Of All 2018 Israel Prize Winners, Only 14 Percent Are Women

The Education Ministry says the prize ‘is not representative and isn’t awarded based on gender, ethnic or sectoral quotas’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, February 26, 2018.
\ Moti Milrod

Women constituted only 14 percent of the candidates for the 2018 Israel Prizes announced to date.

Moreover, according to an internal Education Ministry document, there were no female candidates at all for three of the 10 prizes awarded so far. The document, which was first reported on Monday by the Kan broadcasting corporation, identified the three fields with no female candidates as chemistry and physics; culture, arts and musicology; and economics and statistics.

In the industry prize, which Yehudit Bronicki won together with her husband Yehuda for having founded the alternative energy company Ormat Technologies, she was the only female candidate alongside 11 men. She is also the only woman who has won a prize so far this year.

But winners still haven’t been announced in three fields – life’s work, immigrant absorption, and agriculture and settlement.

In the Hebrew literature and poetry field, there were 10 female candidates. But there were only two female candidates in the other five fields for which winners have already been announced – technology and applied innovation, media, math and computer science, psychology, and Jewish studies.

Men also constitute a large majority of the prize juries, with 28 of the 35 jury members being male. And in the fields where winners have so far been announced, only one of the 10 prize juries was chaired by a woman.

Over the past 18 years, the vast majority of Israel Prize winners have been Ashkenazi Jewish men. Of the 268 prizes awarded during those years, just 47 went to women, or 17 percent of the total. There has never been a Muslim Arab winner.

“The Israel Prize is awarded to ground-breakers and outstanding people in their field,” the Education Ministry, which awards the prize, said in response. “It is not representative and isn’t awarded based on gender, ethnic or sectoral quotas. This year, all the winners haven’t yet been announced, so it’s premature to draw conclusions.

“Moreover, it should be stressed that candidates for the prize are nominated by the general public, and therefore, we can only choose from this list,” it added. “In addition, in every category, a professional jury convenes, which isn’t aware of the other juries’ work, and on most of the juries, women are represented.”