Glass ceiling still firmly in place for Israeli women, state says

Glass ceiling still firmly in place for Israeli women, state says

Reports find vast female underrepresentation in senior government positions, despite more education

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) with Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, November 2012. Rarities at the helm. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich (left) with Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, November 2012. Rarities at the helm. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Reports released ahead of International Women’s Day, which falls on Saturday, painted a grim picture of gender inequality in Israel, revealing gross disparities not only in men and women’s wages but also in their representation in senior positions in government and academia.

The reports, which were released Tuesday by the State Comptroller’s Office and the Central Bureau of Statistics and based on data collected throughout 2012, showed the “glass ceiling” still very much in place for Israeli women and lambasted the government for perpetuating the discrimination rather than working to promote equal representation.

CBS data showed that the mean monthly wage for women in Israel was NIS 7,244, compared to 10,953 for men — a 34 percent difference. Men were also found to receive higher hourly wages than women, especially in the 45-54 age group. Slightly less than 60 percent of women were said to be employed, as opposed to just under 70 percent of men.

The disparity was made more acute by the fact that Israeli women were found to be more educated than their male counterparts, with an average of 14.2 years of education compared to 13.8 for men. Women were found to be ahead of men in various areas related to education, such as attaining a high school diploma, meeting university admission criteria and pursuing a college education.

Women were reported to account for 67.3 percent of the bottom socioeconomic decile of Israeli society, and only 23.3 of the topmost decile.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report, meanwhile, found that out of 68 directors general of government-owned corporations appointed in 2012, none were women. The present government, on the other hand, has prided itself in appointing six women as directors of government ministries.

Six women — and twenty-four men.

The presence of women in senior management positions in government-affiliated industries was likewise found to be minuscule, with no female representation in the higher echelons of the defense and aerospace industries, and just one woman in the senior management of Israeli defense technology firm Raphael.

The data further revealed that 17 percent, or less than one-fifth, of directors of top firms were women, with only two women serving on the boards of directors of Israel’s 22 biggest firms.

In academia, the situation was said to be worse, with women accounting for a mere 15 percent of lecturers with tenure.

Describing Israeli academia as having a “classic pyramid structure,” Shapira said that although there was full equality on the doctoral level, with women accounting for about 50 percent of doctoral students, on the higher rungs, the disparity was apparent.

Of those who had already qualified for a doctoral degree and were applying for a more senior position, 10,600 candidates were found to be men, while 8,100 were women — 44 percent.

Among the causes of the inequality, the report cited the meager presence of women on the committees charged with appointing lecturers and distributing research funding.

A lack of suitable female candidates, said Shapira, was not the problem.

“Even if the number of female students increases, the ‘glass ceiling’ will not disappear on its own,” Shapira said. “Deliberate intervention is required to make it smaller.”

Israel’s police force was said to be among the most guilty of gender inequality, with women accounting for less than a quarter of the 27,500-strong force. The report also found that there were very few female police officers serving in senior commanding roles — among the 60 police station commanders in the country, only one was a woman.

In 2009, Maj. Gen. Ahuva Tomer, who was killed in the 2010 Carmel fire after sustaining critical injuries while driving a patrol car through the burning forest, made history as the first woman to be appointed commander of a major police station.

Tuesday’s report revealed that Tomer’s trailblazing efforts did little to offset the stark gender inequality within the police force. However, police chief Yohanan Danino was quick to say that the disparity did not stem from a deliberate policy.

“Promotions are made based on the candidates’ qualifications, regardless of their gender,” Maariv quoted Danino as saying in response to the data. “There is nothing blocking women from being promoted to senior positions in the police force.”

Shapira, for his part, remained unconvinced by Danino’s explanation.

“One can assume that in the Israeli police force, which employs about 6,000 women, there are women who possess the qualifications required to fill a variety of senior roles,” he said.

He added that the findings pointed to “a deeply-rooted culture of gender discrimination” in the higher echelons of the Israel Police, which he said remained “blind to the significant setbacks preventing women from being promoted to higher positions.”

Though the report was based on data collected in 2012, Shapira did not spare the current government, criticizing it for perpetuating gender inequality and not making enough efforts to appoint women as civil servants.

Commenting on the findings, he said, “It isn’t deliberate discrimination, but rather social norms which have taken root and are fed by a sort of unconscious acceptance, which is widespread even among the women themselves and turns discrimination into an ever-present social reality.”

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