Last year was a decent one for Israeli women in business, with female executives increasing their representation in senior management and in jobs requiring university degrees.
Women held 20% of top management jobs at companies in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's TA-100 index last year, up from 18% the year before, according to the Catalyst 2012 index presented at a conference held by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
More women were CEOs at TA-100 companies, the 100 biggest on the TASE by market valuation. The percentage climbed to 7.9% last year from 4.5% in 2011.
"The index shows some positive trends, but nothing dramatic," said Ofra Strauss, chairwoman of food maker Strauss Group and a sponsor of the Catalyst 2012 index.
A survey by the chambers of commerce federation released this week showed that the number of women employed in professions requiring a university degree or the equivalent rose 4.3%, or by 9,400 women, last year. The number in jobs requiring no professional skills dropped 5.3%, or by 5,800 women.
The number of women in management positions grew 1.3%, or by 1,100, while the number that were self-employed climbed 6.8%, or by 7,800, to 122,200, the federation's chief economist Israela Mani said.
Despite the progress in getting more women into management, business can do more, Strauss said. "We can’t talk just about diversity in employment within the organization, we have to talk about diversity in the supply chain," she said. "At Strauss we haven't asked enough about who we buy from."
In fact, in some areas the Catalyst 2012 index found no progress or even a decline. The percentage of women directors at TA-100 companies was unchanged from 2011 at 16.6%, as was the percentage in all management positions, at 34%. The percentage serving as chairwomen dropped to 5% from 7%.
Meanwhile, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said Wednesday it had appointed a woman to head one of its divisions. Ayalet Shapira, 54, will head the state-owned company's Manor Advanced Defense Technologies Division, whose products include rocket engines and space propulsion technology.
Still, Galit Deshe, head of the Israel Women's Network, said women were underrepresented in executive positions in technology and science. When they are in management, they are usually in finance, personnel and the legal department.
"The findings confirm the assumption that women grow up inside organizations more than they come in from outside," Deshe said. "Today it's clear that the question we should be asking isn’t how much do women want to advance but what conditions are needed to let them advance . It's important to enable all employees to balance their work and home lives, not just women but men as well."
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