Israel: Gender Gap Persists in Job Market Despite Educational Equality

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By Jenny David

Aug. 4--Gender inequality remains stubbornly high in Israel's labor market, corporate world and politics even though women have closed the educational gap, according to the Van Leer Institute's 2015 Gender Index.

While noting slight improvements, the report said there has yet to be significant change that would close the labor--and resulting economic--gaps.

“Women are acquiring human capital to integrate into the public arena, but [due to structural and cultural obstacles] they are not successfully translating this into workforce achievement or a narrowing of the gaps in political and economic power,” the researchers said in a July 21 release.

“The belief that we will succeed if we study and work hard has been smashed,“ said Hagar Tzameret Kertcher, who developed the index in 2004. ”Higher education has become less significant to advancement and reaching senior positions. There's a sort of covenant between us and the state that we can achieve everything and get the same employment terms if we move along some track, but in actuality we see that opportunities for women are not equal.”

In 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, Israeli working women earned an average 68 percent of what their male colleagues did, slightly up from 66 percent in 2010-2012, the index found, attributing the gap in part to women's tendency to work part-time. In addition, more men participated in the workforce--69.4 percent compared to women's 58.2 percent--and the poverty rate among women was also higher: 18.4 percent compared to men's 16.5 percent.

Inequality 'Remains High'

Although women's status has improved slightly over the past decade, “the depth of inequality in all the indexes remains high (59 percent), particularly in the power, workforce and occupational segregation indexes,” the report noted.

“These findings reflect the enormous challenge we still face in promoting equality between women and men in Israel,” the report concluded, attributing part of the reduction in gender-based labor inequality to “a general worsening of employment outlooks for men and women alike, not from an improvement in women's situation.”

In academia, for example, even though 48.3 percent of Israeli women have 13 or more years of schooling compared to 45.4 percent of men, only one in every five Israeli professors is a woman. In the corporate world as well, almost six times more men than women ran their own businesses in 2013, and in politics, even though a record number of women serve in the current Knesset (parliament), they still number only 28 of 120 (23 percent). The proportion of female ministers also increased, but only because there are now fewer ministers, the index noted.

Educational and occupational segregation also worsened significantly, mainly on religious grounds.

Naomi Chazan, a co-author of the report, said affirmative action is needed to address the situation.

“Among other things, numerical targets should be set for key public sector positions in order to increase the representation of women in a relatively short period of time,” Chazan said.