The underrepresentation of women in high-paying fields such as engineering is a major reason behind the salary gaps between men and women in Israel, according to the Van Leer Institute’s Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere (WIPS).
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These findings were presented this week at the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.
In 2012, women held only one-quarter of all jobs in engineering and architecture. Some 76,000 men were employed in these fields, versus only 23,000 women, found WIPS, which publishes a gender equality index that examines several parameters. This percentage has been steady since 2003.
Women made up 35% of all workers in high-tech, a minor increase from the 32% a decade ago.
Women make up 40% of all lawyers and judges, and 60% of all workers in medicine and pharmacology, an increase from slightly more than 50% in 2003.
However, women account for an absolute majority of workers in certain low-paying fields, such as teaching (80%) and nannying (93%).
Dr. Hagar Tzameret-Kircher, who led the research, said the differences are significant.
“In order to achieve employment equality in Israel – so that the representation of women in high-tech, for instance, would be 50% and not 35% - some 47% of employees need to change careers,” she said.
This may eventually become the case. A recent Hebrew University psychology study found the differences in men and women’s choice of careers had all but disappeared by 2010.
Women have been earning an average of 34% less than men for nearly a decade. However, women are on average more educated than men, found WIPS. As of 2012, some 45.2% of Israeli men had completed at least 13 years of schooling, compared to 48.1% of women.
The index also measures representation in positions of power, salary gaps and poverty rates. In the eight years it has been in existence, these measures of gender inequality have barely budged.
WIPS recommends improving working conditions for Israelis of both genders in order to combat inequality. These measures could include reducing work hours, which would draw more women into the work force while giving men more family time; lengthening paid maternity leave from the current 14 weeks; and giving men several months of paternity leave independent of their female partners.
Currently, men are eligible for paternity leave only if their wives agree to forgo a share of their own maternity leave.