31% of Israel's Top 100 Company Directors Are Women

Israeli women are slipping as they climb the corporate ladder, says advocacy group ahead of International Women’s Day.

Women made little progress in winning top managerial jobs at Israel’s biggest companies last year, and even saw their numbers fall back slightly, a report by the women’s advocacy group Catalyst said in a report released Wednesday ahead of International Women’s Day on Saturday.

The Catalyst report found that women held only 31% of managerial positions in the 100 companies that comprised the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s TA-100 index in 2013. That was down from 34% the year before and ended a two-year string of increases. The number of women running companies in the TA-100, which comprise Israel’s biggest businesses as measured by market valuation, declined slightly from 20% to 19%.

“The front door to the board of directors in companies remains partially closed, and the women entering it are the ones who managed to break through,” said Galit Desheh, executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, which produces the Catalyst index in partnership with the Strauss Group.

“An in-depth examination of the identity of women in senior management and boards of directors suggests that it is a very small group, and that the rising number doesn’t emanate from the entry of more women into circles of influence, but from the fact that those women hold seats on several boards. Unlike in Europe, Israeli legislation does not encourage organizations to expand the representation of women in their boards,” she said.

Nevertheless, not all the news was bad. The percentage of women on boards of directors climbed to 17.2% from 16.6%, as well as the rate of women serving on the boards of more than one company to 16%, from 11% in 2012. Some 38% of company boards counted at least a quarter of their directors as women, up from 35% in 2012.

Moreover, although the number of female CEOs dropped slightly last year, two women took the top spots at two of Israel’s biggest businesses – Anat Levin was named CEO of Migdal Insurance & Financial Holdings and Lilach Asher-Topilsky became CEO of Israel Discount Bank. In fact, three of Israel’s five biggest banks have women as CEOs.

Compared to the biggest companies of other countries, Israel’s 19% representation of CEOs lags behind South Africa with 22%, but is still ahead of the United States, where 17% of all Fortune 500 companies are led by women, Canada, where 18.1% of FP 500 index companies have women CEOs and Australia, where just 10% of the companies on its ASX 200 index have female CEOs.

“In a year which saw more women assuming key positions in the political and public sectors, it’s the business sector that marks a setback in the representation of women in management positions in large companies,” said Ofra Strauss, chairperson of the food maker Strauss Group. “Studies clearly show that companies that incorporate more women in their managements become more successful and better connected to their customers.”

Strauss was among the companies with the largest percentage of female directors − 41.7%, putting it just behind mall developer Azrieli Group’s 44.4% representation. Compugen and Kamada, two biotechnology companies, had the most top women executives, with 83% and 55%, respectively. Ratio, an oil exploration company, was next also with 55%, according to the Catalyst report.

Taki Meyer