Picture of Merkel Flanked by 25 Men and No Women Sparks Outrage in Israeli Tech Scene

Angela Merkel said during a meeting with Israeli businessmen and tech leaders: ‘If there’s a woman here next time that would be nice' ■ After criticism from entrepreneurs' group, Foreign Ministry apologizes

Refaella Goichman
Refaella Goichman
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Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an innovation exhibit.
Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an innovation exhibit. Credit: Avi David / Foreign Ministry
Refaella Goichman
Refaella Goichman

A photo taken of German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Israel last week and which shows her surrounded by 25 Israeli male businessmen and hi-tech leaders has angered the country’s techies.

Leora Cohen, director-general of OkkaOkka Bloggingg Group, and Merav Oren, director-general of WMN, a workspace for women entrepreneurs, wrote a letter protesting how the Israel high-tech scene is a lot different than the one depicted by the picture of Merkel surrounded by men.

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“In Israel at the end of 2018, there are fortunately plenty of worthy and talented women leading companies and entrepreneurs in innovative fields, with phenomenal achievements and abilities in technology and other fields,” reads their letter, which they plan to send to Merkel.

Merkel said as she sat at the round table with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the other participants that she was “happy at the meeting but that it would be nice to include a woman at the next session. Apparently this is a field dominated by men and this is not meant as criticism.”

The meeting was held at the Israel Museum after participants viewed an exhibit on innovation. Economy Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu) was at the discussion, along with the director-general for innovation, Aharon Aharon. Omar Khalif, founder and director-general of Innoviz, which has developed smart systems for spotting objects in autonomous cars, Avner Halperin, director-general of Arlicense, a med-tech firm that monitors patients without contact.

The letter writers added that those who organize such meetings on behalf of the government for visiting leaders must make sure they show a more diverse group.

“The picture reflected by the photograph is more embarrassing than helpful to Israel and we all hope — women and men as one — that we can build constructively and express our community in all its diversity, including the social and business periphery.”

Karen Meir Rubinstein, director-general of Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) corporation said: “We are working intensively with government ministries to create a program that would increase the number of women in the high tech industry. There are senior, talented and valued women entrepreneurs in life sciences and innovative industry that represent a substantial part of the industry. They deserve a place at a meeting with a world leader.”

The Foreign Ministry apologized about the absence of women from the event. “We regret what took place and are committed to avoiding such instances in the future, and to ensure appropriate representation for women.” The ministry said that there were other women present at the exhibition attended by Netanyahu and Merkel.