As every man knows, it’s a good woman who makes the world go round — and the government of Israel has finally gotten the message. In honor of the fair sex, the government is honoring fourteen women who have contributed to Israel’s culture, economy, and government — among them Maxine Fassberg, General Manager of Intel Israel and a Vice President in Intel Worldwide.
Fassberg is among those who have been chosen to light the twelve ceremonial torches to kick off Israel Independence Day. As Memorial Day comes to an end, an official ceremony is held inaugurating Independence Day at Mt. Herzl Cemetery, with the torch lighting a highlight of the event. Each year a different theme is chosen, and this year’s is “the Women’s Era,” marking Israel’s “appreciation for the contribution of women to the state and to Israeli society,” said Culture and Sport Minister Minister Limor Livnat, whose office coordinates the event.
The Intel VP said she was “very honored personally, and I see it as a great honor for Intel as well, which for 40 years has been contributing to Israel’s economy, industry, and innovation.” On this year’s emphasis on women she added, “There are many other women in the Israeli technology sector who are well qualified to receive this honor, and I feel a great responsibility in representing not only myself, but them as well. I am especially moved to be honored this year, when the ceremony will herald the accomplishments of women.”
Along with Fassberg, the other women chosen to light the torch include former Likud MK Geula Cohen; IDF Manpower Directorate head Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai; Dr. Kira Radinsky of the Technion; Israeli Arab social activist Hindiya Suliman; actress and Israel Prize laureate Miriam Zohar; Tali Peretz-Cohen of the Golan and Galilee rape crisis center; National Student and Youth Council head Gal Yosef (who is 16); educator Miriam Peretz; tennis star Shahar Pe’er; Paralympic team participant Pascale Berkowitz; and Adina Bar-Shalom, daughter of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and a candidate for the Israel Prize this year for her establishment of the Haredi College of Jerusalem.
Fassberg isn’t the only woman in the Israeli business or tech world, but she is among the most senior in any Israeli technology firm, homegrown or multinational. Or anywhere, for that matter; in 2009, Fassberg was named to the Women in Technology International (WITI) Hall of Fame, and in 2012 she was list among the ten most powerful women in tech by CNN.
Fassberg has been with Intel since 1983, working in a wide variety of positions — rising to CEO of Intel Israel in 2007, a position she held until 2011. Mooly Eden, who also joined Intel Israel in 1982, returned from the US after working in Intel’s California headquarters for nine years and took over as head of Intel Israel, with Fassberg being named General Manager.
Speculation in the Israeli media at the time said that Intel had been dissatisfied with Fassberg’s leadership of the company, with Eden being appointed to gradually take over operations. But at a 2012 press conference, both Eden and Fassberg praised the appointment, with Eden pointing out that the appointment of a President and General Manager was Intel’s way of honoring the Israel facility for its accomplishments.
Besides being General Manager, Fassberg is also Plant Manager for Intel’s Kiryat Gat fabrication plant, and as such, much of the company’s “bread and butter” operations in Israel. As manager, Fassberg was responsible for starting up Intel’s 45nm chip plant, and upgrading it to produce 28nm, and then 22nm chips. She has also received two Intel Achievement Awards, as well as the Israel Industry Award for 2011 by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, and the prestigious Hugo Ramniceanu Prize in Economics for 2012, among many others.
As General Manager, Fassberg is in charge of one of the Israel Operations’ most important activities — dealing with the government, and lobbying for tax credits and grants. This has proven an especially crucial role right now, as Intel gears up to make a final decision on where to build a plant to manufacture its advanced 14nm chips.
Ireland, where Intel recently built a plant to produce 15 nm chips, is said to be a leading contender for the 14 nm plant with Israel. Currently, the 22 nm chips produced in Kiryat Gat are the company’s most advanced production chips (the 14 nm chips are not yet being mass produced).
Intel, like other multinationals, will decide on where to build the plant based on the company’s interests, Fassberg and Eden said at a recent press conference. “In today’s world, this is how governments bring jobs in. It’s up to the government to decide, but I think that in terms of investment, Israel gets back a lot more from Intel that it does from other multinationals,” Eden said. In 2013, for example, Intel Israel was responsible for more than 9% of Israel’s tech exports, which account for half of overall exports, except for diamonds, Eden said.