and money, saving schemes, tips for saving money on your bills, pensions, financial planning, living on an Israeli budget, budgeting, the financial crisis and much more," according to Lebowitz's Web site (http://www.plusfinances.com/Financial-Savvy.html).

Lebowitz, a mother of three from Beit Shemesh, has been working in the financial world since she finished her social service, working herself up from an intern in an investment firm to portfolio manager. Later, she worked for a few years at a bank's foreign currency desk, where she dealt mainly with Anglo clients and realized many of them had difficulties with the way the financial world works in Israel. Last year, Lebowitz, who holds a B.A. in business and finance, decided to open her own consulting agency.

"I think society tries to [honor] equal rights [of men and women] but it's a known fact that men earn more than women," she said about gender differences in money matters.

"Statistics also say that women are sometimes more embarrassed to ask for vacation days or a raise than men. Yes, there is some inequality here," Lebowitz says, adding that in that respect "Israel is probably slightly worse than English-speaking countries."

The Financial Savvy Women group will meet for the first time in Jerusalem's Emunah Women's Center this Wednesday. Groups are also planned for Beit Shemesh, Modi'in and Efrat.