Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri called on the government on Monday to increase the representation of women on public committees and ministry policy teams, as few serve in senior government ministry positions.
In a letter that Nizri sent to government ministry director generals and legal advisers, he called on them to ensure proper representation of women – as required by law – including the appointment of women from a range of sectors of the country’s population to advisory committees, investigative panels and public committees.
A reminder is in order regarding rules requiring the representation of women, Nizri wrote, and it is particularly important “during this challenging period,” as he put it, to involve women in policy development and decision-making.
In May, Nizri circulated a similar letter on increasing the involvement of women in the selection of government ministry director generals, but that letter did not result in any improvement. He also noted that even though proper representation of women at the level of director general was enshrined in law, in attorney general directives and Supreme Court rulings, only four of the 30 ministries at the time had female director generals: the Social Equality Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Science, Technology and Space Ministry and the Communications Ministry.
The search committee that was recently convened to identify candidates for Knesset legal adviser doesn’t have any women on it. It is chaired by retired Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and has six other male members, including the chairmen of Knesset committees, Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz and representatives from the Israel Bar Association and of the country’s law school deans.
In response to letters from the Israel Women’s Network regarding the failure to include appropriate representation of women on the panel, Hershkowitz said he “sees great importance in providing proper representation from both sexes” on public candidate selection committees, but said that the makeup of the search committee for the Knesset legal adviser was not within his authority.
Supreme Court President Esther Hayut’s chief of staff, Uri Harel, said Grunis’ appointment to head the search committee was made after Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin approached Hayut on the matter, but it was not clear at the time that there would be no women on the committee. Harel added, however, that Grunis was clearly appropriate to chair the committee and that “without diminishing the importance of being meticulous about appointing women to positions on the search committee, [Hayut] does not intend to replace Grunis.” The Israel Bar Association said that in spite of the importance of appointing women, it too was not responsible for the composition of the committee.
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Of the 120 members of the current 23rd Knesset, 33 are women. Women constitute a higher proportion of the cabinet, where eight of the 35 cabinet ministers are female. Women also constitute 43 percent of the directors of state-owned companies, but only 5 percent serve as board chairpersons. Of the 16 largest government companies in Israel, only one has a chairwoman.
The executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, Michal Gera Margaliot, said that despite Nizri’s letter in May on increasing the representation of women and the appointment of women as ministry director generals, and “in spite of the large number of ministries and a record high of eight female ministers, only four ministers chose women” as director generals.
“The fact that in Israel in 2020, it is still necessary to ‘remind’ people that women need to be at every decision-making table, and in particular on advisory committees and ministry [policy] teams, shows the very long road we face in promoting women’s rights and gender equality. The time has come for the government to switch from recommendations and reminders to mandatory implementation and equal representation of women in senior positions,” she said.