Finance Ministry: Arabs, women underrepresented in high-tech

Study shows Arabs account for just 1.4% of technology workforce, missing out on networking and role models

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A team works on a high-tech project (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A team works on a high-tech project (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel’s high-tech workforce lacks diversity and is characterized by a high number of Jewish, non-ultra-Orthodox men, while women, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox populations remain underrepresented, a report by the Finance Ministry shows.

Jewish non-Haredi men represent some 74 percent of the high-paying, high-tech workforce, with Jewish, non-Haredi women accounting for some 24% of that segment and Arab men just 1.3%. The study looked at people born from 1975 to 1985. This compares to non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish men accounting for some 38% of the total workforce in Israel, and women for 40% of that segment. Arab men born in that period make up almost 11% of the total Israeli workforce, the Finance Ministry data shows.

Arabs, both men and women, represent just 1.4% of high-tech professionals born in 1975-1985, compared with 17.4% of Arabs in the total workforce born in those same years.

The inclusion of Arabs into the high-tech world in Israel remains low, even if in 2016 the number of Arabs studying relevant degrees was four times higher than it had been previously, the study showed. However, Arab students tend to drop out of their studies more than their Jewish counterparts do, the study said, and their integration into the industry, even after completing their studies, remains low.

The study showed that there was a high correlation between higher psychometric scores and the chances of becoming a high-tech professional. This correlation was high for Jewish men, but weaker for women and Arabs. Jewish men with high scores had an almost 50% chance of becoming high-tech professionals, whereas women had only a 30% chance and Arab men a 28% chance of achieving the same. For Arab women, the correlation was less than 10%.

“In other words, the chances of becoming a high-tech professional grows in line with ability…but ability is not the whole story,” the report said. The data suggests that the gaps between Jewish men and women, and Arabs and Jews, stem from other factors, including stereotyping, a shortage of role models and networking opportunities.

Policymakers should take care that alongside raising education levels for all of the population and pushing people toward academic studies, “specific policy tools” should be in place to remove obstacles to the diversity of the high-tech sector, which is suffering from a shortage of adequate manpower.

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