Far fewer women than men in Israel study the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines that are the ticket of admission to high-tech employment, but for the women who do make the choice the odds of their getting a job in the industry are nearly as good as their male peers.
That’s one of the unexpected results of the first survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics of employees in the industry, including their education and socioeconomic backgrounds. The study was conducted with Israel’s Council for Higher Education.
The study found that 72.3% of women who studied STEM subjects found jobs in the industry after graduating, compared to 76.12% for men. But while 57.5% of the men earned more than 13,000 shekels ($3,680) a month, just 41.3% of the women did.
As expected, the industry remains overwhelmingly male, Jewish and secular, the study found. Among Israeli Arabs, only 54.7% of STEM graduates found work in tech, compared to 76.5% for their Jewish counterparts.
It’s a problem the industry and policy makers have acknowledged as they try to lure more Israelis into the industry. The tech workforce has plateaued at 8% to 9% of the workforce, and there’s a shortage of workers.
“The CBS figures again demonstrate the well-known fact that many population groups find it hard to join the high-tech ecosystem, especially women, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews,” said Ifat Baron, whose nonprofit organization IT Works helps tech companies increase workforce diversity.
The labor shortfall not only hurts the industry but also deprives a large segment of the population of Israel’s best-paying jobs.
“The high-tech industry is harming itself badly because it’s suffering a labor shortage of about 15,000 workers and is crying out for talented people. To solve it, the industry has been relying more on outsourcing to foreign countries. ... One billion shekels that could have stayed in Israel goes abroad, and that hurts the Israeli economy in the long run,” Baron said.
Israeli high-tech is overwhelming secular, with 63.4% of the people working in it defining themselves that way, a far higher rate than the 40.9% of all Israelis ages 25 to 34. Not only Haredim, but also religious Zionist and self-defined “traditional” Jews were also highly underrepresented in the sector, the CBS said.
Not surprising, half of those working in the industry have degrees in STEM subjects, mainly computer engineering. A surprisingly large 10% studied social sciences, compared with just 6% who studied business administration.
“A very small number of those who didn’t study high-tech disciplines are employed in the sector. However, they earn significantly more than their peers who neither studied nor are employed in high-tech – although less than those who studied and work in it,” the CBS said.
One widely assumed source of discrimination, however, proved not to be true. Although conventional wisdom says tech companies prefer to hire graduates of universities rather than colleges, 73.3% of STEM college graduates worked in high-tech, compared to 77.5% of the university graduates in STEM subjects that companies in the industry ostensibly prefer.
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